WHO: No. 5 Ohio State (11-2) vs. No. 8 USC (11-2)
WHAT: The 82nd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
THE SKINNY: We have ourselves a nice little Texas version of the Rose Bowl when the champions of the Big Ten (Ohio State) and Pac-12 (USC) collide in the Cotton Bowl. Because the Rose Bowl is being used to host a College Football Playoff semifinal game, and because neither the Big Ten nor the Pac-12 will be represented in the playoff field this season, the Cotton Bowl benefits by getting a great matchup between storied programs.
Similar to last year’s Rose Bowl, Ohio State is the Big Ten champion being left out of the playoff and looking to take on USC. The difference this year is the Trojans are the Pac-12 champions with quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones II pacing the offense for a strong finish to the season. Since losing on the road against Notre Dame, USC has won five straight games with three double-digit margins in their favor and a Pac-12 championship game victory over Bryce Love and Stanford. Their next opponent, the Ohio State Buckeyes, is loaded with talent.
The question for Ohio State is whether or not they will be in sync for the Cotton Bowl. At times this season, the Buckeyes have stalled. A stagnant offense could not keep up against Oklahoma early in the season and the Buckeyes were ambushed on the road against Iowa. If not for a career day from J.T. Barrett, Ohio State may have lost at home to Penn State a swell. But when the Buckeyes are locked in, they are tough to beat. The rise of freshman running back J.K. Dobbins continues to spark Ohio State’s offense, just so long as Urban Meyer doesn’t choose to move away from utilizing the young star in the making.
Odds are this game will come down to Sam Darnold vs. J.T. Barrett. Both players should have an impact in different ways. Darnold will be more likely to do most of his damage through the air, while Barrett may be looked to dabble in some runs at times to keep USC’s defense on their toes.
This one could be one of the most entertaining games of the bowl season. In this one, J.T. Barrett will go out a winner.
THE PICK: Ohio State 38, USC 34