Darron Cummings/Associated Press
One of the hottest teams at the end of the college football regular season is growing as the favorite to take home the Rose Bowl.
The No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes, who scored 107 points against Michigan and Northwestern, opened as a four-point favorite against the No. 9 Washington Huskies, but they’ve gained traction as the predicted favorite to earn a victory in head coach Urban Meyer‘s final game in charge.
Meyer’s retirement is now one of the main stories surrounding the historic bowl game that pits the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-12 against each other.
Chris Petersen’s Huskies come into Pasadena, California, as the underdog, and they’re looking to extend a three-game winning streak by Pac-12 teams when they’ve participated in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”
Rose Bowl Odds (via OddsShark)
Spread: Ohio State -6.5
Money Line: Ohio State (-240; Bet $240 to win $100); Washington (+220; Bet $220 to win $100)
Haskins Continues Remarkable End-of-Season Production
After throwing for a total of 895 yards and 11 touchdowns against Michigan and Northwestern, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins will finish off his season with yet another incredible performance.
The Heisman Trophy finalist has his work cut out for him against a Washington team that ranks fifth in scoring defense in the FBS, as it gives up 15.5 points per game.
However, Haskins has an explosiveness in the pocket that few signal-callers in the Pac-12 possess, and that should help him create separation between the Buckeyes and Huskies on the scoreboard.
One of the keys for Haskins in the passing game is he’s been able to link up with a wide array of receivers during Ohio State’s latest surge up the rankings.
Against Michigan, Haskins completed a pass to nine different receivers, with freshman Chris Olave stealing the spotlight with a pair of touchdown catches.
AJ Mast/Associated Press
In the Big Ten Championship victory over Northwestern, Haskins connected with 10 different receivers, and Johnnie Dixon led the group with seven receptions for 129 yards and a score.
With Dixon, Olave, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, K.J. Hill and running backs Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins available through the air, Haskins will once again spread the ball around and open up an opposing defense.
The Buckeyes won’t score 62 points again, like they did against Michigan, but they’ll score enough to feel comfortable in the lead when the fourth quarter begins.
Gaskin Allows Washington To Be Competitive For A Half
Although Ohio State contains more offensive firepower, Washington can’t be completely counted out with running back Myles Gaskin at its disposal.
Gaskin was a workhorse out of the backfield for the Huskies, as he picked up 1,147 yards on 235 carries while finding the end zone on 10 occasions.
Tony Avelar/Associated Press
A year ago in the Fiesta Bowl against a Big Ten opponent, Gaskin ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns, but the Huskies ultimately fell short against Penn State.
In the first half of the Rose Bowl, Gaskin will help the Huskies string together drives by pulling off a few long runs, but he won’t get the support out of the passing game to allow Chris Petersen’s team to earn a victory.
Senior quarterback Jake Browning has been underwhelming after entering the season with an outside chance to create some buzz in the Heisman race.
Browning has thrown for more than one touchdown three times this season, and he’s been intercepted in six of his last eight games.
While Gaskin will keep the Huskies in the game, they eventually won’t be able to keep up due to inefficiency out of the pocket, or an untimely turnover out of Browning.
Score Prediction: Ohio State 37, Washington 20
Haskins and Co. will be too much for the Washington defense to handle, and the Buckeyes are going to force a turnover or two in key situations to halt progress made by Browning, Gaskin and the rest of the Washington offense.
Urban Meyer will depart the Ohio State program with his fifth bowl win in six years, his second straight postseason victory over a Pac-12 team and his first Rose Bowl triumph in scarlet and gray.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90