The Washington Huskies are looking to win their first Rose Bowl since 2001. Even though Washington is a 6.5 point underdog against Ohio State, there is a lot on the line for the Huskies and the future of the Pac-12. The conference finished the 2017 bowl season 1-7. So, it is crucial the conference’s best teams win “big games” for the Pac-12 to get serious consideration for the College Football Playoff. The conference is already off to a good start with Oregon, Stanford, and Washington State and all winning. If Washington can add a Rose Bowl victory over Ohio State to that list would go a long way to restoring the Pac-12’s imagine nationally. The Huskies would finish with a top 10 ranking.
Ohio State is talented and should be extremely motivated. The Buckeyes feel slighted by the CFB Playoff committee, and Urban Meyer is coaching his last game. Most people don’t believe the Huskies have a shot. However, there is a recipe for beating the Buckeyes. Washington is talented and physical enough to do the job.
1. Run the Football Effectively
Running the ball effectively is by far the most important key to Washington winning the football game. The strongest part of the Huskies offense this year has been their running game. When they have a 100-yard rusher, they are 5-0 this season. The Huskies have only scored over 28 points four times this season. So it is crucial Washington controls the clock and limit the number of Ohio State offensive possessions. When the Huskies can run the ball effectively with Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, they win. In their losses against Auburn, Oregon, and Cal their running game struggled. The running game opens up their play-action passing game and gives Browning easy reads.
2. Stop the Run
The Huskies defense has been great against the run all season. They only allowed 3.5 yards per carry this season. Ohio State has struggled this season when their running game has been slowed. They only had a 100-yard rusher in five of their 13 games. That type of production along with turnovers led to close games against Nebraska, Maryland, Minnesota, and Penn State. The Buckeyes started to incorporate more quarterback runs toward the end of the season which seemed to open up the lanes for the running backs. So Washington has to account for Haskins in the run game.
3. Browning Be Special
I’m not sure if anyone has been harder on a four-year starter that has broken nearly every Washington passing record than me. Good thing he blocks out the “crowd noise.” Browning has to show up with his best in his final collegiate game. He cannot just be the game manager that we have seen this season. He will have to make some magic happen with his legs as we saw against Utah, UCLA, and Colorado. But, more importantly, he will have to make some big-time throws against one of the most athletic secondaries in the nation. If Browning can finish with a 275-yard game with three total touchdowns, the Huskies will be in business. The Ohio State defense is ranked 67th in the country in scoring defense, so it’s definitely possible.
4. Stop the Screen Game
The one part of Washington’s game that shouldn’t be of concern to Huskies fans is their defense. They are 12th in the nation in total defense and 5th in scoring defense. After the Huskies get some stops, they have to be on alert for screens. When Ohio State’s offense gets stuck or needs a big play, they often look to their screen game. Time and time again this season their wide receivers Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon caught screens that broke the game open. Then the Buckeyes try screens to the backs, the nations third-leading tackler Ben Burr-Kirven needs to be ready.
5. Explosive Plays
This key to the game applies for Washington on both sides of the ball. The Huskies defense is one of the nations’ best at limiting explosive plays (30+ yards). However, their offense is one of the worst at generating explosive plays in the passing game. In contrast, the Buckeyes are one of the top teams at generating explosive plays. The defense that does the best job of minimizing explosive plays will win.