No. 6 Ohio State (12-1) vs. No. 9 Washington (10-3)
Tuesday, 2 p.m., Rose Bowl. TV: ESPN. Radio: 710.
Washington defensive front vs. Ohio State offensive line. Against Michigan’s then-No. 1-ranked defense, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins spent much of the game with a clean pocket from which to pick apart the Wolverines. The result was a 62-39 demolition of the Buckeyes’ rival and Haskins passing for 396 yards and six touchdowns. By the end of the game, the talented redshirt sophomore had vaulted himself into the discussion as perhaps the top quarterback available in April’s NFL draft. Haskins has not made a decision about whether to turn pro, instead choosing to focus on sending Urban Meyer out with a Rose Bowl victory over Washington in the coach’s first appearance in the game. Washington’s secondary, led by lockdown cornerbacks and future NFL draft picks Byron Murphy and Jordan Miller, gets all of the attention, and rightfully so. But if the Huskies’ defensive line and linebackers are not able to get to Haskins and get him out of rhythm, it will be a long day even for Murphy and Miller. If Haskins is given time, the Buckeyes have a way of getting the ball to their playmakers in space. Against Michigan’s man-to-man coverage, it was an array of crossing routes that befuddled the Wolverines and exposed their lack of speed at the second and third levels compared to receivers such as Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and KJ Hill. Expect Washington to mix in more zone coverage and, with a month to prepare, challenge the Buckeyes with new looks and diverse coverages.
Ohio State (548.8 ypg/43.5 ppg): What makes Ohio State so tough to stop is that, on top of Haskins’ ability in the passing game, the Buckeyes feature two talented running backs in JK Dobbins and Mike Weber, who have combined for more than 1,800 yards rushing. Dobbins and Weber can hurt opponents out of the backfield too, combining for 43 receptions.
Washington (412.4 ypg/26.6 ppg): The Huskies’ offense struggled to produce at times, and it feels like Washington made it this far despite the unit. Senior quarterback Jake Browning has experience on the big stage after playing in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Peach Bowl and in the Fiesta Bowl the last two seasons. Washington will depend on running backs Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed and hope to play ball control in an effort to not strand its top-notch defense against Ohio State’s offense.
Ohio State (400.3 ypg/25.7 ppg): The Buckeyes took a step back defensively this season and are susceptible to being exploited by explosive plays on the outside. Ohio State still has plenty of bulk up front, though, which will make it tough sledding for Gaskin and Ahmed.
Washington (301.8 ypg/15.5 ppg): Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake deserves much of the credit for getting the Huskies through the Pac-12 to the Rose Bowl. But the unit will face by far its toughest test of the season against Ohio State.
Washington kicker Peyton Henry has been nearly automatic from 30 yards or closer, hitting nine of 10 field-goal attempts, but he is only six of 11 from beyond 30 yards.
The Huskies and Buckeyes have never met in the Rose Bowl.