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Love is a River

A Rose Bowl Preview

Conway Twitty And George Jones
Ryan Day getting C.J. Stroud ready for the Rose Bowl
Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns

The last time we saw the Buckeyes, they were donating a win to the less fortunate. Their charity was kind, but sending Michigan to the playoffs was somewhat like taking a homeless man to some four star French restaurant and wondering why he ordered spaghetti and put all the bread in his shoes.

While no good deed goes unpunished, the Buckeyes do get a trip out to SoCal to play in the Rose Bowl. The nature of bowl games these days means they are more or less glorified spring ball where you can see all the young players get some run, sort of like the second half for Michigan last night.

I’m going to be honest - I haven’t done a deep dive into Utah football. I know they are a physical rushing team with a strong defense, and they beat the tar out of Oregon twice, something the Buckeyes, er, didn’t do. I fully realize the Buckeyes may get run over again, as defense has been a bit optional this season. Still, I’m watching tonight to get a preview of the 2022 Buckeyes, who will hopefully learn their lesson on charity.

Buckeyes on Offense

The story has been Nicholas Petite-Frere, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson sitting out as they prepare for the NFL. So this game will be a great preview of the offense next year. C.J. Stroud and TreVeyon Henderson are firmly entrenched, but replacing the pass catchers is the challenge.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba will play and presumably be the top receiver. There are three main options behind him - Julian Fleming finally gets his time to shine after battling injuries and the depth chart. If he doesn’t, two freshmen will get a shot as Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. were also major recruits. Harrison especially has been a darling of the media Smarts, so keep an eye on him tonight.

Up front, Thayer Munford will kick out to left tackle, but it will be his last game after doing his best to make Aidan Hutchinson look like a pro. Matthew Jones likely gets the call at left guard, though Donovan Jackson will get some run too. Center Luke Wypler and Paris Johnson will return next year, while big man Dawand Jones is more of a question mark.

Ohio State on Defense

Defense, what is it? Ryan Day isn’t sure, which is why he went out and hired Jim Knowles from Okie State to tell him. Unfortunately, Knowles doesn’t start until tomorrow, so you will likely see a lot of guys running around like chickens again, similar to what we saw in the Orange Bowl last night.

Up front, Haskell Garrett the Bullet Eater has already called it quits. That leaves the defensive line without its one consistent playmaker. In fact, the entire starting line may see their last game, though that is due in part to a trio of freshmen who are likely to start next year in ends Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau, as well as tackle Tyliek Williams.

Linebacker is a complete mystery. Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg are at least with the team and practicing. After them...whoo boy. They are pretty thin due to injuries, transfers. They even moved Cade Stover from tight end (where they are also thin) to linebacker. Not a good sign against a Utah team that will be happy punch them in the teeth. Knowles will likely watch this group and immediately have a few regrets on his life decisions.

The secondary is a little more certain. Starting corners Denzel Burke and Cam Brown have been pretty solid and both return next year. The revolving door of safety will still revolve, though Lathan Random and Bryson Shaw have gotten the majority of snaps. However, safety has been another issue for the Buckeyes, so no one playing back there is necessarily going to start next year. Wild cards are Ronnie Hickman and Kourt Williams, who play the safety/linebacker hybrid spot, something Knowles is likely to keep.


How does one make predictions in a game like this? The entire defense and defensive coaching staff are walking on broken ice. The Buckeyes are missing a bunch of guys. Utah is locked and loaded. All signs point to the Utes rolling.

Well, except for one sign, the one that points out that being humiliated on the national stage is more of a Michigan Man thing. Buckeyes 45-42.

Rose Bowl

#11 Utah Utes vs. #6 Ohio State Buckeyes

4pm | ESPN | Ohio State -4 | O/U 64

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)


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