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Why Ohio State is bracing for a road atmosphere when it faces Utah in the Rose Bowl

In all, there may be as many as 60,000 Ute fans Saturday to watch ‘The Granddaddy of Them All.’

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham, left, and Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day pose with the Rose Bowl trophy.
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham, left, and Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day pose with the Rose Bowl trophy during a press conference in Los Angeles on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

LOS ANGELES — For its first trip to the Rose Bowl, Utah is expected to have a large contingent of fans in attendance.

There are reports that the Utah ticket office sold more than 30,000 tickets alone while Ohio State sold just 13,000.

In all, there may be as many as 60,000 Ute fans Saturday (3 p.m. MST, ESPN) to watch “The Granddaddy of Them All.”

Rose Bowl officials are encouraging fans to arrive early to the game due to safety protocols.

For Utah, this might feel like a home game. For the Buckeyes, it might feel like a road game.

“We’ve said that we have to prepare for everything,” said OSU coach Ryan Day. “When you come on a bowl trip like this, you’re not sure what that’s going to be like. So we said we have to prepare for everything, whether it’s 50-50 or in our favor. It’s like being on the road. We’ll do the best we can, and we’ve prepared for all of those scenarios.”

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is “elated” that so many Ute fans will be at the Rose Bowl.

“In the Pac-12 championship game we experienced a four-to-one advantage in the fans,” he said. “It looks like this might be two-to-one or three-to-one. Our fans have been great all season long. They’ve rallied behind this team. I can’t thank them enough for the support they’ve given us throughout the course of the entire season.”

SCOUTING OHIO STATE: Before losing to Michigan 42-27 on Nov. 27, the Buckeyes were viewed by many as a national championship contender.

OSU played in the national championship game a year ago, falling to Alabama.

The Buckeyes have Utah’s respect.

“They’re very athletic — probably the most athletic team that we’ve faced,” said running back T.J. Pledger. “They’re physical. It’s Ohio State. A hard-nosed defense.”

“There are some great athletes over there,” said quarterback Cam Rising. “They have a great team. I know their offense is great as well. We’re going to have to put up points against them. That’s what I know.”

Rising added that even though this is a huge game, it’s important to focus on execution, just like a regular season game.

“It is the granddaddy of all bowl games. It doesn’t get much bigger than it. I’m excited for it,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of playing in. It’s still a football game. You have to go out there and try to win the game just like any other game. No real difference there.”

BUCKWHAT?: During Friday’s press conference featuring both team’s head coaches, Whittingham and Day fielded numerous questions from multiple outlets.

One of them came from an outlet called “Bucknuts,” which, of course, covers Ohio State football.

“Did you say Bucknuts, was that the last one? That’s awesome,” Whittingham said to laughter throughout the room.

“It’s one of about 15, coach,” Day said to Whittingham.

“Okay, great,” Whittingham replied.

COVID-19 ISSUES: Both coaches were asked, by Bucknuts, about COVID-19 cases and if the virus would affect anything in the game.

“Very typical to what this season and really probably the last couple months has been,” Day said. “There’s been a few isolated incidents here and there, but we feel strong going into the game that we’ll have a full roster ready to go.”

“COVID, no issues, knock on wood,” Whittingham said. “We seem to be in really good shape there.”