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Football: Ohio State and Washington use Rose Bowl as own playoff game

University of Washington head coach Chris Peterson and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer shake hands prior to a press conference at the Residence Inn LA Live on Dec. 31. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

LOS ANGELES — Two years ago, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Washington’s Chris Petersen had something in common: both were head coaches of College Football Playoff teams.

By the time 2016 turned into 2017, both coaches were going home after losing in the playoff semifinals, leading to the second-consecutive national championship game between Alabama and Clemson.

Two years later, both coaches were in the same boat again, representing their respective conferences in the Rose Bowl, the historic bowl game initially meant to match up the conference champion from the Big Ten and the conference champion from the Pac-12.

For the second straight season, the Pac-12 and the Big Ten have had to hold their own playoff game — the 2017 Cotton Bowl between Ohio State and USC and this season’s Rose Bowl.

Neither conference has been represented in the College Football Playoff since both the Buckeyes and the Huskies were eliminated in the 2016 semifinal.

As practice continued in preparation for the game, Ohio State players took time to watch the games they aspired to be in: the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins said he watched the first half of the Notre Dame/Clemson game and then turned it off. Junior safety Jordan Fuller said he watched bits and pieces of both games, but not every minute.

Fuller said, with being left on the outside for the second straight season, it was hard to watch.

“It kind of killed us, but we can’t blame them for leaving us out,” Fuller said. “I think if we were in there, it would have looked a little different.”

But Meyer believes playoff spots are not determined entirely by a committee. It’s up to what the players do on the field, an idea he said permeates throughout his program.

“It’s very simple,” Meyer said. “You want to get to the playoff, don’t lose a game.”

The Ohio State head coach said the committee had a difficult decision to make each time his team was on the bubble, and that there are problems with inconsistencies of schedule strength and league schedules.

But this is not something he has not mentioned to his players. It’s not something the members of the committee room, including Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, has asked his opinion about in the room.

Meyer continued to say that the playoff is always up to his team, mentioning the two bad losses that seemingly kept his team at arm’s length from a spot — a 55-24 road loss to unranked Iowa in 2017 and a 49-20 road loss to unranked Purdue in 2018.

This is something Petersen dealt with when he was the head coach at Boise State prior to the start of the playoff system, saying that if his team did not lose, took take care of its own business, it was going to work out in his favor.

But Petersen said that is a hard thing to accomplish and that those teams that do should be rewarded.

“To have the kids having their A game every Saturday is really hard to do in the competitive environment that we all play in,” Petersen said. “And for those teams that can do it, then they need to go to that playoff.”

Haskins will not hide the fact that he thinks Ohio State deserved a shot either in the Orange Bowl or the Cotton Bowl this season. But as he watched the game, he was not thinking of what could have been.

He used it more as a rallying cry.

“I thought we should have been in it, but take it out on Washington,” Haskins said.

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