For the first time in college football's playoff era, the champion of the Pac-12 will meet the champion of the Big Ten on New Year's Day in Pasadena. That's a welcome return to the traditional matchup for this tradition-soaked bowl game — and both schools have been away from the Rose Bowl long enough to make the trip likely irresistible for fans.
"We ended up right where we hoped to be, facing an awesome team in a big-time game that has so much history with this school and this program," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "We couldn't be more excited about going down there. It couldn't be more awesome for our fans and where we recruit and those types of things."
Ohio State finished sixth in the race for four playoff spots despite winning the Big Ten title for the third time in five years. The Buckeyes trounced Northwestern 45-24 on Saturday night, one week after routing archrival Michigan in their annual showdown.
A blowout loss to Purdue in October doomed the Buckeyes, but their second trip to Pasadena in 22 years is a pretty decent finish to an eventful season under coach Urban Meyer. "I know they're always good," said Petersen, who spent time in Columbus with Meyer shortly after getting the job at Washington. "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."
The Huskies (10-3) are in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 18 years after overcoming a disappointing start to the season with four straight wins in November, including a snowy Apple Cup win over Washington State and a defense-dominated victory over Utah in the Pac-12 title game last Friday.
Washington still won the Pac-12 for the second time in three years. Things to know about this matchup: BUCKEYE TALENT Ohio State will be led into Pasadena by Heisman Trophy hopeful Dwayne Haskins, who led the nation with 47 touchdown passes and finished with 4,580 yards passing in a spectacular season. The sophomore's emergence has been a remarkable development for the Buckeyes, who rode his steady playmaking to another conference crown.
HUSKIES HOPES Washington has its own headlining offensive stars in quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin, the school's career rushing leader. But Petersen's team wasn't fully satisfied with its season, which included an opening loss to Auburn and two defeats in three games during October.
STRENGTH ON STRENGTH The matchup contrasts the Buckeyes' powerful offense with the Huskies' imposing defense. Ohio State finished in the national top 10 with 43.5 points per game, while Washington had a top-10 defense, allowing just 15.5 points per game.
UNFAMILIAR FOES The schools will be meeting for the 12th time, but the first since 2007. Jim Tressel's Buckeyes beat Tyrone Willingham's Huskies 33-14. FRIENDLY COACHES Petersen said he has a "really good" relationship with Meyer: "Known him for a while. Lot of respect for him. When I first came here, I went back (to Columbus) and spent a few days with him, and he was awesome to me. I really appreciate him and the job that he has done and all the hard things coaches go through and all that. Have a lot of respect for him."
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed.
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