Rose Bowl preview: Ohio State defense vs. Washington offense
The Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day will be an intriguing matchup between Big Ten champion Ohio State, in coach Urban Meyer’s final game before retirement, and a Washington team which is trying to win its first Rose Bowl since 2000 and salvage a bit of honor for the beleaguered Pac-12.
This marks the first in Saturday Tradition’s series of game previews for the 105th Granddaddy of Them All in Pasadena, Calif. (5 p.m. ET Tuesday, ESPN). Today we look at the matchup between Ohio State’s 4-3 defense and Washington’s spread formation offense.
When Washington runs
It’s all about Myles Gaskin on the ground.
Gaskin has rushed for 1,147 yards this season — which sounds impressive until you consider that’s a career low in his four years as a starter (to be fair, he missed two games with an injury). If Gaskin gains 153 yards against the Buckeyes he would become only the second player in FBS history to gain at least 1,300 rushing yards in four consecutive seasons, joining all-time NCAA rushing leader Ron Dayne of Wisconsin.
Gaskin, a 5-foot-10, 193-pound senior, is 16th on the NCAA’s all-time rushing list and passed Napoleon Kaufman as Washington’s career rushing leader this season.
Sports Betting in Big Ten Country
With the launch coming on January 1, 2023, Ohio sportsbooks are almost here. Pre-registration is now available at FanDuel Ohio for an extra $100 bonus. Learn more. Check out some of the best promotions available for bettors in Ohio.
The five main cogs on the Huskies offensive line have stayed pretty healthy all season. Left tackle Jared Hilbers, left guard Luke Wattenberg, center Nick Harris, right guard Jaxson Kirkland and right tackle Kaleb McGary have combined to make 62 of a possible 65 starts during a 13-game season. Harris and McGary were first-team all-Pac-12 selections. Hilbers missed the Pac-12 title game with an ankle injury but coach Chris Petersen said Hilbers was expected to play in the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State has, frankly, been shoddy as often as not in run defense this season. The Buckeyes did an excellent job shutting down Michigan State and did well enough in their past two games against Michigan and against Northwestern in the B1G championship game. But TCU, Penn State and especially Maryland torched OSU on the ground.
When Washington passes
Jake Browning has rewritten the Washington record book during his four years as stater.
The senior has 923 completions in 1,429 attempts for 11,983 passing yards and 94 touchdowns, all career record at UW. He has a variety of targets — four Huskies have at least 20 receptions this season and two more have 18 catches. The top receiver is Aaron Fuller, with 51 catches for 794 yards.
And just like in the run game, a steady and veteran offensive line helps Browning’s production.
But Browning isn’t terribly mobile so if Ohio State can dial up some pressure, it should give the Huskies fits. Washington was fifth in the Pac-12 in total offense and scored more than 31 points just once, in a 42-23 win against last-place Oregon State.
Ohio State has allowed chunk plays with alarming frequency. But the numbers have been more respectable lately — OSU has not allowed an opponent to pass for 270 yards in its past five games.
Washington’s offense is not quite as explosive as a few of the teams OSU has faced in B1G play but the Huskies are a veteran team and the commit few mistakes.
After a few weeks off, the Buckeyes are about as healthy on defense as they have been in a while.