Home to many national championship games, the Rose Bowl this year resumes its tradition role as home to the Big Ten vs. Pac -2 championship game when the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes take on the No. 9 Washington Huskies on New Year’s Day.
“No disrespect to the other bowl games, because they’re awesome, but the Rose Bowl is the one we’ve always looked forward to,” Buckeye Coach Urban Meyer, who will be coaching his last game for Ohio State on Jan. 1, told ESPN after it was announced the Buckeyes were headed to Pasadena.
The New Year pairing became official when Ohio State was left out of the four-team College Football Playoff, which was announced on Dec. 2. The Huskies earned their trip to Pasadena with a 10-3 victory over Utah in the Pac-12 championship game.
The classic matchup, which is sure to please college football purists, marks the first time a Big Ten team and a Pac-12 team has faced off in the Rose Bowl since the College Football Playoff system began in 2014.
If Ohio State wins in the Grandaddy of Them All, it will serve as a major achievement on Meyer’s coaching bucket list. Despite his accomplishments, the 54-year old coach has never led a team to the Rose Bowl.
But even if he loses, Meyer will be considered one of the greatest college coaches in the modern error. After revitalizing the football program at Bowling Green in 2001, Meyer moved to Utah in 2003 and led the Utes to a perfect season in 2004. In 2005, he moved to Florida and established his legacy, with the Gators winning two national championships, two SEC championships and three division titles under Meyer.
Still, despite those accomplishments, Meyer said he always wanted to make a trip to Pasadena to play in the world’s most famous stadium on Jan. 1.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the Rose Bowl,” Meyer said in a conference call Sunday. “I know our players are very excited about it, to play in the historic Rose Bowl. We’re all excited to go do it.”
Ohio State (12-1) started the season amidst controversy as Meyer served a three-game suspension for or mishandling domestic assault allegations against former assistant Zach Smith.
Even with the distraction, the Buckeyes under his leadership won their third Big Ten championship, but didn’t make it to the BCS College Football Playoff.
“I know they’re always good,” Washington Coach Chris Petersen said of the Buckeyes. “I know the job Urban does and how he coaches. They’re always going to be a team that is very elite whether they’re in the four-team playoff or right there. That’s kind of how he does it.”
Ohio State’s lone loss came against Purdue, which won by a score of 49-20 on Oct. 20.
This year’s Rose Bowl Game pits the Buckeyes’ Top 10 offense against the Huskies’ Top 10 defense. Ohio State averaged 43.5 points a game this season, while the Huskies gave up only 116 rushing yards per game.
The Buckeyes are led by Heisman Trophy finalist QB Dwayne Haskins, who threw for 4,580 passing yards and 47 touchdowns.
At 10-3, the Huskies this year won their second Pac-12 title under Petersen. The team is led by four-year starter Jake Browning, who had just one 300-yard game, but also completed four games without an interception.
The true star is the school’s all-time leading rusher Myles Gaskin. Gaskin is also the third-leading rusher in Pac-12 history with 5,131 yards. He’s also the first player in Pac-12 history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in four straight seasons.
Washington has won at least 10 games in three consecutive season for the first time in program history.
In a conference call, Petersen praised his team for getting to the Rose Bowl, and described the season as “rocky.” The Huskies rebounded after losing two league games in October and went undefeated in November to claim their second Pac-12 title in three years.
Both teams are making their 15th Rose Bowl appearance. The last time they were here, Ohio State defeated the Oregon Ducks 26-17 in 2010. The Huskies defeated the Purdue Boilermakers, led by Drew Brees, by a score of 34–24 in their last appearance in 2001.
“I can’t say enough about our guys,” Petersen said during the conference call. “They battled all year and ended up right where we hoped to be. It’s a really awesome team in a big-time game that has so much history with this school and this program, and we’re thrilled to be going back.”