Ohio State last played in the Cotton Bowl 31 years ago, becoming the first Big Ten team to take part in the Texas classic.
The Buckeyes won that game 28-12, and OSU fans still have happy visions of Chris Spielman intercepting a pair of passes, and returning one for a pick six.
It was a nice cap to a season that about six weeks earlier featured a very tough loss to Michigan. By virtue of the win at Ohio Stadium that year, the Wolverines went to the Rose Bowl. The consolation for the Buckeyes was the Cotton Bowl, except they didn’t treat it like a consolation, and neither is this year’s edition of the Buckeyes.
Unlike that team, this Ohio State team won a Big Ten title, and they also got a win over Michigan. There have been some ups and downs along the way, but this has been a very good season, and now the Buckeyes want to close it out in the best way possible.
“Very much. We had a very strong year but also had some setbacks and didn’t play our best,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “Things didn’t go our way or we didn’t execute our plays as well as we wanted to or get the outcomes we wanted all the time. But these guys came back with purpose. And I think our coaching staff has a lot of respect for these players. It’s a great group of seniors, very, very talented team.”
Missing out on the playoffs was a blow to everybody, but they don’t hand out rings and trophies for moping, so the team moved on pretty quickly. It still hurts, but that isn’t keeping this group from getting ready to play a very well-respected opponent.
“We didn’t play well a couple times,” Wilson said. “But the way they played down the stretch, we’ve practiced. We’re a tremendously competitive team in practice. And our practices have been awesome. We are going to have to play very, very well against a talented great USC team.”
It’s not often that fans will get to watch a bowl game between two conference champions, but that’s exactly what you’ll be getting from this edition of the Cotton Bowl. So don’t call it a consolation game.
“I don’t know if it’s consolation, two champions playing. It’s the Cotton Bowl we’re in and we’re excited to be here,” Wilson said. “We play in a great offensive state. Southern California plays in a great offensive state. There’s a couple states in our country known for offense and people love it. And the passion and the way they treat you in the bowl games, it’s a blessing to be here. It’s where we’re at on the record. Our kids are excited. Our coaches are excited. It sets up to be a good game.”