Ohio State football rarely has too much adversity when it comes to a location it plays in the postseason. OSU fans travel well almost every year, seem to always have momentum entering the postseason, and have recently been playing for some really big things once the regular season has concluded.
But that’s not the case this year.
Ohio State, for the first time in a while, is going to a bowl that it’s been to recently, across the entire country, in a postseason game that — for all its historical glory — won’t have much of a rainbow at the end. There’s no shot for a national championship, just the ability to go out on a winning note and win a Rose Bowl championship.
Now, that’s nothing to sneeze at, but that’s a different bar than anyone hoped to strive for in 2021. At Ohio State, it’s now about winning the Big Ten, getting into the College Football Playoff, and trying to bring home a national championship. For the first time since 2015, none of that is in play.
Add that to the fact that there is a global pandemic starting to spike again with the Omicron variant, and what is sure to be a very pro-Utah crowd (subscription may be required), and things are going to feel a lot different out in Pasadena on January 1. We haven’t heard yet, but there may even be some OSU players that opt to not play in the Rose Bowl because of a desire to stay healthy for the NFL — especially with none of the optimal team goals still on the table.
It would all point to an interesting dynamic for what we might see in the “Granddaddy of the all” in about a week’s time. Does this young team have what it takes to bust through all of that? Time will tell.
The Ohio State players and coaching staff are saying all the right things about the Rose Bowl mattering and all that, but the human psyche can be a weird thing.
“I think a lot of our guys have a lot of pride in themselves and a lot of pride in this team,” Day said after being selected to play in the Rose Bowl. “There’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of progress that was made all year from when we started this thing. We want to finish this thing the right way. We have a really good opponent in Utah, great bowl in the Rose Bowl, and so we want to have a great month.”
Pride is a real thing, and finishing on a high note for a young team is worth a lot of currency, but when you are dealing with young men still concerned about a lot of other things that don’t compete with the normal shiny objects any longer, it’s anyone’s guess as to what Buckeye squad shows up at the base of the San Gabriel mountains.
I’m never going to be one to look at the Rose Bowl as a disappointing destination. After all, if you’ve been there, you understand the mystique, setting, and all of that, but that’s all probably lost on the generation playing college football these days. It’ll be a challenge for Ryan Day and staff to coach up a team that’s no doubt still forlorn after losing to Michigan for the first time in almost a decade, and sitting home watching both the Big Ten Championship and somewhere else besides the CFP.
There are a ton of dynamics that go into the long layoffs between the regular season and bowl games, and this one has layers and layers of them. The team OSU is playing in the Rose Bowl is a formidable one and won’t feel sorry for Ohio State in the least.
The Buckeyes better not feel sorry for themselves, either or it could be the first time the program has had three losses in a season since the 2011 season.
Time to see what this team is made of.
Ohio State football’s all-time history in the Rose Bowl
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