This year’s Rose Bowl will be the first time Washington and Ohio State have encountered one another in Pasadena. In fact, it’s the first time the teams will face off in a bowl game of any sort in spite of their storied histories. Overall, the teams have played eleven times and Ohio State has come out on top in eight of the eleven. Here is a quick review to bring you up to speed on the series history.
The Huskies and Buckeyes played a home-and-home series between 1957 and 1958 and Ohio State swept the two games. While Ohio State dropped their first game of the ’57 season to TCU, they thrashed the Huskies 35-7. They won their following eight games to finish 9-1, culminating in a 10-7 squeaker over Oregon in the Rose Bowl. They finished #2 in the polls and claimed a share of the national championship.
Woody Hayes brought a similarly talented team to a match-up in Columbus the following year. Ohio State opened the season #1 in the country and beat SMU. UW came to town the following week and put up a better defensive effort than the previous year, but still lost 12-7. The Buckeyes only lost one game during the year, but a pair of ties kept them out of the Rose Bowl and they finished ranked #8. Neither of those Husky teams distinguished themselves; they won only three games each of the seasons. While most of the names from those teams are long lost to history, Ohio State did feature a backup running back/corner named Dick LeBeau, the same Dick LeBeau who became one of the most successful defensive coaches in NFL history.
Seven years later, coaches Hayes and Jim Owens agreed to renew the rivalry for another home-and-home series. The Huskies had one of the best runs in school history from 1959-1962, but they started to come back down to Earth by the middle part of the decade. When the two teams met in Seattle in 1965, both squads were coming off disappointing non-conference losses, UW at Baylor and Ohio State against North Carolina. The Buckeyes rebounded to win a competitive 23-21 game, which propelled them to a 7-2 season, while the Huskies struggled to go 5-5.
The following season, the Huskies finally got on the board. Owens brought an improved team to Columbus and lit up the scoreboard in a 38-22 victory. Neither team finished the season especially well, the Huskies at 6-4 and Ohio State at a very abnormal 4-5. It was one of only two losing seasons for a Hayes team in his 28-season career at Ohio State. Perhaps it’s cold comfort, but the Huskies are partially responsible for the the last losing season Woody Hayes ever had.
The teams played a single game in Seattle in 1969 and it was a mismatch. The Huskies were on their way to a 1-9 season whereas the Buckeyes were ranked #1 in the country. Accordingly, Ohio State trounced the Dawgs 41-14, which doesn’t look all that bad considering Ohio State had beaten TCU 62-0 the previous week and would maul Michigan State 54-21 the following week. Nobody could sniff Ohio State all season until they lost to Michigan in their season finale, 24-12, which cost them a Rose Bowl berth and a shot at a national title.
Seventeen years passed before the next meeting between Washington and Ohio State and a lot changed in the interim. Don James took over at Washington and led the team to three Rose Bowls. Earl Bruce took over for Hayes at Ohio State and seemingly went exactly 9-3 every season (seriously, six of his seven seasons before this meeting were 9-3 seasons). Once again, Ohio State came to Seattle, but the Huskies would finally make the most of their home field advantage. The Chris Chandler-led Dawgs spanked the Bucks in the most one-sided match-up in series history. UW beat the tenth ranked Buckeyes 40-7, though Ohio State managed to recover on their way to a 10-3 season and the Huskies ended 8-3-1.
Following the one-off match-up from the ‘80s, the teams scheduled a two-for-one exchange from ’93-’95 that included a pair of games in Columbus. This series stood out because each team was ranked for each meeting, and the home team won every time.
By ’93, John Cooper had taken over at Ohio State and the offense was led by Bobby Hoying, a young Eddie George, and a dynamic receiving combination of Joey Galloway and Terry Glenn. The Huskies were not short on talent, either, with an offense headlined by Damon Huard and Napoleon Kaufman. It was also the first season in the post-Don James era under Jim Lambright. Most of those players remained in place through this entire series.
Ultimately, UW went 7-4 in each of the three seasons. Although they were ranked at various points each year, they fell out of the top 25 by the end of each season, and they lost the Sun Bowl in ’95 in their only bowl bid of the stretch. Meanwhile, Ohio State went 10-1-1, 9-4, and 11-2, including a Holiday Bowl and two Citrus Bowl berths. Over the three games, Ohio State won the first 21-12. UW took the second 25-16, and Ohio State bounced back with a 30-20 win in the final game.
The two most recent games between UW and OSU were a home-and-home series spread out over four years in the ‘00s. Again, two new coaches carried on the rivalry in 2003, when Keith Gilbertson took on Jim Tressel. In the ’03 game, Cody Pickett opened the season coming off of a year in which he rewrote UW’s record book for passing. His ’03 season was not as impressive, and the debut against #2, defending national champion Ohio State was the start of his problems. Although the Dawgs came into the game ranked #17, Pickett failed to throw a TD and needed 49 attempts to get to 255 yards. Craig Krenzel and a deep stable of running backs gave OSU a 142-7 advantage in rushing yards. The Buckeyes led 28-3 late into the fourth when Pickett scored on a two-yard run to mask how bad the beating really was. Ohio State went on to go 11-2 with a win in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the season #4 in the nation.
The most recent head-to-head matchup came in the depths of the Ty Willingham era for the Huskies. Hopes were high for the Dawgs coming off of wins against Syracuse and Boise State to kick start the career of true freshman phenom Jake Locker. The first half gave more reason for optimism when a Locker TD pass with three seconds left before the break put the Huskies ahead 7-3. Things got much worse, though, as the Huskies turned the ball over four times (two INTs for James Laurinaitis and one for Malcolm Jenkins). Chris “Beanie” Wells ran for 135 yards and OSU pulled away to win 33-14. Ohio State again went on to an 11-2 season and a #5 end of year ranking. Meanwhile, this game started a 2-21 death spiral that ended the Willingham era in humiliating fashion.
All told, Ohio State has a clear upper-hand in the historical series between OSU and Washington. That rivalry has had a stop-and-start cadence with some long stretches of inactivity. The Rose Bowl will be the first match-up in 11 years and the first (and last) with Chris Petersen and Urban Meyer on the respective sidelines. The historical trend doesn’t tell us much about the upcoming game, but it provides yet another reason for the Huskies and their fans to feel like they have something to prove.