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How to Beat Ohio State

Observations from OSU’s losses to Oregon and Michigan

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Utah football will make its Rose Bowl debut tomorrow against (the) Ohio State University. This is an exciting matchup for the Utes because Ohio State is among the bluest of blue blood programs. There is no doubt that Ohio State has the talent to be a College Football Playoff team. This game will give the Utes a chance to test themselves against the best of the best.

To this point, we have learned that four Ohio State starters have opted out (receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, and offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere). However, Ohio State has 65 players who ranked as 4-star or higher talent out of high school. This means you can be sure that whoever replaces these four talented players will also be quite talented. Fortunately for Utah, the blueprint to beat Ohio State was showcased by Michigan and Oregon.

Ohio State Will Rack Up Passing Yards

Ohio State accumulating yards through the air is inevitable. Earlier this week, our very own Aaron Woods published an interview with Matt Tamanini, the managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land. Regarding the Ohio State wide receiver room, Matt said, “if neither of the two NFL-eligible WRs play in the Rose Bowl, Ohio State’s wide receiver room is the deepest on the team, and they will have no shortage of highly touted, incredibly talented WRs to turn to.” On the year, Ohio State accumulated more than 290 passing yards in all but one game, evidencing their incredible talent and depth at the WR position.

The good news for Utah is that they don’t need to shut down the passing game to beat Ohio State. Ohio State averaged 364.9 passing yards per game this season, good for 4th most in the country. In both losses this season, they passed for more yards than their season average; 394 yards against Michigan and 484(!) yards against Oregon. To beat Ohio State, you must beat them on the ground.

Rushing Facts

Some quick rushing facts about Ohio State:

  • Ohio State averaged 186.4 rushing yards per game this season. Michigan and Oregon limited Ohio State’s rushing attack to 64 yards and 128 yards respectively.
  • Only three teams gained more than 113 rushing yards against Ohio State: Michigan (297), Oregon (269), and Minnesota (203).
  • Only two teams gained more than 10 first downs by rush against Ohio State: Michigan (16) and Oregon (12).
  • Only two teams averaged more than 5 yards per rushing attempt against Ohio State: Michigan (7.2) and Oregon (7.1).
  • Only four teams scored multiple touchdowns against Ohio State: Michigan (6), Oregon (3), Minnesota (3), and Penn State (2).

This paints a pretty clear picture of how to beat Ohio State. Both Michigan and Oregon stifled Ohio State’s run game. They both physically punished and pushed around Ohio State, rushing for more than 260 yards with a very efficient 7+ yards per attempt. If you can control Ohio State’s run game and punish them with your own, the win is within reach.

The Rose Bowl Will Be Decided On The Ground

Like Ohio State’s two prior losses, this game will be decided on the ground. Utah will be halfway there if the offensive line can force their will upon the Ohio State defensive line, opening up lanes for the running backs. Same story on the other side of the ball. If Mika Tafua, Junior Tafuna, Hauati Pututau, and Van Fillinger can wreak havoc on the Ohio State run game, Utah will be on its way to victory.

Of course, Utah will not be able to win the game without passing the ball. Michigan and Oregon passed for 236 and 190 yards, respectively. Both demonstrated a healthy passing attack even if it was below the average allowed passing yards by the Ohio State defense (246.9). Utah’s offense averaged 212.5 passing yards per game, perfectly splitting the difference between the passing yards allowed in Ohio State’s two losses. Utah should be able to accumulate respectable passing yards, which will be opened up in part by establishing the run.

What Utah Must Do To Win

If Utah does the following three things, they will win the game.

  1. Limit Ohio State’s run game to less than 150 yards.
  2. Accumulate at least 230 rushing yards.
  3. Score at least three rushing touchdowns.

There are many paths by which Utah could win the Rose Bowl. This merely represents one way that has been proven effective by two teams this season. This game will be a battle and will likely be hard-fought from the first possession to the last. I believe this game will come down to a one-score game. My official prediction is 34-27, Utah.

Let us know in the comments what your score prediction is for tomorrow.