Chris Petersen first took notice of Ohio State earlier this season.
He was interested in the offense of the Buckeyes’ opponent. But even though he wasn’t focused on Ohio State, its defense still caught his attention. Next-level athletes, he said, on a next-level team.
“There’s a strong argument that they are one of top-four teams in the country,” Petersen said. “And I think if you watch their tapes, everybody would say that.
“That’s the bad news, good news, right? We get to play one of the top teams in the country in one of the coolest bowl games that’s been around for a long, long time. I think our guys are excited for the challenge.”
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Ohio State’s only loss this season came against Purdue. And after the Buckeyes won the Big Ten championship, there was a chance they’d be one of the four teams selected for the College Football Playoff. Instead, they came in at No. 6 and will face Washington in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
While Ohio State’s offense — the No. 2 total offense in the country — grabs most of the headlines, Petersen called attention to the defense. The Buckeyes allow 400.3 yards per game, which ranks 67th nationally, but Petersen said their athletes still make them dangerous.
“They got some guys that can run, explosive players,” Petersen said. “It’s the same formula every time when you look at a team like this. You have these elite players and they’re really well-coached. … Those guys, they’re really, really good coaches. You take really, really good players and really, really good coaches and you get something that looks different on tape.”
Defensive coordinator Bush Hamdan offered a similar assessment.
“What you’d expect from a defense in a New Year’s Six game,” Hamdan said. “Just remember it very similarly to an Alabama situation two years ago. Really good pass rushers, really athletic secondary. Physical. You name it. This is what you expect in these type of games and I think what you expect to play against.”
In 2016, UW fell to Alabama 24-7 in the Peach Bowl, which served as a College Football Playoff semifinal.
Said quarterback Jake Browning: “Personnel-wise, (Ohio State is) really good. All those guys were very highly recruited, obviously. They play physical, play a physical brand of defense.”
Petersen supports playoff expansion
After Petersen mentioned that Ohio State could be considered one of the nation’s top-four teams, he was predictably asked about College Football Playoff expansion.
It’s been a particularly hot topic this season after three teams — Ohio State, Georgia and Oklahoma — all made a strong case for the final slot in this year’s playoff. Undefeated Central Florida was also left out of the field for the second straight season.
“I think everybody is for (expansion),” Petersen said. “I’m not sure who’s against that, to tell you the truth.”
Petersen was quickly informed that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott supports the four-team playoff even though his conference has been left out of the field three times in the last five years. Several coaches have spoken out in favor of an expanded playoff and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has also said he’s open to the conversation.
Making it happen, Petersen said, will require adjustments.
“I know it’s easier said than done,” he said. “I think that’s the problem. How do we get this done? You start going deeper into the season. It starts becoming more games for the kids. Every level does it but us, you know you can do it.”
Petersen said that offensive lineman Jared Hilbers and running back Kamari Pleasant are “all good” and will be available to play in the Rose Bowl. Pleasant missed UW’s last three games with an injury, while Hilbers was injured in the Apple Cup.