Five questions created by the decision of four Ohio State starters not to play in the Rose Bowl:
Question No. 1: Is there any way to put a positive spin on Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Nicholas Petit-Frere and Haskell Garrett not being in uniform in the Rose Bowl?
Answer: Not really. Utah, which dominated Oregon twice this season, was going to be a challenge for OSU even with them. You don’t lose talent like those four and not notice it.
But if there is a reason for optimism it is that the young players and back-ups who will be taking their place will bring a high level of intensity to the game with an eye on the 2022 season, trying to show what they can do.
Question No. 2: Can Jaxon Smith-Njigba play like a No. 1 receiver against Utah without Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson?
Answer: Smith-Njigba gave Ohio State a third elite receiver and led the Buckeyes in catches this season. Without Olave and Wilson, he will be the focus for Utah’s pass defense.
How will he react if he is the one getting the double teams? Will he put pressure on himself? Will inexperienced receivers like Julian Fleming, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka deliver on a big stage?
Sixty-six percent of C.J. Stroud’s touchdown passes and 48 percent of his completions this season went to Olave and Wilson.
Question No. 3: How well will Ohio State defend against Utah’s running game without Garrett, its best interior defensive lineman?
Answer: Utah is the third team OSU has faced this season which ranks in the top 25 nationally in rushing.
The others were Michigan and Oregon in the two games the Buckeyes lost.
Utah ranks No. 13 nationally in rushing at 216.1 yards a game. Michigan, which ranks No. 10, gained 297 yards on the ground against OSU. Oregon, which ranks No. 24, ran for 270 yards. Garrett played the most snaps of any Ohio State defensive tackle in both those games.
Question No. 4: Is there any other football situation besides players choosing not to play in bowl games when the word “opt” is used?
Answer: Probably not.
Question No. 5: Is there anything wrong with a player choosing not to play in a bowl game?
Answer: No, there is not. Hearing someone say this tarnishes their legacy feels like being transported back to 1957 in a Chevy BelAir with no air conditioning and no seat belts.
Countless players are carted off the field with torn ACLs, broken bones, compound fractures, ruptured Achilles tendons and injuries too numerous to name every season.
If players choose to protect their health and future livelihood by not playing in a bowl game, that should not be a problem. If it were a playoff semifinal game or a national championship game, that might be different.
College football has changed. Traditionalists might not like the change but it’s here to stay.
That Olave, Wilson, Petit-Frere and Garrett didn’t play in the Rose Bowl will not be what Ohio State fans remember about them. Their legacies will be intact.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau