Power Five conference winners haven’t met in any of the New Year’s Six games aside from the College Football Playoff in the past. That all changes at the 2017 Cotton Bowl when the Pac-12 champion USC Trojans meet the Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes.
Ohio State Bowl History
The only year in which an Urban Meyer-led Buckeyes squad hasn’t played in a bowl game was in 2012 when it was on probation. That year, the team went 12-0 and was one of the best in the nation.
This is a sixth straight season with at least 11 wins for Meyer since he became the head coach in Columbus, and the team has been to the New Year’s Six/BCS in each of those campaigns. In fact, the Cotton Bowl could be considered the worst bowl destination the Buckeyes have had in a while after playing in the national semifinals last year against Clemson, the Fiesta Bowl in 2015 and in the first-ever CFP that it won in 2014.
USC Bowl History
The Trojans are playing in their 54th bowl game in their history but just their second Cotton Bowl. The Men of Troy beat up Texas Tech 55-14 in their one visit to Dallas in the past, and that came back in 1994.
From 2009 through 2015, USC either didn’t make a bowl game at all or played in lesser, pre-New Year’s Day postseason contests. The team rallied around head coach Clay Helton to win the Rose Bowl last year against Penn State, and now, it’s in a New Year’s Six game for a second straight season.
Why Ohio State Will Win the Cotton Bowl
You could certainly argue a case for Ohio State being the most-talented team in the country. The Buckeyes are stacked with pass rushers for when games need to be closed out, and their secondary might be the most-talented in the nation.
The Buckeyes have a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback in J.T. Barrett, who will be playing in his final game at Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. He’s proven to be a gamer, playing through injuries in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin to nearly rally his team into the College Football Playoff.
This could also be a big game for Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins. These two tailbacks make up one of the more formidable rushing duos out there, and they could both be in for huge performances against the Trojans.
Why USC Will Win the Cotton Bowl
This bowl season has been billed as a showcase for the quarterbacks of the future, and the spotlight will shift to Sam Darnold in the Cotton Bowl. Perhaps Darnold would be better-served sitting this game out and preparing for the NFL Draft, but a big effort against one of the better defenses in America could make him the top pick for the Browns in a few short months.
Ronald Jones II came on strong at the end of the season and was one of the hottest running backs in the country in November. Not surprisingly, the Trojans played their best ball when they were able to run it, and they could have a field day against Ohio State’s one apparent weakness in its linebacker corps.
Cotton Bowl Prediction
Motivation could be a problem for these teams since both thought that winning their conference title game would be enough to get consideration for the College Football Playoff. However, Meyer has never seemed to have trouble getting his teams ready for games like this one, even when the National Championship wasn’t on the line.
Especially after getting embarrassed last year by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes will be out to prove that they should have been chosen for the CFP this year. They’ll take care of USC in a big way and dominate the Cotton Bowl.
Cotton Bowl Pick: Ohio State 52, USC 21
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