It's here. The final act of Urban Meyer's Ohio State coaching career is upon us as the Buckeyes get set for battle against Washington later this afternoon in The Granddaddy of Them All.
As if the Rose Bowl itself wasn't letdown-proof enough for a team entering the season with its eyes on the ultimate prize, trying to send Meyer out a winner should ensure the players are ready to roll.
No need for a long preamble so let's get to it. Joining your gameday roundtable are 11W's own Colin Hass-Hill, Johnny Ginter and Andrew Ellis.
Dwayne Haskins ate the entrails of Michigan’s highly regarded secondary but he might be facing an even stiffer test against a Huskies defense featuring All-Americans in cornerback Byron Murphy and safety Taylor Rapp. What kind of success do you expect Haskins to have through the air? Any particular receiver on your radar primed to have a big day?
Andrew: I watched Washington’s secondary against Utah and couldn’t have been more impressed; especially with Murphy. That being said, I’m fully expecting Haskins to have a fine showing in what should be his final collegiate game. I’ve got him going over 300 yards against a defense that only gives up just 185 per game and tossing three or four touchdowns. Haskins has a knack for spreading things out, but I’ll go with K.J. Hill having the biggest impact in what I expect to be his final game as a Buckeye.
Johnny: Washington's lack of pass rush should give Dwayne enough time to do what he's been doing all season, but I actually think that it's more likely that a running back has a bigger day than many of the receivers. I expect to see a lot of shorter passes designed to attack the edge of the Washington defensive line, and that means a healthy dose of Dobbins and Campbell.
Colin: What will almost assuredly be Haskins’ last game of his Ohio State career might be the stiffest challenge. The quarterback-secondary matchup is unquestionably the most important of the game. Given the way he shredded Northwestern’s zone and tore up Michigan’s back seven, I think Haskins is set up pretty well to do it again, and he’s certainly feeling confident going in. Haskins: “You know, Michigan didn't really scare us and other teams didn't really scare us, so we're not worried about what the verdict is as far as who people think is the best defense in the country because we feel like we're the best offense in the country.”
At some point during the game, I believe Johnnie Dixon will score to cap off what has been a wild journey at Ohio State. He won't be the featured wideout, but he'll be rewarded for the path he took with a touchdown.
What is statistically Ohio State’s worst defense in school history takes on a pretty pedestrian but very experienced Washington offense led by four-year starters in quarterback Jake Browning and tailback Myles Gaskin. Do you expect either or both to thrive against the Buckeyes? What aspect, if any, of Washington’s attack looks to be most problematic?
Colin: Simply looking at Washington’s offensive attack, it’s tough to figure out what should truly worry Ohio State. Gaskin is the main weapon who stands out, but his patience is his best weapon. That’s not what has hurt the Buckeyes this season. Fast, elusive, quick athletes have burned Ohio State’s defense the entire year. Gaskin isn’t a plodder, though, so given how this season has played out, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him break a couple long runs. Two weeks ago, he had an 80-yard run, which the Buckeyes are a bit too familiar with.
Johnny: Both Browning and Gaskin are dangerous veterans that could have a breakout game at any time, but they've also both has much better seasons earlier on in their college careers. Washington isn't a team that relies on a lot of explosive plays, which makes me feel a little better about their offense as a whole as well. Secondary matchups are always key, and wideout Aaron Fuller could be a problem.
Andrew: It’s amazing how much Browning has regressed over the last two years. The dude threw 43 touchdowns in 2016 and has only thrown 35 in the last two seasons combined. I’m not all that worried about him, but I can see Gaskin putting together some big plays. He’s averaging less than five yards per carry on the season but we all know how the Ohio State back seven has looked at times. The Huskies aren’t a big-play offense but Gaskin definitely scares me more than Browning.
A host of Buckeye underclassmen are eligible to leave for the NFL Draft including names like Michael Jordan, Jordan Fuller and K.J. Hill, among others. Assuming Dwayne Haskins joins Dre’Mont Jones and heads to the NFL, while Malik Harrison opts to return, which other draft-eligible underclassman would have the biggest impact on the 2019 squad? What’s the likelihood your choice returns?
Johnny: It's all about the wide receivers, and I'm going to be waiting with baited breath to see who in that group decides to leave and who decides to stay. I'll be pretty sad if a guy like K.J. Hill opts for the league, for instance, and I think there's a better than decent chance a lot of them decide to go.
Colin: Each of those three would be major impact players if they were to return. There’s not an obvious candidate to step into a starting role if Jordan Fuller opts to head to the NFL. Brendon White will man one of the starting spots, but that leaves Isaiah Pryor, Jahsen Wint, Amir Riep and Josh Proctor as the four most likely candidates to enter the starting lineup, and none of them have proven they are worthy of being starters quite yet.
Michael Jordan was selected to an All-American team this season and would return as a guard if he opts to be back for his senior season. But the Buckeyes have a solid crop of linemen who can step up if he leaves. Josh Myers has the early track to start at center. That leaves Wyatt Davis and Branden Bowen as the likely starters with Gavin Cupp and Matthew Jones as backups.
That leaves K.J. Hill, who is my answer to this question. He’s always been the overlooked receiver, but that certainly wouldn’t be the case next year. Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin will be gone, leaving Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor, Chris Olave and a bevy of younger wideouts. If Hill returns, the next starting quarterback will have a safety blanket at H-back. If he leaves, the Buckeyes would likely go the inexperienced route with Jaelen Gill, which might work out, but is less of a sure thing than Hill.
Andrew: I’m expecting Fuller and Jordan to return with K.J. Hill heading off to the NFL. Considering the poor safety play this season (mostly opposite Fuller), I feel like getting him back would have the biggest impact on the 2019 squad. I’ve got a lot of faith in Josh Proctor but I’m just not sure if he (or anyone else) will be quite ready to take over next season. Jordan Fuller is a high academic kid and I have no idea what his draft grade will look like. At this point I do think he’ll return.
What do you consider to be Urban Meyer’s greatest accomplishment during his time at Ohio State?
Andrew: I think the easy answer here is the 2014 season and what he did with Ohio State’s quarterbacks while winning his one and only national title in Columbus. But the most interesting thing to me was how he changed the makeup of the Buckeyes’ roster from year to year. His national recruiting prowess was unlike anything we’ve really seen and it was amazing watching Ohio State pluck players from SEC country on an annual basis. Meyer’s tactics even impacted the conference as a whole and we now see Penn State and Michigan going more national as well. We’ll see if that trend can continue under Ryan Day.
Johnny: Aside from the championship, dragging the rest of the Big Ten kicking and screaming into the modern era of recruiting, social media usage, and assistant coach hiring. The conference is much better as a whole because Urban essentially forced it to be.
Colin: The impressiveness of beating Michigan seven times in a row cannot possibly be overstated. 26-21. 42-41. 42-28. 42-13. 30-27. 31-20. 62-39. Meyer’s Buckeyes beat the Wolverines at home and on the road, in blowouts and in tight games, and as favorites and as underdogs. They just didn’t lose. Meyer’s final gave versus Michigan will be remembered for a long, long time.
Summarize Urban Meyer’s legacy in 50 words or less.
Colin: One of the most successful coaches in college football history presided over one of the most dominant seven-year stretches in Ohio State history. Beat Michigan every matchup. Won a national title. Set players up for post-football life. Final season marred by Zach Smith controversy and health issues, leading to retirement.
Johnny: Meyer's laser focus on football and making programs great came at the detriment of other things in his life, which sometimes hurt him professionally and personally. He is a brilliant, relentless coach whose greatest flaw at Ohio State was his overreliance on familiarity, which enabled him to recruit really badass teams with amazing players and coaches, but also led him to make nepotistic hires of people that were unfit to be around the program and make too-safe coaching decisions at critical moments. He continued Jim Tressel's dominance of the Big Ten and won a national championship, and modernized the conference immensely.
Andrew: Urban Meyer’s legacy at Ohio State is all about an absurd winning percentage, perfection against his rival, a plethora of NFL talent, some teams that didn’t reach expectations, some stubbornness and a few unfortunate decisions that damage – but certainly don’t ruin – his seven years in Columbus.
Ohio State enters the Rose Bowl favored by 7.0 points over the Huskies. Do the Buckeyes cover? Give us your final score and game MVP predictions.
Andrew: I’ve got Ohio State winning by a score of 40-23. I just can’t see the Buckeyes sputtering in Meyer’s last game and his lone Rose Bowl appearance. Dwayne Haskins is MVP as he tops 300 yards and scores four total touchdowns before announcing that he’s going pro.
Colin: I’m going with Ohio State winning, 45-23, and Dwayne Haskins bringing home the game MVP with a game symbolizing this season. Lot of passing, lots of scoring and a win. Keep an eye out to see whether Haskins can get three touchdowns and 420 yards. If he does, he’ll reach 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns this season.
Johnny: I'll take the cover, and give the MVP to who else? Dwayne Haskins, who throws for almost 400 yards and four touchdowns.