SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – How tough will the Rose Bowl be for the Utes? Well, Ohio State may have the best offense the Utes have ever faced.
The Buckeyes have a ton of NFL talent on the offensive side of the ball, but for Utes defensive back Clark Phillips III, who originally committed to Ohio State, he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’ve got some guys on that team that I’ve been talking to, sharing some trash talk a little bit,” Phillips admitted. “But I’m excited to play against them. They’re a great team. I would never have thought that I would get an opportunity to play them this soon. It’s only been two since I signed and flipped. So I’m excited. I think it will be a big challenge, and we’re up for it.”
What a challenge it is going to be. Not only do the Buckeyes have a Heisman Trophy finalist in quarterback C.J. Stroud, who threw for 38 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Not only do they have a 1,000-yard rusher in TreVeyon Henderson, but they also have three wide receivers who had over 900 yards receiving in Jaxon Smith-Njigba (1,259 yards), Garrett Wilson (1,058) and Chris Olave (936).
“When we found out that we were going to be facing Ohio State, everybody in the room got excited,” said Utes secondary coach Sharrieff Shah. “To play good receivers is what we do all year long. These kids are talented. Nobody denies that. But you have to beat us for four long quarters.”
The Buckeyes are fifth in the nation in passing yardage, averaging 365 yards per game. They also churn out an average of 187 yards per game on the ground.
“When you’re a defense looking at a challenge like this,” Phillips said, “you start to lick your chops and say dang, this is a moment where we’re able to gain some recognition to our names as well.”
Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Devin Lloyd is eager to see just how good this Utah defense is against one of the top offenses in the country.
“They’re capable from every aspect when it comes to talent, but also schematically,” Lloyd said. “They’re a very capable team, but just like us, there are deficiencies everywhere. We’re all human, so nobody’s perfect. Nobody’s invincible.”
Lloyd. along with Mika Tafua and Nephi Sewell, have all said this will be their last game before entering the NFL Draft. What better way to go out than with a Rose Bowl victory?
“Yeah, definitely,” Sewell said. “It’s our last ride with each other. We don’t know where our lives will head after this. So it’s just one last time for us to give our best effort for the person next to you.”
Utah and Ohio State will square off in the Rose Bowl New Year’s Day at 3:00 MT.