Ohio State started out hot and coasted from there to roll by USC for a 24-7 Cotton Bowl win. Here are five things that matter.
2017 Cotton Bowl: Ohio State 24, USC 7
5. Does this mean the College Football Playoff committee screwed up?
That remains to be seen.
Granted, beating USC isn’t the same has having to play No. 1-seeded Clemson, but based on the eye-test – to go along with the resume, with a win now over the Pac-12 champion – Ohio State more than passed.
Of course, if Alabama beats Clemson – or looks terrific in a loss – then fine. But if the Tigers win in a walk – like they did over Ohio State in last season’s Fiesta – there will be a whole lot of screaming.
The Tide might not have earned its way in compared to what the Buckeyes did, but at the very least, there’s a chance to do some massive second guessing about the process.
Yeah, that Iowa loss is way too tough to overcome, and, of course, what’s done is done – Alabama is in the College Football Playoff, and Ohio State isn’t. But that won’t keep Ohio State fans from screaming and feeling jilted if they get the chance.
With nothing to play for but fun, pride, and bragging rights, Ohio State showed up to make for an interesting debate.
4. Sam Darnold
Of course Darnold would benefit from being around USC for another year or two, but that’s not the point.
If you have a chance to become a generationally-wealthy multimillionaire, of course you go and do it – let the pros pay you for developing.
But Darnold couldn’t get the offense moving against a swarming defense that lived behind the Trojan line.
USC turned it over four times with Darnold giving up the ball way too easily in key moments, including a pick-six that all but ended the game in the first half.
He ended up throwing for 356 yards, and he occasionally showed the flash and ability that has the NFL scouts drooling about his potential, but outside of a muffed punt that led to a score, USC’s offense didn’t work.
Darnold is supposed to be the franchise NFL quarterback who could overcome that. However, it’s not all his fault, because …
3. The Ohio State defense was relentless
Darnold almost never had any time to breathe.
The Buckeyes kept pushing, kept coming, and kept swarming over Darnold time and again. He was under pressure all game long with seven sacks coming from all sides.
A USC running game? Forget about it. Ronald Jones was able come up with 64 yards and a score, but he wasn’t able to break free enough to make the ground attack matter.
The Buckeye D showed up with an attitude from the start. Even a guy with No. 1 overall pick talent couldn’t overcome that.
2. J.T. Barrett
History will be kinder to Barrett than the present when it comes to his place in the college football world.
He was never really in the Heisman chase in his career, he didn’t win a national title – at least, he wasn’t the starting quarterback when Ohio State won it all – and he struggled too much in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson last year.
But in his final game, he closed out his wonderful career with four wins over Michigan, a Big Ten championship, and now a great bowl victory to help his legacy.
The statistics are amazing, coming up with the greatest numbers by any quarterback in the history of Big Ten, and the wins are there, too.
Barrett completed 11-of-17 passes for 114 yards, and he led the team with 66 rushing yards and two scores. Oddly enough, he didn’t have one of his best statistical games, but he didn’t have to.
He might not be the NFL star Darnold is expected to be, but he didn’t turn the ball over, and he got the win.
1. Urban Meyer didn’t HAVE to win this, but …
Considering the way Ohio State lost to Iowa, and with the double-digit home loss to Oklahoma, and with the way the team lost to Clemson to close out last season, it would’ve been a big deal if the superior Buckeyes didn’t show up against USC.
That wasn’t a problem.
All is right with the world in Columbus. Of course Meyer is still one of the elite head coaches. Of course Ohio State is still a superpower of superpower programs. Of course this win matters, because it cements the reality of those other parts.
With 12 wins, a second Big Ten title in four years, and now this win, that makes it five 12-win seasons in his first six years in Columbus. That other season was last year, and OSU went to the College Football Playoff with an 11-win run.
Also with this, Meyer is now 10-3 in bowl games. He’s never lost two bowls in a row, he has lost more than two games just once in his last nine seasons as a head coach, and the machine keeps on rolling.
Now, about that Iowa loss …