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Prepping for Pasadena: When Washington runs the football

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11/30 Pac-12 Championships

Running back Myles Gaskin cuts upfield in the first quarter of the Huskies' Pac-12 championship game against Utah.

When the No. 9 Washington football team takes the field in Pasadena, Calif. for the 15th Rose Bowl in program history, the Huskies will go against the best team they’ve faced all season in No. 6 Ohio State. In the second piece of The Daily’s preview series, we take a look at the UW rushing offense versus the Ohio State defense. Check out the previous installments:

When Ohio State throws the football

When Washington throws the football

The Washington rushing attack has been its greatest strength under head coach Chris Petersen. Headlined by Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, the UW’s two-headed monster at tailback will ultimately decide how well this offense can move the ball on Jan. 1.

And at first glance, it appears to be a favorable matchup for the Huskies. Washington’s runners have combined for 2,339 yards and 24 touchdowns. With an average rushing total of 179.92 yards per game, the Dawgs are ranked in the top half of the country in total rushing offense.

On the opposite end, the Buckeyes’ rush defense is somewhat susceptible. Opposing teams are averaging around 160.5 yards per game, and Ohio State has given up 24 rushing touchdowns to opponents. The Buckeyes have also shown that they are prone to give up the occasional explosive run, giving up six runs of 70 yards or more this season.

The Huskies meanwhile, have become more explosive since the return of Gaskin from injury. In their last four games, the Dawgs have had runs of 80, 64, and 37 yards. In each of those games, Washington ran the football at least 40 times.

With Gaskin back in the lineup, Ahmed’s role has been slightly reduced, but he remains a reverse-threat and change-of-pace back that can spell Gaskin a few times a game. He’s carried the ball 99 times, for 604 yards and seven touchdowns, for an average 6.1 yards per carry.

Another factor is Jake Browning. While he doesn’t often pull it down and run, Browning does have four touchdown runs this season and has gained 305 rushing yards this season (excluding sacks). If things break down in the pocket,the UW’s quarterback is always a factor when scrambling for first downs.

Through 13 games, the Buckeyes have had three dominant run stuffers in Dre’Mont Jones, Chase Young, and Malik Harrison, who have combined for 35 tackles for loss. On the defensive front, Ohio State will be missing potential No. 1 overall NFL draft selection Nick Bosa, but those three more than make up for his absence inside.

Edge: Washington

We’ve seen what a fully healthy Myles Gaskin has done for the Washington offense in recent weeks. While he was stymied a bit in UW’s 10-3 victory against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship, Gaskin helped carry Washington’s offense to wins over Washington State (170 rushing yards), Oregon State (135 rushing yards), and Stanford (148 rushing yards).

The senior back is on a tear, and I don’t see that slowing up against the Buckeyes, despite their size up front. However, if the Huskies can’t get the ball moving on the ground, especially on early downs, the Rose Bowl could get real ugly, real fast.

Reach Assistant Sports Editor Alec Dietz at Twitter: @AlecDietz

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