Belated best wishes for a Merry Christmas, and hope you all have a safe and enjoyable New Year in 2019.
It feels like Ohio State has not played in ages, when in reality, it will only have been a little over one month since the Buckeyes clinched the B1G Championship over Northwestern, earning this trip to Pasadena in “The Granddaddy Of Them All,” the 2019 Rose Bowl.
The Washington Huskies, champions of the Pac-12, will be making their first trip to Pasadena since 2001. That game that featured the Huskies and a Purdue team that had Drew Brees at quarterback.
Like Ohio State, Washington came into the 2018 season with aspirations for he College Football Playoff.
The season-opening loss to Auburn (21-16) put the Huskies behind from the start, and midseason conference losses at Oregon (30-27) and at California (12-10) eliminated them altogether.
Still, this is a team that was 10 points from being undefeated, and should not be taken lightly by Ohio State fans.
Below are three critical areas I will be keeping an eye on, as the 2018 season comes to a close…
1. Ohio State’s Passing Game Versus Washington’s Secondary
#OhioState & Dwayne Haskins vs #Washington's superb secondary is a terrific match-up for the Rose Bowl. Jimmy Lake's defense is the only team in the country that didn't allow a pass play of 40+ yards all season.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 2, 2018
Ranked second within the Pac-12 behind California (175 yards/game), the Huskies only give up an average of 189.4 yards per game through the air.
The leader of the Washington secondary in interceptions is sophomore Byron Murphy. Listed at 5’11”, 182 pounds, Murphy’s best game came against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game with two interceptions, one of which was returned for the crucial winning touchdown. Murphy is a projected first-round pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) December 1, 2018
2. Ohio State’s Running Game Versus Washington’s Defensive Line
In the event Ohio State’s passing game has challenges through the air, it will be imperative for Ohio State to establish its traditionally strong running game with J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber.
Just as the Huskies are tough defensively in the air, they are also very stout against the run.
Ranked second in the Pac-12, Washington only gives up about 122 yards per game on the ground.
A player to keep an eye on is Husky nose tackle Greg Gaines, who ranks among the Washington leaders in tackles and sacks. Gaines was named first-team All Pac-12, and could pose a problem for the Ohio State interior offensive line.
3. Washington ILB Ben Burr-Kirven
A first-team All-American and the 2018 Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player Of The Year, Burr-Kirven is the type of linebacker who is always around the ball.
Burr-Kirven’s 165 tackles led the entire country and Ohio State will need to account for him on every play.
Ben Burr-Kirven has more tackles than any Husky in 30 years.
NFL scouts are taking notice: https://t.co/C31LvxBhl6
— Seattle Times Sports (@SeaTimesSports) December 26, 2018