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The Rose Bowl still has quite a bit of luster to its name, and when it comes to New Year’s Day football, it’s an honor to play in the Granddaddy of Them All.
This year, the Rose Bowl has its traditional Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup. Ohio State earned the Big Ten championship by virtue of its 62-39 victory over Michigan in the final regular-season game of the year, and then won the conference championship game with an impressive 45-24 win over Northwestern.
Washington followed a similar path in winning the Pac-12, as the Huskies defeated archrival Washington State 28-15 in the regular-season finale and Utah by a 10-3 margin in the conference title game.
Ohio State is a 6.5-point favorite, per OddsShark.
Matchup: Ohio State (12-1) vs. Washington (10-3)
Date: January 1
Time: 5 p.m.
Location: Pasadena, California
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While the Rose Bowl carries plenty of status, it is not the same as participating in the College Football Playoff. After Dwayne Haskins led the Buckeyes to their past two wins by throwing 11 touchdown passes, the Big Ten champions were hoping to gain entry into the tournament.
However, the committee chose the Oklahoma Sooners, and that means there will be some degree of disappointment on the Ohio State sideline.
Add in the information that head coach Urban Meyer is retiring after the game, and it could lead to a motivated team that wants to show the college football world that it deserved a better fate and also wants to send out its coach a winner. Or it could result in a disinterested and confused team that has lost its focus.
The full Ohio State picture is not just the impressive victories over Michigan and Northwestern. The Buckeyes dropped a 49-20 midseason game at Purdue, and they had a difficult time in victories over mediocre teams like Nebraska and Maryland.
Ohio State has looked like a juggernaut at times and ordinary at others. That may not be a good thing when facing a strong defensive team like the Huskies. Washington ranks fifth in scoring defense, and it is also quite limiting in terms of yardage, ranking 17th in total defense.
Haskins is the key to the Ohio State offense, with 4,580 passing yards and a 47-8 TD-interception ratio. He has a strong-enough arm, but his best attribute is his accuracy, followed closely by his decision-making ability.
He has a pair of fine receivers in Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill, both of whom are big-play receivers. Campbell has 79 receptions for 992 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Hill has caught 67 passes for 836 yards and six TDs.
The running back duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber are good enough to take some of the pressure off of the passing games. Those two combined for 1,887 yards and 14 touchdowns.
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Washington can’t match Ohio State’s explosive offensive production, but the Huskies have a solid offense that could have an excellent day against the mediocre Buckeyes defense.
Washington is averaging 26.6 points per game, while Ohio State is giving up 25.7 points per outing.
Quarterback Jake Browning has 2,879 passing yards and has thrown 16 touchdown passes. His top receiver is Aaron Fuller, who has 51 receptions for 794 yards and four touchdowns.
Running back Myles Gaskin is a powerful runner who has gained 1,147 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. The Ohio State defense must find a way to keep Gaskin in check or it could prove to a be a long game for the Buckeyes.
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This is one of the toughest bowl games to predicts because it’s difficult to get a read on the Buckeyes’ collective state of mind.
That may be easier to determine as the game gets closer, and we will operate under the assumption that whatever disappointment the team feels about not being part of the College Football Playoff will be mitigated by a chance to play in one of the nation’s premier bowl games.
Ohio State has an explosive offense and should be able to score with some regularity, but the defense is shaky. The Huskies can’t match the Buckeyes’ offensive capabilities but are quite strong defensively.
Washington is not going to get outclassed, and this should be a relatively even game for 60 minutes.
We see the Huskies staying inside the 6.5-point spread but falling three points short. Ohio State survives by a 31-28 margin.