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The Prediction: Rose Bowl

#9 Washington vs. #6 Ohio State. Who you got?

Pac 12 Championship - Utah v Washington Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Andrew Berg

This late in the season, we would be deluding ourselves to suggest that the Huskies are anything other than what they have shown themselves to be on the field. There have been glimpses of an explosive offense that mixes deep passes with a steady running game. Unfortunately, the far more common offensive output features receivers who struggle to make plays downfield and a quarterback who can make questionable decisions under pressure because his targets don’t get separation on their own. All of that is a long way of saying that the Huskies will have a hard time matching fireworks with an outstanding Ohio State offense.

But can the Dawgs keep the game from becoming a shootout? That’s a definite maybe. The Buckeyes feature a solid rush offense and one of the very best passing attacks in the country. As a team, they led the nation in pass completion percentage. Dwayne Haskins got better as the year went along and finished with an eye-popping 4580 yards and a 47-8 TD-INT ratio. He concluded the regular season by hanging 62 points on an outstanding Michigan defense. If there’s hope for the Huskies, it’s that their scheme will not remain slavishly devoted to man coverage like the Wolverines did. The Huskies have succeeded against other excellent pass offenses- like Washington State- by preventing big plays and tackling soundly on short completions. Ohio State has stronger, faster athletes who will challenge that tackling ability and push the limits of UW’s ability to contain the big plays. They have also avoided the kinds of mistakes that sidetrack the long drives that UW forces opponents to undertake. While I think the Huskies will succeed in these areas more than most Ohio State opponents, I’m not confident the defense will slam the door often enough to keep the offense on schedule. These concerns are especially true with the UW special teams consistently creating obstacles for the rest of the team.

With all that said, I think the Huskies still have a good shot to win this game, and I’m only picking a one-score deficit. Bowl games are always hard to pick because there are emotional and motivational concerns that are hard to quantify. Will the fact that this game will be Urban Meyer’s last for OSU have a positive, negative, or nonexistent impact? Will Haskins have his eye on the NFL draft? Does Jake Browning have one more big performance left in his UW career? Does Ohio State have to overcome the disappointment of missing out on the CFP? Any of these factors could impact the outcome of the game in unpredictable ways. If they all even out, I see it as a close Buckeye victory.

Washington- 27, Ohio State- 34

Jackson Smith

There’s no doubt Ohio State’s a class above every team Washington’s played so far this season. They’ve got a Heisman finalist at quarterback, plenty of talented skill position players, and a (sometimes) stout defense. It’s Urban Meyer’s last game as head coach, so you know they’d LOVE to send him off with a win. Honestly, I don’t see this going well for UW at all. This squad mostly coasted through a terrible Pac-12 season, and although their defense is one of the best in the country, I’m not confident in Jake Browning’s ability to carry the team when Ohio State sells out to stop the run (which you know they will do). Overall talent is usually the best indicator of success, and the athleticism of Ohio State isn’t a great matchup for the Huskies.

I believe the Husky defense will do just enough to keep the Buckeye offense in check, but a missed Peyton Henry field goal and a Browning pick will make the difference in this game, but Gaskin runs in a garbage time TD to make the score salvageable.

Washington- 27, Ohio State- 31

Max Vrooman

The Huskies have played 4 games in the last 3 seasons in which they’ve been at a clear disadvantage from a pure talent and athleticism standpoint: USC and Alabama in 2016, Penn State in 2017, and Auburn in 2018. The sum total of those games as you know is 0-4. And this Ohio State team is almost certainly more athletic and talented than all but that 2016 Alabama squad. Can the Huskies buck the trend?

There’s a chance. The strength of each team is going head to head with the UW secondary against the Ohio State passing attack. If we look back at the end of the game and say that OSU definitively won that matchup then the Huskies have absolutely no shot. But if Taylor Rapp, Byron Murphy and company come out on top then Washington can certainly come up with the victory.

This is a team that dealt with scandal early in the season and has had to play under multiple head coaches, one of whom is “retiring” and the other will be taking over for him. It shouldn’t be surprising that they’ve played down to their opponent (or below it) on occasion. Ohio State has played multiple games this season where an average Husky effort would’ve blown them out. The Huskies are going to need another one of them tomorrow.

It’s very hard to look at any aspect of this game and state that the Huskies absolutely should win. Pick basically any advanced metric out there and the Buckeyes are ahead of UW. But Washington is just a step behind and there’s also no reason to expect that Washington can’t keep it close. And if they can keep it close, why can’t they make that one critical play they’ve been consistently missing out on this season? That missed makeable field goal, that red zone blunder, that dropped interception through UW’s hands. Washington is capable of cutting out a few of those mistakes and so I’m going to predict them to do so. Go Dawgs!

Washington- 27, Ohio State- 26

Gabey Lucas

I’m gonna keep this short since I have mega-limited service up in Le Cascades, but this whole game as far as I can see boils down to the fact that UW matches up quite well with Ohio State, but OSU has a greater talent advantage than any team in the country not named Bama. And, realistically, in the end I’m pretty sure that has to make the difference.

Despite the numbers saying it could be a toss up between the two ending somewhere in a mid-20s score for both, the fact is that Ohio State has a baseline talent level that is insane. Frankly, they underperform with what they’ve got, but that’s still probably not enough. Washington’s rushing attack is gonna see plenty of stops at the line of scrimmage followed by runs that break off for huge gains. OSU’s pass rush is one of the best in the country, yet their overall pass numbers are middling. And on offense, UW’s as well-built as anyone to stop them, but again: No matter how well Washington’s players are coached up, the two teams exist in different tiers of athletes.

In the end, while Washington matches up surprisingly well and I’ll never say never, the athletic advantage OSU has (towards which UW has been upgrading the last couple of recruiting cycles) is probably too much.

Washington- 21, Ohio State- 28

Ryan Priest

Exactly one decade after concluding the worst four-year stretch in the history of Washington football, the Huskies are back where they belong: In the Granddaddy of Them All. The 18-year chasm between UW’s most recent trips to the Rose Bowl is the program’s longest absence since they first played there in 1924, barely edging out the 16-year gap between the 1944 and 1960 games. Tomorrow’s game against Ohio State represents a chance to earn a satisfying ending to a frustrating-at-times season in which the Dawgs lost three games by a combined 10 points, and offers a great opportunity for a remarkable senior class to add one last milestone to their already impressive legacy.

While Washington’s success during the Chris Petersen era has been predicated upon suffocating defenses in general, and a factory of NFL-caliber defensive backs in particular, they may finally have met their match in the Ohio State passing game. Dwayne Haskins was absolutely worthy of his status as a Heisman Trophy finalist this season, tossing 47 touchdowns against eight interceptions and 9.2 yards per attempt for a passer rating of 175.77, fourth-best in America. Four upper-classmen wide receivers — Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon — earned at least 600 receiving yards, and the quartet accounted for 34 touchdown receptions. Washington showed against Arizona State that they are capable of shutting down one elite receiver in N’Keal Harry, but keeping four explosive options in check at the same time is an entirely different beast.

When Washington’s offense takes the field, they’ll face off against a unit that has recruited tremendously well but, for whatever reason, didn’t translate that into success in 2018. Ohio State’s 5.86 yards allowed per play is mediocre at best, ranking 79th in the nation, and was particularly bad in their games against Minnesota, Purdue and Maryland, when they allowed an astounding 7.7 yards per play and 38 points per game. If Washington can find success on the ground by feeding the ball to Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, opening up the passing game to explosive gains on play-action throws over the top, then the Dawgs have a real chance to walk away with the best signature victory of Chris Petersen’s career at Washington.

Ultimately, I think that circumstance requires a few more things to go right than we can reasonably expect. Washington and Ohio State are very good teams with some significant flaws that kept them from making the College Football Playoff, and both are absolutely capable of winning this game. But I think that Ohio State’s raw talent advantage will be the deciding factor in this one, as will the Huskies’ dreadful special teams play, particularly on kickoff coverage.

Washington- 28, Ohio State- 31

Chris Landon

In games like this, the art of prognostication lies in one’s ability to discern where one team has a unique and definitive advantage over the other. Those kinds of advantages are difficult to find when both teams are stocked full of high-caliber athletes and coached at an elite level. But look we must.

Unfortunately, I don’t see any areas where UW has a definitive advantage that they can take to the bank. Even with Washington’s defensive secondary, there are compensating factors. UW isn’t going against just a scheme. Their stellar defensive backs are matching up against athletes like QB Dwayne Haskins - a 6’3” 220 lb throwing machine who leads the nation in TD passes (47) and boasts a sparkling 9.2 YPA - and WR Parris Campbell - a 6’1” outside guy who is among the fastest athletes in the nation - who are stellar in their own right. While I expect that UW will be able to contain some of this Ohio State passing game, this isn’t like playing WSU where the Huskies enjoy an athletic advantage. Ohio State has exceptional talent available and it would be foolish to expect that talent to not create some plays.

The question then becomes whether or not UW can answer with their own offense. While I would agree with many of you that this won’t be the most difficult defense that UW will have seen all year, the Buckeyes do have some key strengths. In particular, Ohio State’s pass rush has created 39 sacks (11th in the country) and 93 tackles for loss (18th in the country). The ability of the Buckeyes to make plays behind the line of scrimmage is something that UW - which has notoriously played behind the sticks all year - will be challenged to overcome.

I’m expecting this game to feel a lot like the Penn State game from a year ago. The Buckeyes ought to be able to move the ball relatively easily between the 20’s. I could see Ohio State getting an early lead and then simply using UW’s bend-don’t-break strategy against them by shortening the game and keeping UW’s offense pinned back with poor field position. My hope is that Washington can generate a couple of early turnovers and get a lead themselves, but that is more of a wish than a reasonable expectation. Short of that, I’m not expecting a good outcome.

Washington- 17, Ohio State- 34

Jeff Gorman

I’ll try to keep this one brief (for me...) While I like the strength-on-strength match up of Ohio State’s pass game against the UW secondary, to really contain a team like the Buckeyes you must effect the quarterback. The DBs will cover well and I like that the Husky pass rush has started to look more explosive towards the end of the season, but I’m not sure it’s enough. Ohio State is excellent on 3rd downs and I fear too many 3rd and medium or longs where Dwayne Haskins delivers a perfect strike from a clean pocket. Joe Tryon simply needs to have a monster game.

I think Washington has the mental edge - Ohio State is absolutely disappointed not be in the Playoff, and players declaring for the NFL draft before big bowl games could be a distraction. I think those factors outweigh this being Urban Meyer’s last game. But most importantly, I just don’t think Washington’s offense has enough play makers, even against a defense susceptible to big plays. This won’t be the best defense the Huskies have faced, but they have struggled to put up even 24 points against most of the Pac-12 - that is not a good indicator for this game. We know that special teams has been a problem all season too, and against a team with a strong kicking game it will cost the Huskies field position.

From the start, the Huskies can’t let Ohio State build a big lead early, like Penn State. They have to come out with energy and physicality as not to let OSU overwhelm them in the first quarter. Washington is capable of winning this one, but the top to bottom talent advantage and depth for Ohio State puts them over the top.

Washington- 21, Ohio State- 31

Final Tally

Against The Spread (UW +6.5): Washington- 3, Ohio State- 4

Straight Up: Washington- 1, Ohio State- 6

Average Score: Washington- 24, Ohio State- 30.7