DALLAS — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and USC head coach Clay Helton took part in the Cotton Bowl’s final press conference before Friday’s kickoff. The two coaches talked about their respective teams and opponent, and what needs to happen to get a victory tomorrow night. Here are the highlights.
+ Helton: It has been a great week for his football team, including the hospitality by the Cotton Bowl Classic. “You don’t ‘got to’ come to the Cotton Bowl Classic, you ‘get to.'” They look forward to playing OSU this week.
+ Meyer: Thanks to the Cotton Bowl, but more thanks to the players for getting here and being here to play USC. The country is looking forward to this game.
+ Meyer: The tradition of Ohio State vs. USC lives on. Hopefully he can get to the Rose Bowl one day, but the Cotton Bowl is great. He was here the last time Ohio State was in the Cotton Bowl in 1987. “The great thing about this is you’re going to see the Pac 12 champion against the Big Ten champion.”
+ Meyer: Would a third loss tarnish this season? “Sure it would.” Not sure tarnish is the right word. Disappointed.
+ Helton: There is depth everywhere on Ohio State, especially on defense. Nick Bosa plays half the time and leads the team in sacks and any time you can rotate a guy like that, it’s impressive. J.T. Barrett is “pretty darn special.” Stopping J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber is tough, and OSU has six of the best receivers in the country.
+ Meyer: Quarterbacks are measured by championships, so Meyer really wanted to see Barrett get that Big Ten title. “J.T.’s done it all for us.” Now it’s time to make him a Cotton Bowl champion.
+ Helton: Being a quarterback in Los Angeles is always going to put you in the spotlight, and Sam Darnold has handed his situation very well. He’s a winner and doesn’t get hung up on anything unnecessary.
+ Meyer: There has been conversation about the tenth coach they’ll be adding, but nothing is finalized. Meyer believes he will have his entire staff returning.
+ Meyer: Has spent every day watching Joe Burrow, Tate Martell, and Dwayne Haskins during bowl prep. They are going to be in the middle of a big-time quarterback battle in the spring. They have been outstanding.
+ Meyer: Bowl prep isn’t just about developing young players. Bowl preparation is about preparing your team to play a big-time opponent in a bowl game. This is an opportunity to go win a big game. That is the most important thing.
+ Helton: Very fortunate to have defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast as part of his staff. He does a great job of putting his players in spots where they can succeed. They feed off of each other.
+ Meyer: Sam Darnold is a streaky player, and when he gets on he is trouble. He is a winner. Great release, great size. Excellent football player. “I know we talk about Sam, but that darn tailback now…” Ronald Jones is as good as anybody they have seen at running back this year.
+ Meyer: Awful isn’t the right word for the early signing period because it turned out okay, but he’s never had to work so hard in December. In a plane every night. Now what will be intriguing is what will happen in January. Will it be mostly junior recruiting? Meyer believes there are only two more spots.
+ Helton: Recruiting with the early signing period is a complete guessing game where your roster numbers are concerned because you don’t know who is staying or going to the NFL. But at places like USC and Ohio State, you’re recruiting the best of the best, so there are players that you have to take.
+ Meyer: The back end of the OSU defense has gotten better as the year has gone on. If you give Sam Darnold time with the receivers they have, you won’t stop him. Not with their receivers.
+ Helton: He preaches family and brotherhood, and the changes in the program are seen there. Players play for each other, not themselves.
+ Meyer: “We anticipate we’ll be full go and everybody is playing.”
+ Meyer: This is the last game for the 2013 class. Meyer said this group has made Ohio proud. They have done it the right way. Every one of those players is going to graduate. They all have job opportunities waiting for them.
+ Meyer: After this game, Meyer plans on talking to Eli Apple to see what is going on and to see if he can help.
+ Meyer: Eleven of Ohio State’s 22 starters have degrees already. Billy Price is going to leave with a Master’s degree. This is a very strong, healthy program because they have recruited the right kind of guys, and those seniors are proof of that. There are very positive memories for who these players are.
+ Meyer: He texted Ezekiel Elliott this week and he anticipates he’ll be with OSU for the game.
+ Meyer: They don’t cross USC’s path too often in recruiting, but there are times when you see a guy who looks like a future first-round pick. Usually there are ties. Marcus Baugh had an aunt who lives in Columbus. Wyatt Davis grew up liking the Buckeyes.
+ Helton: If they are going to leave the west coast for a recruit, it has to be for a first-round pick. To pull a kid from that far away, it usually takes a unique connection.
+ Meyer: Feels pretty good about next year’s leaders. They haven’t had to lead very much. He doesn’t know who exactly is coming back. January and February will see good conversations about that.
+ Helton: This is a traditional matchup, but it’s not going to be three yards and a cloud of dust. This is two high-powered offenses. People everywhere will be watching this game. Even the marching bands will bring eyes. “I think it’s great for college football.”
+ Meyer: They will adjust the offense next year to fit whichever quarterback wins the job.
+ Meyer: He doesn’t think eight teams is a good idea because you have to think about the players. And it’s not just another game, “it’s two sledgehammers going at each other.” “I don’t see it happening.” Four teams is very strong right now.
+ Helton: The playoff system has been great for the game. He doesn’t worry about expanding to eight because he only worries about things he can control. You focus on playing Ohio State this year, and next year you worry about trying to be one of those four teams.