The 2019 Rose Bowl is now just five days away.
Both the Buckeyes and Washington Huskies spent a day at Disneyland on Wednesday, but are getting back down to business today.
If you’ve foolishly wasted your December with friends and family instead of obsessively watching UW games to prepare, don’t worry. There’s still plenty of time to get up to speed before kickoff.
They enter the Rose Bowl ranked No. 9 in the nation, and own a 10-3 record. Their only losses came in a season-opening neutral site game against Auburn, 21-16, and on the road at Oregon (30-27 in overtime) and at Cal (12-10).
Those three scores alone should give you a pretty good idea what kind of game to expect on Tuesday: probably close and relatively low-scoring.
Here’s what you need to know about the Huskies’ offense.
Jake Browning Will Look Familiar
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: their quarterback is a fourth-year starter who many think actually peaked early in his career. He doesn’t have the strongest arm and is mobile without being a home run threat.
He owns a ton of school records based largely on the fact that he’s been starting there forever.
Congratulations: you pretty much get to watch J.T. Barrett again.
Browning is a solid quarterback who doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, but he is what he is at this point.
He can’t throw like Dwayne Haskins and he turns the ball over at times. He hasn’t cracked 250 passing yards in a game since the first week in October, and he’s thrown a pick in nine of 13 games this year.
But there’s a reason he’s starting a New Year’s Six game for the third straight season. He generally makes pretty good decisions – that stat about “throwing a pick” is pretty much literal. He has only had one game with multiple interceptions since 2016, so you’re probably going to get one, but only one.
He is outstanding at eluding the rush to buy time in the pocket, and was near the top of the Pac-12 for most rushes on third down. Again, you have seen this quarterback before.
You know what J.T. Barrett was and wasn’t, so you pretty much know what to expect from Jake Browning.
They Have A Pair Of Good Backs
Myles Gaskin is a senior who just became the first player in Pac-12 history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in four different seasons.
He’s a very good, consistent back, but not generally a deep threat. He suffered a shoulder injury in the loss at Oregon, and then had to sit out the loss at Cal, too.
When he’s healthy, the Huskies will lean heavily on him. He had 27 or more carries in most of their big games (Washington State, Stanford, UCLA, Utah).
While Gaskin is the workhorse, Salvon Ahmed is the speedy deep threat. Gaskin averaged 4.9 yards per carry this season, more than a full yard less than Ahmed (6.1).
The Huskies will work to find ways to get Ahmed the ball in space, whether that means throwing it to him, handing it on jet sweeps, or something else. Think of him as the Curtis Samuel of their offense: he won’t get a ton of touches, but whenever he does, look out.
The Receiving Corps Is Okay
The Huskies have a couple good receivers, but no true standouts. Only one Washington skill player (Gaskin) was named to either the first or second-team all-conference squad.
The big-play receiver is Aaron Fuller, who also doubles as a dangerous punt returner. Fuller caught a team-high 51 passes for 794 yards (15.6 yards per catch), with four touchdowns.
Andre Baccellia is the possession receiver, in addition to possessing a name that makes him sound like an opera singer. Baccellia caught 43 passes for 475 yards (11.0 per reception), but didn’t catch a touchdown. He didn’t catch one last season (16-187) either.
Tight end Hunter Bryant is a fast, versatile receiver. He only caught 7 passes all year, but averaged 26.7 yards per catch on them. He’s the kind of guy who could make one big play in the Rose Bowl, similar to what Jake Ballard did for the Buckeyes the last time they were in Pasadena.
They’re Pretty Good Up Front
While the skill positions weren’t well-represented on the all-conference teams, three Huskies offensive linemen were first-team all-Pac-12, and a fourth was on the second team.
They were able to push around an undersized Washington State front in the Apple Cup, but the Buckeyes’ front is definitely not undersized.
They did a good job protecting Browning on standard downs, but saw their sack rate ranking plummet from 24th in the nation to 92nd in passing downs.
Basically, if you can get them behind the chains, you have a decent chance to get off the field.
The Huskies excel in short-yardage, ranking 22nd in the country in power success rate. If they’re in 3rd-and-1 a lot, that’s bad news for the Buckeyes. If it’s more often 3rd-and-7, then OSU is probably having a good day.
They Struggle In The Red Zone
Much like the Buckeyes for long stretches of the season, Washington has had trouble getting seven points when they’re in the red zone.
The Huskies scored touchdowns on 40 of 60 trips (66.7%) and got at least a field goal on 50 of 60 (83.3%).
Just for comparison, the Buckeyes scored touchdowns on 45 of their 68 red zone attempts (66.1%) and got some kind of points on 61 of 68 (89.7%).
Watch Out For Trick Plays
UW head coach Chris Petersen is famous for trick plays. He was the Boise State coach who pulled out the Statue of Liberty to stun Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, after all.
And he still loves to run them.
They broke out a double-pass against Washington State, trusting a wide receiver to throw the ball in the snow.
It will be important for OSU to play assignment-sound defense and stay disciplined against the Huskies to avoid giving up a big play on a trick play.