No, it’s not the College Football Playoff. After a relatively mundane Championship Saturday, it wasn’t a surprise to any but the most optimistic Buckeye fans to be left out of the CFP picture. But life in college football moves quickly, and the Buckeyes move on to their Rose Bowl opponent, the Pac-12 champion Utah Utes. Here are 5 things to know about the Utes.

This is Utah’s first Rose Bowl, but not first big-time bowl appearance

Yes, Utah is a bit off the radar of B1G football royalty. But while the Utes lack any Rose Bowl resume, they do have a history as gate crashers for some significant bowl games. Utah’s two biggest bowl wins, both under current coach Kyle Whittingham, were a 2004 Fiesta Bowl win over Pitt (with Whittingham making his debut, filling in for departing coach Urban Meyer, who had taken the Florida job) and the 2008 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. So this particular David has some history with college football Goliaths.

Kyle Whittingham is a veteran’s veteran

Again, Whittingham made his head coaching debut at Utah in 2004. So yes, his Utah tenure has nearly reached voting age. Whittingham and Mike Gundy tie for 2nd in FBS football for the longest current active tenures, trailing only Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. Whittingham weathered a pair of 5-7 seasons in 2012 and 2013 and is currently 144-69 at Utah. He’s also 11-3 in bowl games, which is particularly impressive since Utah had only appeared in 9 bowls before Whittingham’s arrival. Early in 2021, Whittingham passed Utah coach Ike Armstrong for the most coaching wins in program history.

Utah’s history with OSU is not good

The Buckeyes and Utes have only faced off once, but suffice it to say, a repeat performance would be to OSU’s liking. A 10-3 Buckeye squad in 1986 picked up one of those wins in a 64-6 triumph over Utah. The Utes were struggling through a 2-9 season and Whittingham at the time was a grad assistant coach at BYU.

Utah is a team on a roll

For Utah to end up in the Rose Bowl would have to qualify as a surprise even to many around the Utah program. After a season-opening win over FCS Weber State, the Utes dropped their next 2 games, at BYU and at San Diego State. Even after rallying from those struggles, a 42-34 loss to Oregon State on Oct. 23, left Utah 4-3 on the season. From there, the Utes have won 6 in a row including a pair of victories over Oregon. Yes, the same Oregon Ducks who came to Columbus in Week 2 and upset the Buckeyes lost twice to Utah, by 38-7 and 38-10 scores.

Despite its location, Utah is a surprisingly B1G kind of team

Sure, you assume you know what Utah football is about. It’s Alex Smith and flinging the ball all over the field, five wides and shootouts. But Utah really isn’t that team in 2021. The Utes finished 10th in the Pac-12 in passing yards and attempted just 29 passes a game. What Utah does well is run (216 rushing yards per game, 0.8 yards per game away from leading the conference) and stop the run (under 123 rushing yards allowed per game, best in the conference). For a team that doesn’t pass particularly often or well, they also stand out in rushing the passer (leading the Pac-12 with 42 sacks) and protecting the passer (allowing just 12 sacks). Maybe the Buckeyes should just pretend it’s Penn State or Michigan State instead of Utah.