5 Big Ten things to watch for in Super Bowl
The time has come for Super Bowl LVIII, and Sunday’s game has all the makings of another classic showdown!
The game does not lack intrigue on either side of the matchup as the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers meet again for the NFL’s championship game. The two sides also faced off in Super Bowl LIV 4 years ago with Patrick Mahomes capturing his first Super Bowl ring in a 31-20 victory. Since then, The Chiefs have appeared in 2 other Super Bowls, including Mahomes winning his second ring last season.
This time around, the 49ers enter the game with a much different look at key points with Christian McCaffrey and Brock Purdy joining longtime 49ers George Kittle and Nick Bosa. As for Kansas City, the core pieces from the last meeting remain in place with Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan preparing for another legendary chess match.
And, as for the Big Ten, there are some interesting themes related to the conference that fans can track throughout the game. Here are 5 of the best B1G aspects to monitor Sunday night:
George Kittle vs. Travis Kelce
George Kittle and Travis Kelce have been the cream of the crop for NFL tight ends in recent history. That was no more true this season as the two battled it out for the title of most complete TE in the league.
In terms of receiving yards, Kittle led all NFL TEs with 1,020 during the 2023 season and averaged nearly 16 yards per catch. Kelce finished second with 984 yards. Now, those two players go head-to-head on the biggest stage yet again.
During their last Super Bowl matchup, Kittle was held to a pedestrian 4 catches for 36 yards. Kelce was not much more productive with 43 yards, but he did score a crucial touchdown in the 21-point fourth quarter for the Chiefs.
This time around, the work of both in the receiving game will be fun to watch but don’t overlook the blocking game. Part of Kittle’s impressive portfolio includes his work as a blocker while carving out lanes for the running game.
It’s also worth pointing out that Kelce has been the focal point of Kansas City’s offense this season while Kittle has benefitted from a host of weapons with the 49ers. DraftKings has set Kelce’s over/under receiving yards at 70.5 while Kittle’s is just 48.5. Fans can use Tradition’s DraftKings Ohio promo code to check out the latest odds and trends ahead of the game.
Which Ohio State pass rusher produces a signature moment?
Nick Bosa has been a mainstay in San Francisco since joining the team in the 2019 NFL Draft. However, he has Ohio State company this year with the 49ers trading to acquire Chase Young midseason.
Bosa delivered another season of double-digit sacks this year while leading San Francisco with 10.5. Meanwhile, Young delivered 2.5 sacks while appearing in 9 games since being acquired by the 49ers.
To no surprise, ESPN Bet has Bosa with the best individual player odds to record the first sack of the Super Bowl at +500. However, it’s worth pondering how the Kansas City Chiefs might attack the defensive front of the 49ers.
Should the 49ers get an early lead, it could force the Chiefs into some key passing situations throughout the game. And if Kansas City opts to send more manpower to account for Bosa, Young could deliver a breakout performance on the biggest stage.
Facing the mobile Mahomes will not be easy, but the host of pass-rushing firepower for the 49ers will test the Chiefs all night long.
Can Ronnie Bell make an impact in his first Super Bowl?
Ronnie Bell is far from a key piece of San Francisco’s offense, but he is an intriguing piece in what is a talent-rich unit. A 7th-round pick out of Michigan in the 2023 NFL Draft, the rookie has just 6 catches all year long, but 3 of those catches resulted in a touchdown.
Bell has also been used on special teams with the 49ers and returned 10 punts for 70 yards. Ray-Ray McCloud is still the team’s primary returner, so it’s unlikely Bell will get a chance in the return game barring an injury or setback.
Still, the Super Bowl is always a time of unlikely heroes stepping up in key moments, sometimes in the form of trick-play magic. We’ll see if the former Wolverine can put his speed on display in a crucial moment.
Isiah Pacheco tries to outshine Christian McCaffrey
The running back battle will be an interesting storyline for B1G fans, even if Christian McCaffrey is an All-Pro performer. That’s because Isiah Pacheco is a hard runner designed to take the stress off the Chiefs’ passing game, and Pacheco has shined this postseason.
Pacheco has scored in all 3 playoff games for Kansas City with 254 total rushing yards. Still, it will be tough to outclass McCaffrey. San Francisco’s star has 260 scrimmage yards and 4 touchdowns in 2 playoff games as the focal point of the attack.
Still, looking for Pacheco to deliver more rushing yards in the Super Bowl could be a great value play for some fans. McCaffrey is also a factor in the 49ers passing game, and his versatility could lead to some unpredictable usage if Kansas City clamps down on the rushing attack.
DraftKings has McCaffrey at -235 to be the game-leading rusher while Pacheco is listed at +140. Fans can utilize Tradition’s Michigan sports betting links to take part in the action.
Can George Karlaftis III outshine his B1G counterparts?
George Karlaftis hit the ground running with 6 sacks in his rookie season a year ago. Now, he’s one of the most important pieces for the Chiefs defense, tying Chris Jones for the team lead with 10.5 sacks and wreaking havoc in the playoffs.
Karlaftis has 2.5 sacks so far in the postseason, including 1 sack and 4 total tackles in a lockdown performance against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Now, he gets a chance to shine on Super Bowl Sunday.
While Bosa will receive most of the attention when it comes to B1G pass rushers, Karlaftis has the potential to deliver the game-changing moment for the Chiefs. Kansas City’s defense will likely need a big play or two to keep the team in the game and slow down the 49ers.