The Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose Bowl, will once again highlight the New Year’s Day bowl schedule. This year’s game features the no. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes, champions of the Big Ten, and the no. 9 Washington Cougars, champions of the Pac-12. Kickoff is at 5:00 EST on Tuesday, January 1, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The game will be televised on ESPN.
The Buckeyes are listed as 5-point favorites over Washington. The over/under is set at 58.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of betting odds and game previews for this season’s bowl games.
The Buckeyes, of course, are disappointed not to be playing in the College Football Playoff. After blowout Michigan to finish the regular season and taking care of Northwestern in the Big Ten title game, they were definitely in the conversation. However, a lopsided loss to Purdue and a few uninspiring victories against lesser teams kept them out of the top-4, forcing Ohio State to settle for a spot in the Rose Bowl.
Of course, the Rose Bowl will be Urban Meyer’s swan song at Ohio State. Meyer is retiring for the second time after seven years with the Buckeyes. During Meyer’s tenure, the Buckeyes are 4-2 in bowl games or CFP games, including last year’s Cotton Bowl and the 2014 national championship. Obviously, the Buckeyes will want to send him off with a win.
Washington is in a similar position to Ohio State. The Huskies began the season with hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. However, they were tripped up a few times along the way to take them out of contention. Also, like Ohio State, Washington knocked off their biggest rival to close out the regular season and then won their conference championship game to earn their bid to the Rose Bowl.
At 10-3, this is Washington’s third straight season with 10 or more wins. This will also be Washington’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since Chris Petersen took over in 2013 and their first trip overall since the 2000 season. Petersen will be hoping to improve upon his 1-3 bowl record with the Huskies.
For what it’s worth, Washington and Ohio State have 11 previous all-time meetings, but only two this century. The Buckeyes won both home and away meetings against the Huskies in 2003 and 2007. However, this will be the first time Meyer and Petersen will square off on opposite sidelines as head coaches.
After Ohio State dismantled Michigan, it’s hard to pick against the Buckeyes regardless of the spread. That game showed how good Ohio State can be when playing their best. With this being Meyer’s last game, his players will surely put forth their best effort. The result will be a rather comfortable win for Ohio State.
In fairness, Washington is one of the best defensive teams in the country. The Huskies allowed just 15.5 points per game while playing nine of their 13 games against bowl teams. They also appeared to peak late in the season, holding Washington State’s vaunted offense to just 15 points and then limiting Utah to a meager field goal in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Those were just two of the nine times this year that the Huskies allowed 21 points or less, proving that there is some serious talent on that side of the ball.
That being said, it’s hard to ignore the fireworks Ohio State unleashed against Michigan, who looked like the best defensive team in the country for large stretches this year. In addition to the nearly 1,900 yards rushing the Buckeyes got from J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, they also have one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country in Dwayne Haskins. There was just one game all season in which Haskins didn’t have multiple touchdown passes. He also threw for over 400 yards in five of his last eight games. With some of the skill players around him, the Buckeyes can be close to unstoppable once they get rolling.
Meanwhile, Washington has a more measured and methodical offensive approach. Quarterback Jake Browning, a four-year starter, didn’t exactly have his best season. He didn’t have the same caliber of receivers he’s had in the past, and so the Huskies were lacking in big plays. Browning played more like a game manager, as the Huskies relied on their running attack. To be fair, Washington has a nice backfield tandem in Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. However, explosive plays in the running game were also few and far between compared to past years.
It’s also worth noting that Ohio State will be one of the better defensive teams Washington has faced this year. The Buckeyes are far from elite on that side of the ball, but the talent is definitely there. With extra time for preparation, they should be ready to face Washington. Moreover, the Huskies had a surprising number of subpar offensive performances this year, struggling against some of the Pac-12’s better defensive teams like Utah and Cal. That doesn’t bode well for them against a defense with Ohio State’s talent level.
While I think the Washington defense is good enough to prevent a lopsided game, I don’t think they can keep the Ohio State offense contained for four quarters. The Buckeyes have too many playmakers, especially with the strong-armed Haskins at quarterback. Also, I don’t think the Huskies can match Ohio State score for score in a track meet. Eventually, Ohio State will get some separation and cover the spread by a comfortable margin.