LOS ANGELES (AP) — Utah and Ohio State will meet for the first time in 35 years in the 108th edition of the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
The tenth-ranked Utes (10-3) secured their first appearance in the Granddaddy of Them All with their 38-10 victory over Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game Friday. Utah started the season by dropping two of its first three games but has won nine of its last 10, including two victories over the Ducks.
It will be Utah’s third appearance in a New Year’s Six Bowl. The Utes defeated Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to conclude the 2004 season and beat Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
Kyle Whittingham’s squad has played through grief and adversity during the past year after two players died in a nine-month span. Running back Ty Jordan, who was the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Year last season, died in an accidental shooting last December. Cornerback Aaron Lowe, Jordan’s best friend, was killed Sept. 26 in a shooting during a house party in Salt Lake City.
The Utes are led by running back Tavion Thomas and linebacker Devin Lloyd. Thomas is tied for the Football Bowl Subdivision lead with 20 rushing touchdowns while Lloyd is the only Power Five player with at least 14.5 tackles for loss (22) and multiple interceptions (four).
No. 7 Ohio State (10-2) had hopes of appearing in the College Football Playoff for the third straight season and was in the top four most of the season. But the Buckeyes were knocked out of contention with a 42-27 loss at Michigan.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud is the first player in Big Ten history to be named the conference’s offensive player of the year, freshman of the year and quarterback of the year in the same season. He passed for 3,862 yards and 38 touchdowns.
While Utah is a Rose Bowl rookie, the Buckeyes are frequent visitors. The Buckeyes will be making their 16th trip to Pasadena and their second in four years. Ohio State’s last appearance was during the 2018 season when they defeated Washington in what was to be Urban Meyer’s final game on the Buckeyes’ sideline.
Ohio State defeated Utah in Columbus 64-6 in 1986.
Ohio State (10-2, Big Ten) vs. Utah (10-3, Pac-12), Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Pasadena, California
Ohio State: QB C.J. Stroud (3,862 yards passing, 38 touchdowns) is the first player in Big Ten history to be named the conference’s offensive player of the year, freshman of the year and quarterback of the year in the same season.
Utah: RB Tavion Thomas (1,041 yards rushing) is tied for the Football Bowl Subdivision lead with 20 touchdowns on the ground.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes lead the nation in total offense (551.4 yards per game) and scoring offense (45.5 ppg), and are fifth in passing offense (364.9 ypg).
Utah: The Utes began the season 1-2 but have won nine of their last 10, including the Pac-12 championship for the first time. LB Devin Lloyd is the only Power Five player with at least 14.5 tackles for loss (22) and multiple interceptions (four).
Ohio State 64, Utah 6 (Sept. 27, 1986)
Ohio State: 16th appearance in Rose Bowl, 6-3 record in College Football Playoff era.
Utah: First appearance in Rose Bowl, first trip to a New Year’s Six game since 2009 Sugar Bowl.