The-Ozone Staff Cotton Bowl Picks: Ohio State vs USC

Ohio State Helmets Before Indiana


Well, it’s here — the final game before we can move on and start talking about the Great Quarterback Competition of 2018.

But let’s not move on too quickly because this year’s Cotton Bowl looks pretty darn interesting. No. 5 Ohio State (11-2) and No. 8 USC (11-2) meet once again in bowl season, which is really never a bad thing.

Vegas currently sees the Buckeyes as 7.5-point favorites, but how do we see them?

Let’s find out.

Tony Gerdeman
You can go ahead and count me among the majority of people who see this game as somewhat of a shootout. I do not expect USC to be able to stop Ohio State’s running game, and I don’t see the Buckeyes being able to stop USC’s passing game consistently enough. And I am also expecting Trojans running back Ronald Jones to make a couple of big plays. I think it will be one of those games where you look back and say, ‘Other than those two big runs by Jones, the Buckeyes held him in check.’

There has been more talk from the Ohio State people this week about Jones than quarterback Sam Darnold. Both are very good, but Jones doesn’t have a penchant for throwing interceptions. I wonder how the Buckeye safeties are going to do against the receivers and tight ends, but also having to deal with Darnold’s mobility won’t be easy. I expect USC to hit some big plays, but I believe Ohio State will hit more. This will be a game where the OSU offensive line can be showcased, especially in the running game with J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. This will also be a big game for the receivers to showcase their blocking abilities.
Ohio State 35, USC 27

Caroline Rice
This Cotton Bowl matchup features two tradition-rich programs and two of the nation’s top offenses. Both teams are used to scoring, and this USC offense will be a good test for the Buckeyes. But, the Buckeyes will win this game with good defense.

USC leads the all time series with 13 wins, nine losses, and one tie. The trojans have a seven-game winning streak against the Buckeyes, and the last time Ohio State won was the 1974 Rose Bowl. But I don’t think history between USC and Ohio State matters. The last meeting was in 2009…things are very different now and these are completely different teams.

The Buckeyes are the more complete team, and they are very successful in bowl games.
Ohio State 38, USC 24

Shannon Sommers

What do you get two of the five Power 5 conference winners as rewards for a successful season? The Texas Rose Bowl, plus being at home to enjoy watching Michigan in the Outback Bowl since the best teams play on New Year’s Day!

Sam Darnold is trying out for the Browns with the Cotton Bowl matchup, but who are we kidding — we know they won’t be watching because the Buckeyes are playing too. The PAC-12 Champs come in feeling like they should have made it into the playoffs with a stout defense and potent offense.

Ohio State feels the same way, but they currently have a better coach and coaching staff. J.T. Barrett will be playing his last collegiate game in his home state, so don’t think that won’t be an issue for his desire to win. Hand the ball off to Dobbins and let’s start looking forward to the 2018 season.
Ohio State 28, USC 17

Kyle Morgan
Bowl games are difficult to predict given the combination of Whataburger visits, the after Christmas letdown, or just general postseason malaise. Regardless of the excuses, the Buckeyes have an opportunity to end a 43-year drought in beating the Trojans, which is something that would prove to be a cherry on top of a Big Ten Championship season.

The Buckeyes’ defense will need to limit the play-making opportunities of Sam Darnold, particularly when he moves outside the pocket, to keep the scoring down. Couple that with Ronald Jones II and his ability to break things open on the ground and the Trojans appear to be an offensive juggernaut. However, the Buckeyes have the better defense and will likely capitalize on the USC issues along the offensive line to force stops or create a key turnover. I’d like to see Chris Worley with an interception on a quick slant to turn the tide defensively.

The Trojans rank 85th nationally in “Long Scrimmage Plays” but I don’t anticipate J.T. Barrett to throw over the top of their defense like most of their opponents have done this season. Instead, I see Mike Weber and J.K Dobbins ripping long runs on Inside Zone plays en route to over 250 yards rushing on the night.

Mike Weber is named Offensive MVP and Chris Worley is named Defensive MVP as the Buckeyes win the Cotton Bowl and end the drought.
Ohio State 42, USC 31

Brandon Zimmerman
It’s the end of an era for Ohio State football. Whether you love him or hate him, this is officially the final time we will see J.T. Barrett in a Buckeye uniform. It’s fitting that he gets to finish his career two hours southeast of his hometown. I want nothing more than for J.T. to have his greatest performance of his storied career.

Offensively, the combination of Weber and Dobbins will be too much for the Trojans to handle. This is the type of game which will kick-start the J.K. Dobbins 2018 Heisman train. I conservatively see him rushing for 150 yards and would not be shocked to see him go over 200.

On defense, the defensive backs will make or break this game. I have no doubt the Trojan receivers will get their yards, but I think the DBs will play a solid enough game to help the Buckeyes. I could see Webb and Fuller each getting a pick on a tipped pass or overthrow across the middle.

As far as the outcome goes, I think this is one where OSU uses its depth to run away in the second half.
OSU 45, USC 24

Mike Meihls
On offense, USC looks to be rolling again. Sam Darnold has shown why he’s considered the best QB in this class. He’s also had some less-than-stellar performances this season. Look for USC to mix up the Silver Bullets and have them guessing if Darnold or RB Ronald Jones will try to beat them. Smart money is on the Men of Troy to try to use Darnold.

On defense, USC is lead by stud LB Cameron Smith. He will be charged with leading the stop of the OSU rushing attack. USC wants to make J.T. beat them through the air, which is the Trojans’ only real chance.

OSU gets revenge, finally seeing USC in a non-home bowl game.
Ohio State 31, USC 24

Tom Orr
Picking bowl games is always a frustrating exercise, simply because so much of it comes down to “which team wants to be there and which one doesn’t?”

The 1990 Ohio State Buckeyes should have annihilated Air Force in the Liberty Bowl. They lost. Several recent vintages of Alabama teams mailed in non-championship games against vastly inferior opponents. Just this year, Toledo was a six-point favorite before no-showing the LOLMichigan Bowl against fellow Wolverine-crusher Appalachian State.

On paper, the Buckeyes should win the Cotton Bowl somewhat comfortably. Both teams have strong offenses that should put up points, but while OSU pairs their attack with a stifling defense, USC does not. By both traditional and advanced metrics, the Trojan defense is the weakest unit on the field by a wide margin.

Assuming the Buckeyes remember they have a talented pair of running backs (dramatic, foreboding pause), Ohio State should be able to run the ball. That, in turn should set up the downfield passing game, an area where USC has been particularly vulnerable.

If it ends up close, keep in mind that the Trojans also have a freshman walk-on doing their placekicking. He has missed three of his last seven field goal tries.

If the Buckeyes want to be here, they’ll win.
Ohio State 38, USC 24

14 Responses

  1. Great win, thanks to the outstanding play of the defense. There was hardly any offense from the Buckeyes but thankfully they were able to cash in the turnovers for 21 points. No points in the second half. The defense was championship caliber this year but the offense couldn’t deliver on their end. Any win over the Trojans is gold and they’ve been as rare since Woody Hayes left. Very happy with the win!

  2. As usual, the local homer consensus is unanimous for the Buckeyes to roll. USC fans are just about as biased, lol. I think it could go either way depending on whether J.T. has a good day and the play calling is good. I can see the same scores with the roles reversed. Still waiting to see J.T. shine in a game of this magnitude.

  3. I’ve mulled this game for weeks, mostly refraining from comment. Now that it’s an hour and a half away here’s a few BRIEF thoughts:
    This game is slightly more emotional for the Buckeyes than the Trojans because of a heavy 5th-year-senior-laden roster.
    Darnold has the physical tools but really hasn’t faced many above-average defenses.
    Barrett is scoffed at by many Buckeye “fans” yet has better numbers than a pretty good pro named Drew Brees.
    Not because of any real flaw(s) with Darnold nor am I so blind as to miss when Barrett’s been lacking over the years but more because even at my age I can still empathize with the KIDS that play this game, I think that Barrett and Dobbins will have a great homecoming game where Barrett looks more like what people are expecting Darnold to look like (again, the relative quality of the defenses) and Dobbins playing in front of family and friends who don’t get to see him.
    Buckeyes 45
    Trojans 14

  4. I see a lot of people predicting some high scores. I’m not so sure about that. OSUs defense is the best one USC has seen all year. I have a hard time seeing them getting off for 3+ TDs. On the buckeye side sure OSU has talent to run the ball but schematically USC plays man with no safety. The running game is not going to work consistantly enough to drive the field running into the teeth of a 8 man front. Unless they pass some on first down, they will eat it on the zone read from the run blitz. Everyone knows if you take away OSUs run game, Barrett can’t win with the passing game.

    I’m thinking 17-21…..or 20-21….something around there. I don’t know who will win. OSUs defense is better but OSUs offense is almost one dimensional from the get go. The X factor is Barrett. USC plays a lot of man so that might lead to some good QB runs from him. I see him getting sacked a lot and eating it on pass plays trying to run. I think this game has the potential to be very painful.

  5. The lack of hype surrounding this game is deafening. The winner will be the team that does not want to be there the least. Hoping for a Buckeye win but I honestly do not have a clue as to how the game will play out.

  6. This game is in the worst possible place for the Buckeyes. With JTB being back home, UM will feel obligated to “attempt” to put on the JTB show. I see lots of three-and-outs, in what will be another disappointing end to the Buckeyes season.
    USC 38
    OSU 17
    I hope like hell I’m wrong!

  7. James mills–if you wanna give me OSU and 35 points i will give you my address to send your check to when you lose that bet lol……
    IF OSU shows up wanting to really play–and I believe they will–they win this….USC does have a nice balance on offense and although Darnold threw 12 picks–most of those were earlier in the season so that has calmed down some so to speak..Jones does worry me some and I think he will have a decent but not great game with couple long runs this defense seems to give up…but overall they will keep him in check–just not as much as they did with Taylor., since USC’s QB is better and there is a dual-threat offense…….while USC is athletic on defense, they’re simply not as good–they give up a lot of yards and OSU goes out and gets lots of yards…the OSU run game opening up the pass will be the difference, particularly the o-line and run game chewing up clock helping keep us off the field…i think this will be fairly high scoring with OSU’s senior leadership and overall better team, esp on defense, winning this and ending this lame 7 game losing streak to USC and sending JT and other seniors out with a nice victory.. USC…OSU 41-28…Go Bucks!!!

    1. Read my post more carefully Todd…………………………Following the absolute disaster at Kinnick, where Iowa made all things Buckeye look juvenile at best and physically handicapped at worst, I made an adjustment in my predictions. Why? Unpredictability. After that completely hideous game against Iowa there was really only 1 opponent that should have given the Buckeyes trouble. That was MSU. I picked the Buckeyes to win AND lose that game depending on if the staff actually showed up on gameday. Most games the bulk of the staff arrived in the stadium at different intervals, and the CEO rarely showed up at all. USC is a much more talented opponent than any of the others this year. Combined with the fact that it’s been 30 years since the Buckeyes have beaten USC and this game is a toss up. The Buckeyes SHOULD roll all over USC but that probably won’t happen because their would be HC has quit to become a CEO, Every coach who has done that lazy tactic has failed. CEO Meyer has lost the fire that made him successful. A team reflects their headcoach and, too often this year it shows that they too haven’t had that same hunger and passion.

      Again, this team SHOULD blow USC out. Who shows up for this nonsense Bowl? I doubt the CEO and qiot a few of his assistants do either.

  8. Notre Dame did not have a great QB and their defense is like ours and they destroyed USC. If we coach our guys up and do not turn over the ball I think we will win by at least 2 scores, but I always worry about JT and our linebackers especially in pass coverage.

  9. Lets change it up and make it interesting.

    USC 56
    Ohio State 21

  10. The difference in this game will be the Quarterbacks. USC has the #1 pick in the draft pitching for them, OSU has a future high School coach somewhere down in Texas starting for them. Need I say more?

    1. The difference in this game will be a USC defense that ranks close to that of Rutgers and an OSU offensive line that cleared the way for 5.85 ypc and 250 ypg against 4 of the top 20 rush defenses in the country (USC is #56).

      Meanwhile USC averaged 3.7 ypc and 121 ypg against the 4 top 50 rush defenses they faced (OSU is #8).
      Also, USC has only faced two pass defenses ranked in the top 40 (OSU is #20). Darnold was 32 of 57, no TDs, 2 INTs and an average of 214 yards in those games.

    2. efhopper–you should say more because there is MUCH more to this game and you should also compare JT’s stats with Darnold’s .Darnold is a better pure passer of course but i will take JT’s stats–against better defenses..and leadership and running ability any day over Darnold.

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