KSL UNRIVALED

Ohio State Beat Writer Predicts Utah To Win Rose Bowl

Dec 31, 2021, 9:23 AM
Utah Utes - Pac-12 Championship Game...
The University of Utah Utes celebrate after winning the PAC-12 Football Championship Game against the Oregon Ducks on December 3, 2021 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A lot has been made of Ohio State missing four key players in the Rose Bowl against Utah.

For those unaware, the players out are wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, and defensive tackle Haskell Garrett; all of those guys are going to be in the NFL next year.

Utah football players, coaches, or fans don’t seem to care because this is the Rose Bowl and the Utes are giving this prestigious game the credit it deserves. There won’t be any players opting out of this game.

Even with those players out, the Buckeyes will still be a good team. They are stacked with four- and five-star players. The current Buckeyes roster has 15 players who rated with a five-star and another 49 players who earned a four-star rating. So, taking out four of those doesn’t make too much of a dent.

In comparison, the Utes roster has no five-star rated players and just 16, four-star players. There is a huge recruiting difference between these two schools in talent they bring in, but the Utes staff does a great job in coaching and developing talent.

The Buckeyes will still have their leading receiver in sophomore Jaxon Smith-Njigba who had 80 catches and 1,259 yards. The others who will have to step up and replace NFL talent at wide receiver will be sophomore Julian Fleming and a pair of true freshmen in Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuk.

Those three have a combined for a staggeringly low 18 catches on the year.

Phil Harrison who covers Ohio State for Buckeyes Wire joined Unrivaled and see’s this as a chance for highly-rated but inexperienced players to step up on one of the biggest stages in all of college football.

“You have to remember there are guys that were five-star recruits that are waiting to kind of jump in and take that baton, and it’s going to happen now,” Harrison said. “So, you got Julian Fleming, who was the top receiver coming out of high school two years ago. Then there is Emeka Egbuk was the top receiver coming out last year. So you got two guys ready to jump in.

“Obviously, the game experience isn’t there yet, but they are some talented guys. So, there are some guys that can jump up and still make some plays. Just because Ohio State is missing two top receivers, they still got plenty of talent out on the outside to be able to get that done.”

Count in Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud who doesn’t see missing his NFL-caliber receivers as that big of an issue but rather a chance for these young guys to step up.

“They’ve been anxious all year to play,” Stroud said Wednesday. “This is their opportunity to go out there and prove what they can do. I’m definitely excited for them to go out there and have some fun.”

Utes In A Close One?

Ohio State going to big-time bowl games is old news for the Buckeyes and with four future NFL players deciding to not play in this game has some thinking about how serious Ohio State is taking this game.

Even with those players out, Ohio State is still a slight favorite over Utah. One of the concerns for the Buckeyes should be how the Utes are built a lot like Michigan and the Wolverines demolished Ohio State by running the ball and using a smothering defense to win 42-27.

With Utah very similar to Michigan as a very physical team and the opt-outs is why Harrison is picking the Utes in an upset. He even thinks Utah would have a good chance to win even if the Buckeyes were at full strength.

“I like Utah in a squeaker on this one. Just because of what Oho State’s got missing and what Utah can do,” Harrison said. “I think even if Ohio State has all of their players it is still a whale of a game and Utah poses some problems. I just think their physicality is going to give Oho State some issues and I don’t think they can correct that in four weeks’ time. Either you are a physical team or not.”

That is a bold statement by someone who has covered Ohio State for years, but one that Ute fans are glad to hear. The overwhelming picks on this game are going in favor of the Buckeyes locally in Columbus and nationally.

Tune into Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 3-6 p .m. on 1280 The Zone and 97.5 FM or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

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