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5 reasons to watch Ohio State vs. USC in the Cotton Bowl

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Here we go with the New Years’ Six Bowls, and we’ve got a great one in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. It’s two old, familiar foes from the Pac-12 and Big Ten with Ohio State and USC doing battle just like seasons of bowls past.

Previous Previews: New Era Pinstripe Bowl | Orange Bowl | Holiday Bowl | Music City Bowl |

The Rose Bowl is hosting a College Football Playoff game this year, and as luck would have it in a bit of irony, the two conferences normally locked into the matchup at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains have been left out of all the fun. So why not move the game to Big D and get a Rose Bowl going in the Jerry Dome?

Anytime these two match up, nostalgia and visions of historic games are conjured up. The College Football Playoff will get a lot of eyeballs, but if you’re looking for the next best bowl, this is it.

The End of an era

Image result for J.T. Barrett Getty Watermark

It seems like Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett should be going for a doctorate degree by now, but it really is only his fifth year in the program, going the distance as a redshirt. No. 16 has set a slew of Ohio State and Big Ten records, and he’ll be looking to finish his stellar career with yet another win.

Yeah he’s been the target of a ton of criticism with some outlandish expectations that nobody could live up to, but the fact remains that he’ll go down as the best quarterback in Ohio State history, if not the Big Ten.  For the Buckeyes to win, he’ll have to be at his best with his arm, but also with his ability to bail the offense out on the ground like he’s done so many times before.

Yes Buckeye fans, Barrett is a supreme competitor, but he’s quite the conductor as well. Be careful what you wish for with the changing of the guard occurring after this one.

The other side of the coin?

Image result for Sam Darnold Getty

Let’s not forget about USC quarterback Sam Darnold. There’s a good chance he’ll be declaring for the NFL draft after this one as a sure first rounder. He does it differently than his counterpart wearing the other colors. He’ll move around in the pocket to buy time, and would rather use his quick decisions and big arm to move the ball down the field.

The Trojan offense will be going against arguably the best and most athletically gifted defensive front it has all year, and Darnold would love nothing more than to show NFL scouts that he can be the best player on a field full of high draft picks.

Far too often, turnovers have plagued his ability to really keep things cookin’ in 2017, but when he’s on, opposing defenses are often left with the notion of just trying to contain the big play potential. This is a classic battle of quarterbacks.

The snub

Ohio State feels that it should be in the College Football Playoff, but truth be known, USC also had a case to make. While it would be easy for both teams to show a lack of interest, the good money is on both of these teams coming out with intentions on showing the CFP Committee that it got things wrong.

That’s what you get when these two old rivals from different parts of the country face off.

Two SEC teams in, and not a single one from two of the most tradition rich Power Five conferences? There’s no way that sits well with anyone in the heart of this great country of ours, or out on the West Coast.

It’ll be the Pac-12 champ versus the Big Ten champ, and the winner will lay claim to the best team left out of the playoff.  It’s time to show everyone who should have been in the playoff instead of a non-conference champion from an SEC that was so bad it fired what seems like half the coaches it lugged into 2017.

The Ohio State defensive line vs. the USC offense

Image result for Nick Bosa Getty

USC totes the nation’s No. 24 offensive attack. Ohio State can lay claim to being the No. 8 ranked defense in the country. Something has to give right? When the Trojans are humming, they have a balanced attack with Darnold making plays down the field, and Ronald Jones II getting some lanes to run through on the ground.

The offensive line for USC has given up more pressures and sacks this year than 2016, yet the run blocking has been fairly consistent and productive. Meanwhile, the OSU defense laid an egg against the likes of Iowa and Oklahoma, but it has more often than not been able to make teams one-dimensional by almost completely shutting down the likes of running backs Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin).

USC can’t win the game by putting it solely in Darnold’s hands, and Ohio State will have an issue pulling this one out if it can’t contain the talents of Jones on the ground.

The Buckeye running game vs. the Trojan defense

Image result for J.K. Dobbins Getty

For all the talk and buzz about the two quarterbacks, barring a barrage of turnovers or special teams’ snafus, this game will be won by the team that wins the ground game. You can take that to the bank.

We’ve already talked about the USC side of things, and now it’s time to turn our attention to the nations’ 15th ranked rushing attack. Whether it be Barrett on QB keepers, or the tandem of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins out of the backfield on hand-offs, OSU will begin and end the game plan with trying to establish things on the ground first and foremost.

Lately Ohio State has found its identity as a spread power team by wearing the opposition down, then being able to capitalize through the air. It’s been a recipe for success, and the offense has to be licking its chops getting ready to go against a Trojan defense that ranks No. 56 against the run.

The USC defense must hold up better than it has to date to have a chance Friday night.

Game Info:

Who: Ohio State (11-2) vs. USC (11-2)
When:
8:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 29 (ESPN)
Where
: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX

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