Rose Bowl Preview: An Ohio State Perspective
It’s officially match week! To kick off BlockU’s Rose Bowl cover, Land-Grant Holy Land Editor-in-chief Matt Tamanini sat down with us to give us the scoop on Ohio State’s take on this week’s game.
Ohio State was a playoff favorite until the wrath of Michigan officially knocked them out. The jokes on Twitter seem to suggest that there could be some dissatisfaction on the part of the Buckeye Nation given the team’s proximity to a third consecutive playoff bid, but Twitter isn’t always the best metric. of a typical fan. Does the average Buckeye fan see this game as a consolation prize or is there still a level of excitement in Columbus for this game?
Matt: I would say the excitement for this game is pretty minimal, especially among the younger generations. The older the fan, the more likely they are to have fond memories of a Rose Bowl spot being the epitome of a successful season for a Big Ten team. But for fans coming from the BCS and College Football Playoff generations, anything less than these goals will be a disappointment. I’m sure in the days leading up to the game fans will be more excited about the game, but there certainly won’t be the hysteria of a playoff game.
Ohio State fans are generally quite spoiled and impossible to please, regardless of the outcome. So it’s not much of a surprise there, but the way the sports and college football media prioritize the PSC is also fueling that. For me, these games always have enormous value, even if they are little more than exhibition games in the grand scheme of the season. The setting will be beautiful, the game will be exciting and I imagine it will be one of the best games of the entire bowl season.
Former Ohio State great Joey Galloway has suggested that two of OSU’s top receivers, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, could pull out of the Rose Bowl, a trend that has become more popular among top prospects. the NFL that do not make the playoffs. If they do indeed give up the boules game, who will Stroud turn to, especially in the red zone where this duo really shone?
Matt: If I had to guess, I would assume Olave is playing, but Wilson isn’t. I wouldn’t blame either for skipping the game, but Olave’s general personality makes me think he’ll be there. That being said, whether one or the other fits or not, Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be a very targeted weapon for Stroud. JSN has been named to several All-America rosters this season and assuming Wilson and Olave head to the NFL he will be the No.1 WR in 2022.
However, if neither of the two NFL-eligible WRs play in the Rose Bowl, the Ohio State wide reception hall is the deepest on the team, and they will not be short of highly touted and incredibly talented WRs towards which ones to turn to. Earlier in the season, when Olave was injured, 2020 No.1 domestic receiver Julian Fleming stepped in as a starter, so I imagine he would be in the mix. Then we saw a lot of potential explosiveness from 2021 national rookie No.1 Emeka Egbuka, who has handled kicking returns for much of the season; it will almost certainly be heavily targeted too. Then you have two top 100 players in the recruiting class of 2021 at Marvin Harrison Jr. and Jayden Ballard who could see their playing time increase if Olave and Wilson are unavailable.
However, the only good thing about the Ohio State offense is that they have playmakers in multiple positions. True first-year running back TreVeyon Henderson is one of the most electric runners I’ve seen at Ohio State in a long time. He is absolutely in the same category as Ezekiel Elliott and Maurice Clarett. The problem is, this season his offensive line hasn’t always done a great job of opening holes for him and keeping the defensive lines at bay. However, if Henderson has any leeway, he can absolutely play in the red zone, either by passing a defender in the corner or knocking him down.
While the Buckeyes’ offense leads the country, the defense ranks 50th nationally despite a respectable tip defense that allowed just 3.52 yards per attempt and a secondary that allowed just 18 touchdowns. through the pass all season. How much of the OSU Utah defense can he try to exploit if he hopes to score against the Buckeyes?
Matt: Can I just say “everything”? Nothing about the Ohio State defense has gone really well this season. Despite a large number of highly touted rookies on the defensive line, they tended to be overloaded and pushed by aggressive offensive lines. OSU linebackers have been pretty disappointing for three or four years now, and when the team’s best LB (by a considerable margin) was a running back just five months ago, that says a lot. High school is in a weird situation as they’ve had a tough few years recruiting the job as their defensive coaching staff has been changing, so they have a weird mix of inexperienced, but talented, youngsters and underachieving veterans. . It also didn’t help that they lost their free start safety in the season opener and were injured in several starting corners throughout the season.
While newly hired defensive coordinator Jim Knowles of Oklahoma State has yet to start in Columbus, I hope the team builds on the younger players and embraces Knowles’ aggressive philosophy for this game. This, for me, has been their best bet for defensive success all season, but the coaches have yet to take my totally unsolicited and totally misinformed advice.
Conversely, what have you seen in Utah that the State of Ohio is capable of exploiting?
Matt: The only weakness I’ve seen in Utah this season is that they rely on their running offense a lot more than their passing game. If Ohio State decides to rely on its young defensive linemen and linebackers and their stronger young safeties support the run, that might be the best option for them in terms of defensive play.
OSU has two true first-year defensive ends who were ranked in the top five nationally in the 2021 recruiting class (JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer). They’ve both played throughout the season, but they’ve only been rotating players. With veterans having already declared their intention to head to the NFL or are still considering it, this would be a great time for youngsters to prove what they’re capable of with increased playing time.
The same goes for the interior where another true freshman, Tyleik Williams, was extraordinary in his limited number of shots. With an extra month of bowl training under his belt, I’d love to see him play a bigger role in the rotation of this game, especially if one or more of the students in the upper class tackle the opt-out. .
In the second tier, former running back Steele Chambers has become the team’s top linebacker and is not expected to leave the pitch unless he’s injured or literally can’t breathe. After that, it’s a roll of the dice to find out who else should be there. Ohio State has seen a number of LBs transferred this season, and while none of them have played so much to begin with, it certainly hurts the positional depth there. Cody Simon has shown signs of promise this year, but was assaulted and looked pretty bad in the final quarter of the season. However, if he’s healthy, the combo of him and Chambers (along with hybrid safety linebacker Ronnie Hickman) could have an impact against the Utes’ first offense.
However, if Ohio State enters Southern California with the same rotation and game plan they’ve had all season, the Utes will more than likely be able to run against them at will. .
How do Buckeye fans view the Utah football program and the PAC-12 as a whole?
Matt: I certainly can’t speak for all the Buckeye fans, but I respect the Utah schedule, and if I were to support a PAC-12 team it would be the Utes, and I promise I’m not just saying that because you are asking the question.
What Kyle Whittingham was able to do to bring the Mountain West team into PAC-12 ten years ago and make them not only a conference candidate but also a candidate who is regularly on the CFP’s doorstep is incredibly Impressive. I admire the physique of the team and their attention to detail and fundamentals on both sides of the ball.
And while I know Whittingham is probably on a life sentence in Utah at this point, his commitment to stay with the program for almost three decades is incredibly admirable; especially since I’m sure “bigger” programs were almost certainly willing to throw huge sums of money at him to get him out of Salt Lake.
I think Utah is well positioned to be one of the most consistent PAC-12 programs (if not the most consistent) for the foreseeable future, no matter what is going on at USC right now.
Are there any unique tailgating traditions that Buckeye fans will embrace in Pasadena?
Matt: Ohio State fans love their marching band, they are revered like nothing else in Buckeye’s sphere of influence. As evidenced by this season, OSU fans have no problem turning on the team, players and coaches whenever things don’t go exactly to unreasonably perfect expectations, but I can’t. not imagine that anything could ever spoil the affection they have for the marching band. You’ll find that at parade, hatchbacks, pre-game, halftime and everywhere else, the group show up during the Rose Bowl festivities.
What is your prediction for the final score?
Matt: Honestly, this one scares me. I think Utah is built as the exact type of team that would give this Ohio State team a lot of trouble. They take tons of pressure off the quarterback (something Stroud isn’t handling incredibly well yet), their defensive line is blasting games as well as anyone in the country, they’re strong against the run and the happening, they are physical in the racing game; it could get very ugly.
However, I will say that after OSU lost to their rivals in the regular season finale and there was general discussion about the Buckeyes being soft, I imagine it has. been an accent throughout bowl workouts. So, hopefully both sides of the ball for Ohio State come out with a ferocity we haven’t seen a lot this season, especially across the lines. If they can do it, I think Ohio State will be in a position to score a victory. If they can’t, I’m afraid they’ll be looking at their first three-game losing streak since Luke Fickell / caretaker’s lost 2011 season.
So since I’m an OSU fan and alumnus first, I’m going to assume (without any supporting evidence) that the Buckeyes show up in Pasadena with a chip on their shoulder and find a way to win. . So I will be going to Ohio State 38, Utah 31. However, I reserve the right to change this until playtime, depending on injuries, COVID, and withdrawals!