The University of Utah’s opponent for its first Rose Bowl is set.
The Utes, champions of the Pac-12 for the first time, will square off against the Ohio State Buckeyes, who finished second in the Big Ten East and were on the outside looking in at Saturday night’s Big Ten championship game between Michigan and Iowa. The Buckeyes, who moved up to No. 6 in the final College Football Playoff rankings on Sunday morning, were in line for a Rose Bowl berth following Michigan’s 45-3 win over Iowa in Saturday night’s Big Ten championship game.
The Wolverines’ win, marking their first Big Ten crown since 2004, made certain they would land in the College Football Playoff after being ranked No. 2 last week. With the Big Ten champion ascending to the CFP, the Rose Bowl was left to select the highest-ranked Big Ten team, Ohio State. Following a Nov. 27 loss to Michigan, the Buckeyes were ranked No. 7 last week.
“Everybody in Salt Lake is elated to be heading down to Southern California for the Rose Bowl, obviously our first trip,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said on a Rose Bowl Zoom call that included Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. “We’re excited to come down and experience it. It’s something that the community is very fired up about it. Ohio State, what a tremendous opponent.”
No. 1 seed Alabama, the SEC champion, will face fourth-seeded, AAC champion Cincinnati in one CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl. Michigan will face No. 3 seed Georgia in the other semifinal at the Orange Bowl. Both games will be contested on New Year’s Eve, with the CFP championship game scheduled for Jan. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
While Ohio State (10-2) will be appearing in its 16th Rose Bowl, third-most of any team behind Michigan and USC, Utah (10-3) is through to its first Rose Bowl in its 11th season as a Pac-12 member following a 38-10 destruction of Oregon at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The win was the Utes’ second over the Ducks in 13 days following a 38-7 win over at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Nov. 20, at which time Oregon was ranked No. 3 and heading for a CFP berth.
Utah finished No. 11 in the final CFP rankings, marking the sixth time in eight seasons the Utes have landed in the final rankings since the CFP began in 2014. Of those six instances, this No. 11 ranking ties the program’s highest-ever finish (2019).
“It’s the next step in the evaluation of our program, getting to the Rose Bowl,” Whittingham said. “Most years, the Pac-12 champion gets to experience this. We’ve been to the Pac-12 championship game three times now, but this is the first time we were able to get over that hump and become the champions. It was the next step and the next goal as a program.
“It’s something we’ve been shooting for and had our sights set on it for a number of years. We’re very excited to have this opportunity.”
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS
Cotton Bowl: 1. Alabama vs. 4. Cincinnati
Orange Bowl: 2. Michigan vs. 3. Georgia
NEW YEAR’S SIX BOWL PAIRINGS
Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
Rose Bowl: No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Utah
Sugar Bowl: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 8 Ole Miss
Peach Bowl: No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Pitt