Ohio State’s dynamic receivers vs. Washington’s touted secondary will be the most intriguing matchup on New Year’s Day.
The Huskies were back on the practice field Saturday morning, 17 days away from their Jan. 1 matchup against No. 5 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
Team workouts had been light over the past week as players wrapped up winter-term final exams on Friday.
“I’m done (with finals), and the stress is final going away a little bit,” receiver Ty Jones said. “Now we can focus on this game.”
The new stress for the Huskies is preparing for an Ohio State team teeming with talent. That’s especially true at quarterback, with Dwayne Haskins finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting last weekend.
(Haskins’ backup is redshirt freshman Tate Martell, who was 14 when made a verbal commitment to former UW coach Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies in 2012.)
Haskins leads the country with 4,580 yards and 47 touchdown passes this season.
“I don’t think we’ve seen a quarterback quite as good as him,” UW defensive back Myles Bryant said. “Just in terms of his accuracy, the way controls the game, the way he calls the game. I think he’s a pretty good player.”
A third-year sophomore, Haskins is 6-feet-3 and 220 pounds, and some are projecting him as a possible top-10 pick in the NFL draft as early as next spring.
“Big dude,” UW defensive lineman Benning Potoa’e said. “We’re going to have to get to the quarterback. We must get to him. Get him off his game. Get him off his spot. … I know he’s good at maneuvering around, moving his feet, so we’re going to have to do our job. Contain him and don’t give him gaps to escape.”
Ohio State (12-1) ranks No. 2 in the nation in total offense (548.8 yards per game) and No. 8 in scoring (43.5 points).
The Buckeyes have depth and experience at wide receiver, which should make for a dynamic matchup against a Washington secondary that considers itself the best in the nation.
“We are DBU,” sophomore cornerback Keith Taylor said.
Ohio State has four receivers who have at least six touchdowns receptions this season: seniors Parris Campbell (79 catches, 992 yards, 11 TD); Terry McLaurin (34 catches, 669 yards, 11 TD); Johnnie Dixon (40 catches, 642 yards, 7 TD); and junior K.J. Hill (65 catches, 811 yards, 6 TD).
“They look really good,” Taylor said. “I think it’s a good matchup — our DBs versus their receivers. They have a good quarterback. They have good receivers. It’s going to be interesting. It will be good for the country to watch and show what our DBs are all about.”
The Huskies (10-3), having won their second Pac-12 title in three years, are playing in a New Year’s Six bowl for the third year in a row. They’re looking for their first NY6 win after losses to Alabama in the 2016 College Football Playoffs and to Penn State in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
“We haven’t won in the past two years. We’ve been 0-2,” Bryant said. “So I feel the urgency from the coaches, from the players, that we have to get this done.”
NOTES: Players said Saturday’s practice was more of a back-to-the-basics workout, akin to an early fall-camp practice with a lot of conditioning. They expect to get deeper into game-planning mode toward the end of the week. Next Saturday, players will be excused for a four-day holiday break, and most will head home for Christmas. The team is then scheduled to begin Rose Bowl-week preparations in Los Angeles on Dec. 26, with the team meeting at Disneyland that morning for the week’s first media event.