The USC Trojans and Ohio State Buckeyes would have rather preferred the college football playoff, but the Cotton Bowl isn’t a bad consolation. In the first top-tier bowl game, the Trojans and Buckeyes square off at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Ohio State will look to win a major bowl game in the home of former Buckeye, Ezekiel Elliott. Both of these teams were up for consideration in the playoff, but ultimately, the committee decided to go with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
I don’t agree with it, and would have been fine with USC or Ohio State in the playoff. This coming from a Michigan fan. USC had a stronger strength of schedule than Ohio State, a point a lot of people seemed to ignore. So, if I had a selection to make on the committee I’d be getting my vote, albeit unpopular, in for USC. I’ve also been the harshest critic of Sam Darnold, but if we’re going to define playoff seeding quantitatively, my pick would be going to USC.
USC has an opportunity to show they belonged in the playoff tonight. In a perfect world, this game would have been part of the playoff. An 8-team playoff sounds good with me. With that said, there would always be bickering and complaining that a team or two were left out. The NCAA basketball tournament has 68 teams in it, but there’s still debates and finger pointing when the field is released. How about the winner of this game takes Alabama’s spot as the fourth seed? I could get behind that.
Darnold hasn’t indicated if he is leaving for the NFL after this game, but if I’m going to guess, he’s going to be leaving USC. Should he leave? That’s a different question all together, and if I had to answer it, he would benefit from another year in college. Darnold has played a little wonky this season, with horrible interceptions along the way. He will make a play that makes you believe this should be the first pick in the draft, and then 5 minutes later you’re left scratching your head. We’ll see what Darnold shows up tonight against the Buckeyes. Head below for our free USC vs. Ohio State pick in the Cotton Bowl.
USC Trojans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Odds:
vs. Ohio State -7.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
USC vs. Ohio State Pick:
Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes head into the Cotton Bowl with a record of 11-2. Their blemishes came against Oklahoma at home and Iowa on the road. The Iowa loss was killer, as it was the dagger in their playoff hopes. A win against Iowa, and Ohio State would have cruised into the fourth seed. Alabama has some thanking to do. J.T. Barrett will finally play in his final game at Ohio State.
It feels like this guy has been at Ohio State for the last ten years or something. I’m not the biggest Barrett fan, but barring a bad game, will go out in his senior year with the best season of his career as a passer. He threw 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a freshman, and currently has 35 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Barrett also rushed for 743 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
J.K. Dobbins had a successful year in the backfield, rushing for 1,362 yards and 8 touchdowns. Dobbins, believe it or not, is only a freshman. He still has a future at Ohio State and will undoubtedly be highly sought after when his draft year arrives. Ohio State will be fine with Dwayne Haskins at quarterback next season. He should be the next big thing at Ohio State. The Buckeyes were 6th in the nation with 524 yards per game. They also scored 42.5 points per game. They will bring a physical attack at USC on the ground throughout the contest.
I was impressed how USC handled the physicality of Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship. Stanford kept coming, but the Trojans were able to offer enough resistance. Defensively the Buckeyes had their lapses, insert the Iowa game, but ultimately finished 8th with just 292 yards allowed per game. Darnold will try and impress scouts with a solid performance against the Buckeye defense. He’s thrown for 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Trojans averaged 34.5 points per game this season.
A nice performance against a quality defense would elevate him just a bit. Running back Ronald Jones is in his final year, and will look for a boost in the draft as well. He’s already ran for 1,486 yards and 18 touchdowns. We’ll see how they handle the Ohio State run stoppers, who can take over games. At the end of the day, though, this looks like too many points. I expect Darnold to put together a nice performance for the scouts. Even though I have criticized him, I see him stepping up in the Cotton Bowl. I’d be fine with the Buckeyes at 4 or 5, but a touchdown and the hook is too much for me.
PICK: USC +7.5 (-110)