If you haven’t yet locked in your favorite pick in your office confidence pool just yet, you may want to take a closer look at Ohio State’s matchup vs. Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
Sports Illustrated considers the Buckeyes’ final game, the last hurrah for head coach Urban Meyer, as one of bowl season’s “best bets” against the spread, which currently sits at Ohio State by 6.5 points at most online sportsbooks.
Not only is the Big Ten’s best offense coming into its final game on fire with Dwayne Haskins leading the charge, but Washington has struggled to move the football consistently throughout the season which could be the ideal anecdote for a struggling Buckeyes defense.
“In non-playoff bowl games, the big question is motivation,” SI’s Ed McGrogan writes. Which team really wants the result in a game where the result really doesn’t matter? You can make a case for both the Buckeyes and the Huskies because of their coaches, each of whom is coaching in the Rose Bowl for the first time. But it will also be the last time for Urban Meyer—at least with Ohio State—and it’s hard to imagine his talented crop of playmakers letting his farewell be anything but a resounding victory.
“Beyond that driving factor, Ohio State is simply a much more talented team than Washington, and in a regular-season matchup would likely be favored by double digits. The Buckeyes stated their case for inclusion in the College Football Playoff with a dominant win over Michigan, a game in which quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw for 396 yards—his third-lowest passing output in his last eight games.”
Haskins, who finished third in final Heisman voting, leads college football this season with 47 touchdown passes and 4,580 yards through the air. As a projected first-round selection in 2019, Haskins will have a decision to make about the NFL after what could be his final game.
More from SI on the Rose Bowl:
Ohio State’s offense is humming, and the four playoff teams were happy to see it left outside the party. Washington, which outlasted Utah 10-3 in the Pac 12 title game, simply doesn’t have enough explosiveness on its roster to keep up. It showed that in the first week of the season against Auburn, in a non-conference matchup that foreshadowed the Pac 12’s weakness. It will show that in its last game of the year as well. Ohio State has covered its last four postseason games, while Washington has failed to cover three of its last four. Both trends will continue in the Granddaddy of Them All.
Most of the public money appears to be on the Buckeyes, who opened as a 3.5-point favorite a few weeks ago — prior to Meyer’s announcement he was stepping away after the season.