Ohio State vs. USC: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Ohio State vs. USC: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Big Ten

Ohio State vs. USC: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Prediction, Game Preview


Three reasons why you should watch the Goodyear Cotton Bowl, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.

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Goodyear Cotton Bowl
Ohio State (11-2) vs. USC (11-2)


Date: Friday, December 29th
Game Time: 8:30 pm
Venue: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Network: ESPN

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The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness
(1 best-39 worst): 
3 out of 39

2017-2018 Bowl Central: Schedules, Picks, Love
CFN Expert Consensus Confidence Picks

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Goodyear Cotton Bowl

If there was an extra playoff game, this would be it. If the Rose Bowl was played in a normal year with the normal tie-ins – sorry, but it’s un-American to not have the Big Ten and Pac-12 playing in Pasadena on New Year’s Day – then this would be it.

If these two teams bring their respective A games, this might just be the best game of the bowl season.

Best of all, this might prove a point one way or another. It could be argued that at the end of the year, USC was one of the four best teams in college football. And it could really be argued that Ohio State deserved to be in the Sugar playing Clemson far, far more than Alabama.

The winner of this and its fan base will do some serious chest-thumping.

Urban Meyer could sort of use a big bowl win. Beating Michigan was nice, and getting past Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship wasn’t without its charm, but that 31-0 Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson last year is still a thing.

Win this, and everything will be fine. There’s no second-guessing the Meyer is doing, and that thing against the Tigers was an aberration. Lose, and the Iowa clunker will be brought up, the double-digit home loss to Oklahoma will be a factor, and 31-0 will become a topic of discussion more than a year after the fact.

All of a sudden, Clay Helton could be seen as a big-time bowl coach. His Trojans might have fallen short late in a whale of a 2015 Holiday Bowl loss to Wisconsin, but after beating Penn State in an epic Rose Bowl to close out last year, getting by Ohio State would put Helton in a different light nationally. Win, and USC is 12-2 this year with its second straight post-season win over the Big Ten champ.

Here’s Why Ohio State Will Win The Goodyear Cotton Bowl

Pick your poison with the Buckeye offense. It’s not perfectly balanced, but it’s darn close with a running game that’s just 340 yards behind the passing attack on the season.

It’s just this simple – if the Ohio State offense is on, the defense will do the rest.

The Buckeyes are 10-0 this season when gaining over 375 yards, 1-2 when going under the mark – only beating Michigan. USC’s defense has allowed over 375 yards in seven of its last ten games.

The Trojans faced some terrific offenses this season, but none of them were this balanced.

And here comes the pass rush. The NFL-caliber Buckeye front four disappeared at times this season, but the pass rush still came in waves with a Big Ten-leading 37 sacks with 100 tackles for loss. The USC offensive line has been solid this season, but it’ll give up plays in the backfield from time to time. Sam Darnold and the Trojan backfield is about to get hit a relentless defense that will speed things up a bit.

The Buckeye offensive front is fantastic. How does this running game get going? How does the machine work? It’s the front five that was a killer for the ground game all season, while also giving J.T. Barrett more than enough time to work.

For all of the good things USC’s defense has done, it only faced one offensive line as good as Ohio State’s. Notre Dame ran for 377 yards, putting up 49 points on the board.

Stanford’s offensive front is good, but Ohio State’s is even more physical. However …

Here’s Why USC Will Win The Goodyear Cotton Bowl

The USC defensive front is pretty good, too. The Buckeyes were 12-0 when running for over 170 yards, but the Trojans only allowed more than that to Western Michigan in the opener, to Notre Dame in the road loss, and to Khalil Tate in the shootout against Arizona. That’s it.

Rasheem Green and linebackers Cameron Smith and Uchenna Nwosu can get behind the line and make big things happen just like Ohio State’s defensive front can.

Oh yeah, Sam Darnold. Ohio State has only faced one quarterback this year anywhere near Darnold’s level, and Baker Mayfield ended up trying to plant a flag in Field Turf after his performance.

Darnold got better and better as the season went on, cutting down on the mistakes, sharpening up his decision-making, and throwing 17 touchdown passes with just three picks over the final eight games after the Washington State loss. This Ohio State secondary is great, but it can be beaten.

Whether it was Nebraska’s Tanner Lee, Indiana’s Richard Lagow, Penn State’s Trace McSorley, Iowa’s Nate Stanley, or Mayfield, the quarterbacks on the schedule who can throw reasonably well, did.

USC’s defense is freakishly good in the red zone. Wisconsin did a wonderful job of not breaking at times after bending really, really hard in the Big Ten Championship. Just when it seemed like the Buckeyes were going to put the game away, they didn’t.

USC has allowed offenses to score a mere 70% of the time in the red zone, and have only given up touchdowns just over half of the time. Ohio State is solid inside the 20, but it settles for a lot of field goals.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Goodyear Cotton Bowl

J.T. Barrett, you’re on. Unfairly blamed by some for the ugly Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson, he responded with a Big Ten title, throwing 35 touchdown passes and just nine picks to go along with 732 rushing yards and ten scores. In his final game, watch out for him to be even more of a runner than normal.

It’s legacy time. As good as he might be, he’s been a bit inconsistent. He has to be accurate, and he has to make big things happen when the heat is coming.

The running backs could be the stars. Everyone will come to see Darnold and Barrett, but Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and USC’s Ronald Jones II might just turn into the biggest difference-makers.

The slippery Jones ran for 1,486 yards and 18 scores, and the blazing Dobbins ran for 1,364 yards and seven touchdowns. Throw in Mike Weber’s ability to pound away at times – at least late in the season – and the running games might just carry the respective offenses.

It’s all about whether or not Ohio State’s head is screwed on straight. Really, really annoying, this might just be the best team in the country when it’s fully focused, but the machine wasn’t always working corrctly.

The Buckeyes should’ve put away Wisconsin early in the second half, and didn’t. They should’ve gotten off the bus against Iowa, been better earlier against Michigan and Penn State, and they should’ve played like they did against Michigan State – 48-3 win – far more often.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Goodyear Cotton Bowl?

USC has the athletes, the speed, and the quarterback, but if Ohio State wants to win this, it will.

And that’s the problem.

When you’re playing at Ohio State, either you win the national championship, or you don’t. It’s all about going to the College Football Playoff, but will this maddeningly inconsistent team really be that fired up after coming so achingly close to getting into the tournament?

Ask 2015 Notre Dame.

Remember, Ohio State went 11-1 and didn’t get into the College Football Playoff after losing to Michigan State in heartbreaking fashion. It finished up by rolling Michigan, and destroying Notre Dame in the Fiesta.

Different year, different team – but same coach.

Urban Meyer has yet to lose two bowl games in a row.

Final Score

Ohio State 34, USC 27
More Bowl Info & Get Tickets


Ohio State -7.5, o/u: 64.5

ATS Confidence: 2
5: Being in the bar already
0: Watching ball drop … and then trying to get into the bar

Must See Rating: 5
5: New Year’s Eve: Ministry of Sound, Defected London NYE
0: New Year’s Eve with Maroon 5, Las Vegas

Cotton Bowl History, Results

Jan. 2, 2017 Wisconsin 24, Western Michigan 16
Dec. 31, 2015 Alabama 38 Michigan State 0
Jan. 1, 2015 Michigan State 42 Baylor 41
Jan. 3, 2014 Missouri 41 Oklahoma State 31
Jan. 4, 2013 Texas A&M 41 Oklahoma 13
Jan. 6, 2012 Arkansas 29 Kansas State 16
Jan. 7, 2011 LSU 41 Texas A&M 24
Jan. 1, 2010 Mississippi 21 Oklahoma State 7
Jan. 1, 2009 Mississippi 47 Texas Tech 34
Jan. 1, 2008 Missouri 38 Arkansas 7
Jan. 1, 2007 Auburn 17 Nebraska 14
Jan. 2, 2006 Alabama 13 Texas Tech 10
Jan. 1, 2005 Tennessee 38 Texas A&M 7
Jan. 2, 2004 Mississippi 31 Oklahoma State 28
Jan. 1, 2003 Texas 35 LSU 20
Jan. 1, 2002 Oklahoma 10 Arkansas 3
Jan. 1, 2001 Kansas State 35 Tennessee 21
Jan. 1, 2000 Arkansas 27 Texas 6
Jan. 1, 1999 Texas 38 Mississippi State 11
Jan. 1, 1998 UCLA 29 Texas A&M 23
Jan. 1, 1997 BYU 19 Kansas State 15
Jan. 1, 1996 Colorado 38 Oregon 6
Jan. 2, 1995 USC 55 Texas Tech 14
Jan. 1, 1994 Notre Dame 24 Texas A&M 21
Jan. 1, 1993 Notre Dame 28 Texas A&M 3
Jan. 1, 1992 Florida State 10 Texas A&M 2
Jan. 1, 1991 Miami 46 Texas 3
Jan. 1, 1990 Tennessee 31 Arkansas 27
Jan. 2, 1989 UCLA 17 Arkansas 3
Jan. 1, 1988 Texas A&M 35 Notre Dame 10
Jan. 1, 1987 Ohio State 28 Texas A&M 12
Jan. 1, 1986 Texas A&M 36 Auburn 16
Jan. 1, 1985 Boston College 45 Houston 28
Jan. 2, 1984 Georgia 10 Texas 9
Jan. 1, 1983 SMU 7 Pittsburgh 3
Jan. 1, 1982 Texas 14 Alabama 12
Jan. 1, 1981 Alabama 30 Baylor 2
Jan. 1, 1980 Houston 17 Nebraska 14
Jan. 1, 1979 Notre Dame 35 Houston 34
Jan. 2, 1978 Notre Dame 38 Texas 10
Jan. 1, 1977 Houston 30 Maryland 21
Jan. 1, 1976 Arkansas 31 Georgia 10
Jan. 1, 1975 Penn State 41 Baylor 20
Jan. 1, 1974 Nebraska 19 Texas 3
Jan. 1, 1973 Texas 17 Alabama 13
Jan. 1, 1972 Penn State 30 Texas 6
Jan. 1, 1971 Notre Dame 24 Texas 11
Jan. 1, 1970 Texas 21 Notre Dame 17
Jan. 1, 1969 Texas 36 Tennessee 13
Jan. 1, 1968 Texas A&M 20 Alabama 16
Dec. 31, 1966 Georgia 24 SMU 9
Jan. 1, 1966 LSU 14 Arkansas 7
Jan. 1, 1965 Arkansas 10 Nebraska 7
Jan. 1, 1964 Texas 28 Navy 6
Jan. 1, 1963 LSU 13 Texas 0
Jan. 1, 1962 Texas 12 Mississippi 7
Jan. 2, 1961 Duke 7 Arkansas 6
Jan. 1, 1960 Syracuse 23 Texas 14
Jan. 1, 1959 TCU 0 Air Force 0
Jan. 1, 1958 Navy 20 Rice 7
Jan. 1, 1957 TCU 28 Syracuse 27
Jan. 2, 1956 Mississippi 14 TCU 13
Jan. 1, 1955 Georgia Tech 14 Arkansas 6
Jan. 1, 1954 Rice 28 Alabama 6
Jan. 1, 1953 Texas 16 Tennessee 0
Jan. 1, 1952 Kentucky 20 TCU 7
Jan. 1, 1951 Tennessee 20 Texas 14
Jan. 2, 1950 Rice 27 North Carolina 13
Jan. 1, 1949 SMU 21 Oregon 13
Jan. 1, 1948 SMU 13 Penn State 13
Jan. 1, 1947 Arkansas 0 LSU 0
Jan. 1, 1946 Texas 40 Missouri 27
Jan. 1, 1945 Oklahoma State 34 TCU 0
Jan. 1, 1944 Texas 7 Randolph Field 7
Jan. 1, 1943 Texas 14 Georgia Tech 7
Jan. 1, 1942 Alabama 29 Texas A&M 21
Jan. 1, 1941 Texas A&M 13 Fordham 12
Jan. 1, 1940 Clemson 6 Boston College 3
Jan. 2, 1939 St. Mary’s 20 Texas Tech 13
Jan. 1, 1938 Rice 28 Colorado 14
Jan. 1, 1937 TCU 16 Marquette 6

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