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California dreaming: Utes to play Big Ten's Ohio State in 2022 Rose Bowl

Utah Utes tight end Brant Kuithe (80) catches a touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Huntley, not pictured, during the first half of an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

Utah Utes tight end Brant Kuithe (80) catches a touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Huntley, not pictured, during the first half of an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — There was no sitting around a television screen wondering where Utah's name would be called this year — the buildup lacked the drama of that of a typical Selection Sunday, even.

Utah had already secured its postseason destination with a 38-10 win over then-No. 10 Oregon Friday in the Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas.

If the roses in between the players' teeth didn't give it away, the Utes secured a spot in the 2022 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California — the Granddaddy of Them All — played on New Year's Day. The only question Friday night was which Big Ten opponent would they be paired up with in the program's first Rose Bowl appearance in program history.

That answer became more clear Saturday night when Michigan defeated Iowa to cement a spot in the College Football Playoff. That left Ohio State as the next highest-ranked team in the playoff rankings to be paired up with Utah in the Rose Bowl.

By Sunday morning the matchup became official: No. 6 Ohio State (10-2) would represent the Big Ten against No. 11 Utah (10-3) of the Pac-12 in the 108th Rose Bowl. The Big Ten takes the next highest-ranked team to play in the Rose Bowl if a team is in the playoff.

The official announcement came Sunday afternoon when the playoff selection committee released its New Year's Six bowl pairings, confirming what was already known based on conference bowl ties.

"To get the call today from Laura Farber, president of the Tournament of Roses, and formally receive the invitation on behalf of the University of Utah and this incredible football program was an exciting moment," Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan said. "It was an honor to accept, and I cannot thank coach (Kyle) Whittingham, his staff and the student-athletes enough for their incredible fortitude all season to make this a reality. We are very grateful, and cannot wait for Jan. 1."

Pasadena has become sort of a second home to the Buckeyes in the postseason. The latest iteration will make it Ohio State's 16th Rose Bowl appearance — the most of any bowl destination in program history and the third-most appearance by a school in Rose Bowl history. Only USC (34) and Michigan (20) have more Rose Bowl appearances than Ohio State.

The Buckeyes' latest appearance to the bowl was in 2019, when the program earned a 28-23 win over Washington to improve to a record over .500 all time (8-7) in the Rose Bowl.

The meeting between Ohio State and Utah will be only the second time the two have met on the gridiron and the first in the postseason. The Buckeyes welcomed the Utes of the WAC to Columbus in a regular-season contest on Sept. 27, 1986, in which Ohio State easily defeated Utah 64-6 en route to a 10-3 season and Cotton Bowl win.

"Everybody in Salt Lake is elated to be heading down to Southern California for the Rose Bowl — obviously our first trip," Whittingham said Sunday. "We're excited to come down and experience it. I've got a lot of buddies that are old SC guys who've been in the Rose Bowl several times and they say there's nothing that compares to it, and so we're really looking forward to it.

"It's gonna be a great challenge for our team, but all our guys are excited about it. It's gonna be a great experience for our players, and as I've heard it's second to none — this bowl game is second to none."

Utah's appearance in the Rose Bowl will be only the third time in school history that it has qualified for a so-called New Year's Six bowl, which as the name implies is traditionally played around New Year's and is the six top bowl games outside of the now currently constructed College Football Playoff. The Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl make up the NY6.

The Utes hold a 2-0 record in NY6 bowl games — a 2005 Fiesta Bowl win over Pittsburgh and a 2009 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama — and all have come under current head coach Kyle Whittingham's tenure, who recently broke Ike Armstrong's all-time winning record at Utah.

The NCAA gives Whittingham and former Utes coach Urban Meyer co-wins for the Fiesta Bowl since Meyer accepted a head coach position at Florida and Whittingham was officially offered the Utah job before the game was played. Meyer eventually left Florida years later to coach Ohio State before he retired from collegiate sports and left it to current Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day.

The game will be played at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, on Jan. 1 at 3 p.m. MT and will be broadcast on ESPN.

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