Rose Bowl – #9 Washington Huskies v #6 Ohio State Buckeyes

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual

The “Granddaddy of Them All” takes its traditional New Year’s Day position on the schedule, and will feature teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten just like it usually does. It is part of the “New Year’s 6” and this year features one of the more compelling matchups of the bowl season that won’t help decide the national championship. The Washington Huskies and Ohio State Buckeyes will meet for the 12th time in their histories, with Ohio State leading the series 8-3.

#9 Washington Huskies

The Washington Huskies are coming off of their victory in the Pac-12 Championship over Utah that wasn’t quite enough to get them into the Top 4, though they did snag the Pac-12’s automatic berth in the Rose Bowl. They finished the season 10-3 (7-2 Pac-12), tying for the lead in the Pac-12 North and qualifying for the Pac-12 Championship due to their head-to-head victory over Washington State. Despite the perceived weakness of the Pac-12 nationally, Washington’s FBS opponents have a better combined record than that of Ohio State, going 86-59 (0.555).

Offense

The Huskies offense is definitely not a strength, though it’s not nearly as bad as some other teams we’ve looked at this season. They average a total of 412.4 yards per game, which is for for 59th nationally (out of 129 teams). They are a much more balanced offense than their opponents in this one, with a run/pass split of about 44%/56% (179.9 ypg rushing; 232.5 ypg passing). Scoring wise, however, they are in the bottom third nationally (83rd), only scoring an average of 26.6 points per game. If we take out the game against FCS North Dakota, that average drops further, to 25.1 per game.

Passing: The passing offense is led by senior quarterback – and four-year starter – Jake Browning, who threw for 2,879 yards (221.5 ypg). However, he only threw for 16 touchdowns – as well as 10 interceptions – which was a reversion to the form he showed back during his freshman campaign, when he had remarkably similar numbers.

His leading receiver was junior wide receiver Aaron Fuller, who caught 51 passes for 794 yards (15.6 yards per catch) with four touchdowns. Sophomore Ty Jones led the team in receiving touchdowns with six, while snagging 28 catches for 469 yards (16.8 ypc).

Rushing: Fellow senior Myles Gaskin led the team in rushing, capping his college career with his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season on the ground. It was perhaps his least efficient campaign, with more carries (235) required to reach his 1,147 yards on the season (4.9 yards per carry), and he only scored 10 touchdowns on the season, down from 21 a year ago. Nevertheless, he should be able to find some running room against the Ohio State defense and reach 1,300 yards on the ground for the fourth time in as many seasons.

Defense

The Huskies defense drives the club, finishing 12th nationally in total yards surrendered per game (301.8). This is bound to change against the #2 offense in Ohio State, but at least for now, they are settled in that lofty position. They have also been stingy in surrendering points, allowing only 15.5 points per game, placing them 5th in the nation. In six of their 13 games this seasons, they surrendered fewer than that number, and four times they have allowed only one score (though one of those games was against FCS North Dakota). Their high points allowed on the season was 30 in a loss against Oregon.

The passing defense is ranked 21st in the nation after surrendering an average of 185.4 yards per game. The Huskies have been known for their defensive backs since Jimmy Lake came to the school five years ago. This year has been no exception, and sophomore Byron Murphy seems poised to be the next great one. He led the team with four interceptions and 13 passes defended, and even returned one of those picks for a touchdown.

The Buckeyes will be throwing a lot, so in addition to the defensive backfield, the front seven will have to cause some pressure up front. Washington has struggled in that regard, with only 21 sacks on the season, led by defensive lineman Greg Gaines with 4.5 sacks.


#6 Ohio State Buckeyes

The Ohio State Buckeyes probably felt like they deserved a spot in the national semifinal, especially after dominating performances in the Big Game against Michigan and the Big Ten Championship against Northwestern, finishing the season 12-1 (8-1 Big Ten). But a mid-season loss to Purdue, as well as an overtime win against a much weaker Maryland team the week before the Michigan game, just wasn’t enough for the committee to vault them over two teams into 4th… though I’d like to think they would have fared better in the semifinal than either Notre Dame or Oklahoma. They did play a schedule where their opponents combined to go 79-85 (0.482), so that probably didn’t help them much either.

Offense

There are few offenses less terrifying than the Buckeyes. Overall, they were the 2nd best offense in the country – behind the aforementioned Oklahoma – averaging 548.8 yards per game. They also seemingly scored at will, averaging 43.5 points per game, good for 8th in the nation. Their high offensive output on the season was in the opening game against Oregon State – who finished 2-10 – where they scored 77 points. Their low output on the season was against Purdue in their only loss on the season.

Passing: The Ohio State passing offense was responsible for 68% of the total offensive output, with sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins leading the way. Haskins threw for 4,580 yards (352.3 ypg), with a Big Ten record 47 touchdown passes (along with only 8 interceptions). That placed him fourth nationally in passing efficiency, which led to him being a Heisman Trophy finalist.

The bulk of those passing yards ended up in the hands of four talented receivers, who combined for over 3,100 yards on the season. Senior Parris Campbell led the team in receptions (79) and yards (992), while tying fellow senior Terry McLaurin with 11 touchdowns. McLaurin led the four in yards per catch, with 34 catches for 669 yards, nearly 20 yards per catch. Junior K.J. Hill caught 67 passes for 831 yards (and sic touchdowns), while senior Johnnie Dixon rounded out the quartet with 642 yards on 40 catches (and 7 touchdowns).

Rushing: The Buckeyes rushing offense was split between two backs, helping the team average 175.8 yards per game (57th nationally). Sophomore J.K. Dobbins led the team with 1,029 rushing yards (4.6 per carry) with nine touchdowns, while junior Mike Weber ran for 858 yards (5.5 per carry) and five touchdowns. Though Washington has a pretty stout rush defense, there is a chance that Weber could reach 1,000 yards on the season, so it remains to be seen if he can get going in this one as a possible change-of-pace back.

Defense

Defensively, the Buckeyes haven’t been great, though they see to exemplify a stout “bend but don’t break” Big Ten defense. Overall, they surrendered the 67th most yards per game (400.3), but only allowed 25.7 points per game, which was good enough for 54th in the nation. With one of the more powerful offenses in the league, they didn’t need to hold opponents to much less, and their best defensive performance (on a points basis) was against a 1-11 Rutgers team (who scored three points). Still, there were seven games when they surrendered less than that average, which is also fairly close to the average scored by Washington on the season.

They are stronger against the run than the pass, though that isn’t saying much based on the rankings. They ranked 60th in rush defense (160.5 ypg) and 83rd in pass defense (239.8 ypg). They did, however, do fairly well at sacking the quarterback, finishing in a multi-team tie for 11th nationally with 39 (3.0 per game). They also had a +6 turnover margin on the season, with 12 fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions responsible for that solid margin.

The Game

The game is played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. It will kickoff at 2:00pm PST/ 5:00pm EST). The neutrals are expecting about 55 points to be scored, with Ohio State favored by 7.5 points.

Keys to a win for each side

Washington Huskies: 

  • Pressure the quarterback; don’t rely on your stellar DBs to do all the work.
  • Win the turnover battle; no dumb mistakes by QB Browning.
  • Manage the clock and keep the high-powered OSU offense off the field.

Ohio State Buckeyes:

  • Score quickly to make Washington throw the ball to keep pace.
  • Force Jake Browning into early mistakes to win turnover battle.
  • Ride your Heisman-finalist quarterback like you have all season.

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