By winning the Pac-12 Championship 10-3 against the Utah Utes, the Huskies are going to Pasadena for the first time in 18 years.
This week, the Huskies square off against a College Football Playoff caliber team in the Ohio State Buckeyes.
On the season, the Buckeyes have battled investigations and adversity to earn themselves a 12-1 record for the year.
Ohio State enters the Rose Bowl matchup boasting a high-octane offense that is ranked #2 in the nation this season.
Even though the Huskies have an elite defense, their work will be cut out for them trying to slow down the Buckeyes.
“They’re always good. And I know the job Urban does and how he coaches. They’re always a team that’s very elite and always competing for the four-team playoff, or right there. That’s kind of how he does it.” Washington head coach Chris Petersen said earlier this month.
The reward for winning this game is sending the seniors off the right way, while national perception heading into the offseason would be at an all time high.
Here are some keys to the game that the Huskies must do in order to put themselves in a good position to win this game…..
Shorten The Game
Heading into this game, the Huskies should use the same exact blueprint they used in defeating the Washington State Cougars in the Apple Cup. The Huskies will need to shorten the game with handing the ball off to senior running back Myles Gaskin and let him work his magic. By running the ball on a consistent basis, it will allow the Huskies to chunk off 5-6 minute drives which will keep the Buckeyes dynamic offense off the field. The nice thing for the Huskies is that they already proved they can execute this game plan, with the way they held the Cougars offense in check. Ohio State likes to score points in waves and by keeping their offense on the sidelines, it will affect their rhythm and their ability to score consistently against the Huskies.
Jake Browning Has To Be Magnificent
Make no mistake about it, Senior quarterback Jake Browning will have to play his best game of the season for the Huskies to win this game. What has eluded Browning throughout his entire career at Washington is that one “career-defining” moment to cement his legacy as a Husky. What better way for Browning to ride off into the sunset than with a Rose Bowl victory. He will have to make good decisions and take care of the football against the athletic Buckeyes defense. Having everything click at the right time with accuracy, decision-making, scrambling and managing the game will be a huge component for a Husky victory. With the benefit of rest and watching film, Browning will be in the best position all season to play his best football.
Win The Special Teams Battle
Throughout the course of the season, the Huskies special teams play has been lackluster and inconsistent. In this Rose Bowl matchup, the Huskies are going to have to play their best game of the year on special teams. Starting with the kicking game, the punting will have to be on point and redshirt freshman Peyton Henry will have to convert all of his field goal attempts. Sometimes when you matchup two top ten teams, the margin for error can be just one kick away from a victory. Getting a momentum changing play on special teams like a big kickoff return or punt return can change the entire complexity of the game. Finding a way to get 7 points from a special teams play could prove huge for the Huskies in this game.
Get A Consistent Pass Rush On Dwayne Haskins
The Ohio State Buckeyes possess one of the best players in the country in sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Haskins was a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the nation in touchdowns this season with 47 total. The Huskies will have to get consistent pressure on Haskins all game long to have a chance at winning this game. This season, the Huskies struggled to bring consistent pressure off the edges and defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake will have to solve this issue. He will have to disguise some looks and bring pressures from other areas of the field. The Huskies cannot afford to let Haskins just sit comfortably in the pocket and pick them apart. Playing aggressive football and making Haskins uncomfortable is the recipe for success.
Relax And Play In The Moment
Looking back at the last three seasons, the Huskies will be on the grand stage four times which includes this Rose Bowl Game against the Buckeyes. So far, the Huskies are 0-3 on the national stage and they need to find a way to just relax and play football. Mentally, the Huskies need to come out with a fast start and settle in right from the start like they belong. Dating back to the Peach Bowl against Alabama in 2016, the Fiesta Bowl in 2017 against Penn State and earlier this season against Auburn, the Huskies have not seized their opportunities. This game is all about respect and until the Huskies win one of these grand stage games, they will just be viewed as lucky to get there. It’s time for the Huskies to play confident football and finish!