Washington Punches Ticket to Rose Bowl with Win vs. Utah in Pac-12 Championship

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 1, 2018

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 30:  Byron Murphy #1 of the Washington Huskies returns an interception for a touchdown against the Utah Utes during the Pac 12 Championship game at Levi's Stadium on November 30, 2018 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Sophomore cornerback Byron Murphy had two interceptions—including one returned for the game's only touchdown—as No. 11 Washington defeated No. 17 Utah, 10-3, in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Murphy's 66-yard pick-six with 1:05 remaining in the third quarter gave Washington a 9-3 advantage.

The 10-3 Huskies won their second Pac-12 title in three seasons. Utah made its first-ever conference title matchup after winning the Pac-12 South.

The Utes fell to 9-4.


Byron Murphy and Taylor Rapp Are Future First-Round Draft Picks

Murphy and junior safety Taylor Rapp have enjoyed dominant individual seasons, to the point where the duo look like future first-round NFL draft picks.

Murphy may be the best cornerback in the nation, as noted by these numbers from Pro Football Focus:

PFF College @PFF_College

Byron Murphy is currently the nation's highest-graded cornerback https://t.co/JROJwGSPKa

PFF also credited Murphy with allowing just 9.3 yards per reception.

Murphy's first interception was a thing of beauty, as he showed excellent ball skills in grabbing a dropped pass and returning it to the house for six:

Washington Football @UW_Football

BYRON MURPHY ALL THE WAY HOME. #PurpleReign 📺 FOX https://t.co/yv8vDMLJyo

He showcased those skills yet again on his second pick, which occurred with 4:27 left in the game:

Washington Football @UW_Football

Score or get the ball back ‼️‼️ #PurpleReign https://t.co/0UgQxvjGLA

Rapp also had a big play of his own before the first half, as his sack pushed Utah out of field-goal range:

Washington Football @UW_Football

TAYLOR. RAPP. BOOM. #PurpleReign 📺 FOX https://t.co/9Nsu4T5o4b

Like Murphy, PFF also praised Rapp, revealing that he was one of top five safeties in the country on November 21:

PFF College @PFF_College

Washington State's passing attack will have to contend with Washington's Byron Murphy & Taylor Rapp – each of whom are graded in the top-5 of their position currently https://t.co/4VimpTIhCc https://t.co/EaBfpcIxW5

NFL scoring is higher than ever with teams averaging 24.1 points per game, which is buoyed by quarterback-friendly rules and innovating passing offenses. Teams will need strong playmakers in the secondary to help slow down opposing offenses, and Murphy and Rapp certainly fit that bill.


Washington Has Good Chance to Upset Ohio State in Rose Bowl

If Washington faces Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, don't sleep on the Huskies winning the game outright.

According to Football Outsiders, Washington's defense was ranked 13th in efficiency in the FBS heading into Friday. Aside from the aforementioned efforts of Murphy and Rapp, Washington has a tackling machine in linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven, who amassed 155 regular-season stops. The Huskies also held Washington State, which averaged 38.3 points per game, to just 15 in the Apple Cup on November 23.

Ohio State's offense is one of the best in the FBS with a 43.3-point-per-game average. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins leads a deadly passing attack, and J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber form a dynamic rushing duo. 

However, Burr-Kiven can help neutralize the rushing attack, and Murphy and Rapp are capable of making big plays to shut down the OSU offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Huskies could get going against a Buckeyes team that has allowed 31 or more points in four of its last five games. The OSU run defense is susceptible to big games, like when Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr. rushed for 298 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Washington has a solid backfield option in senior Myles Gaskin, who has rushed for 55 touchdowns in his four-year career.

Gaskin, who is ranked as a top-10 NFL draft prospect at his position by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, can help the Huskies control the time of possession and keep the Buckeyes offense off the field. If Washington jumps out to a lead and Ohio State is forced to pass to get back in the game, that could play into the playmaking Huskies secondary's hands.

While Ohio State (11-1) is ranked sixth in the country and boasts a powerful offense, an upset isn't out of the question if the Buckeyes and Huskies square off.


What's Next

Washington will participate in the 2019 Rose Bowl on Tuesday, January 1, at 5 p.m. ET in Pasadena, California. Right now, the Huskies' opponent is undecided, although they will be playing a Big Ten school.

No. 6 Ohio State and No. 21 Northwestern face off in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, with the winner poised for a Rose Bowl bid.

However, OSU still has a chance at the College Football Playoff. If the Buckeyes win and are chosen as one of the FBS' top four teams by the selection committee, then the Big Ten's next-highest-ranked team should get the Rose Bowl berth. Right now, Michigan is that team at No. 7.

Utah's bowl and opponent will be revealed Sunday.


Where to Watch: College football games and related coverage are available through fuboTV.