2018 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Washington, Rose Bowl
Ohio State Preview: On the final playoff rankings of the regular season, Ohio State won the Big Ten Championship, but it was not enough to move them ahead of Oklahoma, who defeated Texas to win the Big 12 Championship, and Georgia, who came close to beating Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Ohio State remained at 6, being left out of the playoff for the second year in a row, but will face Washington in the Rose Bowl in a traditional Big 10 versus PAC 12 matchup.
Urban Meyer announced the Tuesday after the Big Ten Championship game that he would retire after this game. With the flares of his cyst, and the health of his body, he felt he could no longer coach the way he wanted to. History shows that he retired once before due to heart and health problems at Florida, but then came to Ohio State after a year as an announcer for ESPN. It remains to be seen if he does come back into coaching, however Gene Smith discussed having Urban fill in as a employee in the Athletic Department in some capacity. Urban has never coached in the Rose Bowl, and this will be his first (and last) time to have the opportunity. The Buckeyes are looking to send off Urban Meyer with a win to finish the season.
Ryan Day, who acted as interim coach during Meyer’s suspension earlier in the season, and went 3-0, will take over as the official head coach after the Rose Bowl Game. He is keeping on some key personnel from Urban’s staff, but this offseason will be telling on what direction Ryan Day is going to go with the program.
Dwayne Haskins historic season will have one more game, as he announced he would play in Rose Bowl. Discussion about his future with the Buckeyes has been hushed at this point, and he has not declared one way or the other, but he is being projected as a top 10 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He was a finalist for the Heisman, although if you watched or got your news from ESPN, you might not have known he was invited. He did finish third overall behind winner Kyler Murray from Oklahoma, and runner-up Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama. Both of those players will face off in the Orange Bowl as part of the CFP Semi-finals. Dwayne has 4580 yards passing for the season, and 47 passing TDs. He has an opportunity to pass for over 5000 yards, something no Big Ten player has done in a regular season, and for 50 or more touchdowns. He will have a challenge though with a very stout Washington defense.
The running game will need to open up the passing game, and this will be the last game for the Mike Weber/JK Dobbins tandem. Combined for the season, they have rushed for 1887 yards, and 14 touchdowns. They have also added 352 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. This has been one of the more dynamic backfields in OSU history, although with the emphasis on the passing game, the running attack might not have been as explosive as most Buckeye fans would have hoped. They will have one more game to distinguish themselves against a Huskies defense that only allows 116 yards a game on the ground.
Parris Campbell is 8 yards away from an 1000 yard season. He should get that mark in this game. KJ Hill has 831 yards, and 6 touchdowns, and Terry McLaurin has 669 receiving yards with 11 touchdowns, tied with Parris as the most for the receiving crew. In a year with a lot of off the field issues and distractions, and coaching changes, Zone 6 was the anchor that held this season together. Without the leadership of Parris, Terry, and Johnnie Dixon, the offense would not have had such a historic season in the passing game. They will play together one last time in Pasedena, but have set the bar for what is expected of that group moving forward. With a future star in Chris Olave, and some incoming freshman, and the return of Austin Mack, this will be a strength for the Buckeyes next season.
The defense will have to play its best game to ensure the offense is able to get as many opportunities as possible against Washington. With the month off between games, and the extra practices and rest, this should finally give the defense time to settle down, and put a stamp on the season. They played well the last two weeks od the season, and will hopefully carry that energy and momentum against a very disciplined Huskies offense. With Chris Petersen on the other end, don’t be surprised if there are a few trick plays if this is a close game. A strong performance by the defense will help ensure Urban gets one more win. The question is, will the Buckeyes carry him off the field as the team did for Earle Bruce.
Washington Preview: Washington clinched the PAC-12 championship with a very defensive performance against Utah, winning 10-3. Since Chris Peterson took over the program, Washington has become one of the top PAC 12 teams in the country. They enter this game with a 10-3 record, with losses to Auburn at the beginning of the season, Oregon in overtime, and then to Cal at the end of October. They have not lost since the Cal game, including a win over rival Washington State, who was in playoff contention at that time. This was not the best season for the PAC 12, especially after going 1-8 in their bowl games last season, and the chaos of the PAC-12 South didn’t bolster any strength for the conference. Washington though is a very good team, and will bring a challenge to the favored Buckeyes.
Quarterback Jake Browning had a decent year, throwing for 2879 yards, with 16 touchdowns, but 10 interceptions. He was one of the up and coming players, most notably after helping lead his team to the playoffs in 2016, but lost to Alabama in the Peach Bowl. He will need to pose a threat in the passing game to keep the Buckeye defense honest.
Myles Gaskin is one of the more underrated running backs in the country, but he has been the focus of this offense, and the reason why they have been able to compete in most of their games. He finished the regular season with 1147 rushing yards, and 10 touchdowns. He was also slightly involved in the passing game with 17 receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Aaron Fuller is the favorite target for Browning, with 51 receptions and 794 receiving yards, along with 4 touchdowns. He could pose a deep threat, and will most likely be matched up with Kendall Sheffield. If he can get open and stretch the Buckeye defense, this could be a long game for both teams. Andre Baccellia and Ty Jones also have over 450 yards receiving for the season, and will add some more wrinkles for the Buckeye secondary to defend.
The strength of this Huskies team though is the defense, and they have playmakers at all three levels. The matchup to watch for in this game will be the Ohio State receivers against the secondary for Washington, which is led by Byron Murphy, who had a key interception in the PAC-12 Championship game. Dwayne Haskins will need to be on point with his passes to limit the turnover opportunities for Washington.
Buckeye Spotlight: Dwayne Haskins. In what could be his last game as a Buckeye, he will need to have a big game to give Ohio State some momentum in this game. Washington has one of the best defenses in the country, and each yard will be earned. I expect him to be laser focused in this game, and you might see his best game of the season.
Huskies Spotlight: Myles Gaskin. He should be excited to go up against a defense that has given up 6 plays of 75 yards or more, and has the speed to be a threat. With a lack-luster passing game, the pressure will be on him to make the plays to keep this game close.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 7-7. Ohio State has appeared in the Rose Bowl game 14 times, and are an even 7-7 in those games. The last time they traveled to the Granddaddy of them all, they beat Oregon 26-17, in a game that wasn’t even that close. Hopefully the Buckeyes break the tie with a win.
Prediction: There are a lot of emotional factors in this game on Ohio State’s side of the ball, and a big underdog mentality for Washington. Expect this game to be close for a while, as both teams are trying to get their identity, but with it being Urban’s last game, the Buckeyes bonding and playing one last time together, the Buckeye will pull out the victory. Haskins has one of his best games against an elite secondary, Washington will make some plays to keep it close, but in the end, the Buckeyes will be the one smelling the roses as the Scarlet and Gray confetti falls to the field.
Ohio State 45 – Washington 17
Photo Credit to North County Sun