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Ohio State may have felt some level of disappointment when the bowl pairings were announced and they were left out of the College Football Playoff despite winning the Big Ten and having a 12-1 record.
However, the time for disappointment is over, as the Buckeyes have had several weeks to get used to playing in the Rose Bowl and getting a chance to represent the Big Ten in the Granddaddy of Them All.
The Buckeyes are facing a solid Washington Huskies team, winners of the Pac-12 and boasting a powerful defense. Washington (10-3) is making its first Rose Bowl appearance since 2001.
Since Ohio State features strong-armed quarterback Dwayne Haskins, this game has all the hallmarks of a classic offense vs. defense showdown.
Rose Bowl at a Glance
Rose Bowl: No. 9 Washington vs. No. 6 Ohio State (-7) (5 p.m., ESPN), Washington 24, Ohio State 23
Point Spread: Ohio State -6.5 (per OddsShark)
Date: January 1, 2019
Location: Pasadena, California
Time: 5 p.m. ET
While the Buckeyes won 12 of 13 games and finished the season with one-sided victories over Michigan and Northwestern, they endured several difficult moments during the season. They suffered a one-sided defeat at Purdue, they were nearly beaten by Maryland and struggled against an ordinary Nebraska team.
Haskins has had a sensational year and was a deserving Heisman finalist, as he threw for 4,580 yards with a 47-8 TD-interception ratio. In addition to his powerful arm, he is an accurate passer who makes excellent decisions.
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Washington middle linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven will have much of the responsibility for keeping Haskins in check. Burr-Kirven is Washington’s best defensive player, and he led the Huskies with 165 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, six passes broken up and two interceptions.
In addition to being the key performer on the Huskies defense, he also is responsible for positioning his teammates on the field. He excels in that area as well.
Wide receivers Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill have displayed speed and big-play ability. Campbell has 79 receptions for 992 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Hill has caught 67 passes for 836 yards and six TDs.
Washington cornerbacks Jordan Miller and Myles Bryant will have the responsibility of slowing down Ohio State’s best receivers. Miller has 23 tackles, two interceptions and five passes broken up, while Bryant has proved to be a big hitter, with 55 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, five passes broken up and one forced fumble.
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Ohio State running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber have been solid for the Buckeyes, taking some of the heat off of Haskins and the passing game. Those two have combined for 1,887 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Outside linebacker Trevis Bartlett and free safety Taylor Rapp will bear much of the responsibility for keeping the running game in check. Bartlett has the ability to go sideline-to-sideline to make tackles and has 68 tackles and 5.0 tackles for loss, while Rapp diagnoses plays from his position and excels as a decision-maker and hitter.
Rapp has 59 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, two interceptions and three forced fumbles.
When Washington has the ball, the Huskies depend on quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin for the bulk of the offense.
Browning has thrown for 2,879 passing yards and has thrown 16 touchdown passes. Ohio State has not had the kind of defensive success it has had in the past, but middle linebacker Tuf Borland has most of the responsibility for slowing down Browning and the Huskies.
Borland has 60 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. He can cause havoc on the blitz, and he is a solid tackler who can diagnose plays.
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Gaskin has had a solid year, with 1,147 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He excels at making the first tackler miss, and he has the speed to make big plays when he breaks into the open.
Look for outside linebacker Malik Harrison to follow Gaskin all over the field. Harrison leads the Buckeyes with 74 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss.
While the ground game is Washington’s main way to attack defenses, wide receiver Aaron Fuller is dangerous. He has caught 51 passes for 794 yards and four scores.
Kendall Sheffield is probably Ohio State’s best cover man, and he has 30 tackles, seven passes broken up and two interceptions. Both Sheffield and fellow cornerback Damon Arnette will share the responsibility for keeping Fuller in check.
This will be Urban Meyer‘s last game coaching Ohio State, and Ryan Day will take over as Buckeyes head coach as soon as the Rose Bowl is over.
It’s difficult to figure out Ohio State’s motivation, but Washington is overwhelmingly happy to be going to Pasadena.
The Rose Bowl provides an opportunity to beat one of the premier programs in the country, and the Huskies are going to leave it all on the field for 60 minutes.
Look for Washington to make the key plays down the stretch and emerge with the upset victory.