On Friday, the #5 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and the #8 ranked USC Trojans will meet in the 82nd edition of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. These two schools barely missed out on the College Football Playoffs as both teams won their respective conference championships. The field will be loaded with talent on both sides and this will surely be an exciting matchup between two of the country’s top programs. Will USC cap off another magical ending to their season like in 2016 or will Ohio State flex their muscles on another high ranked opponent? Kickoff inside AT&T Stadium is at 8:30 PM ET.
To some degree, this game feels like it should be part of the CFP as two great teams battle it out for victory. With so much talent on the field, this game has all of the makings for an instant classic and possibly overshadow the CFP opening games. Between these two teams, they have a combined 18 National Titles. USC and Ohio State have faced each other 23 times with the Trojans having the advantage at 13-9-1. USC has won 7 straight games over Ohio State and the last time these two programs faced each other was in 2009 where the Trojans won 18-15.
USC (11-2) comes into this matchup on a 5 game winning streak and capped off their regular season with a Pac-12 title victory over Stanford. They have arguably the top quarterback in college football and look to push their winning streak over the Buckeyes to 8 straight.
Ohio State (11-2) has won 4 straight games including a 27-21 victory over the previously #4 ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the Big-10 title game. The Buckeyes have one of the top offenses in the country and a solid defense too. This will be USC’s toughest test since the Rose Bowl where they pulled out a last minute victory over PSU.
The spread opened with Ohio State favored by 6 points and it has gone up to 7.5. The Over/Under opened at 64.5 total points and it remains unchanged.
With all of the talent on the field, it’s hard to believe that OSU would be such a big favorite. But, when you dig deep into the numbers, you begin to see just how powerful the Buckeyes really are. Despite their slip ups this year, OSU looks like the better team on the field and the stat sheets than USC. In fact, I can only see one advantage that the Trojans have over OSU and that’s at the QB position.
USC field general Sam Darnold is arguably the top QB in the nation and is expected to be the top QB taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. Darnold has thrown for 3,787 yards, 26 TDs and 12 interceptions this year. He did have stretches where he had too many turnovers, but Darnold never stopped slinging the ball and always was a threat to win the game for the Trojans. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett might not have the passing yardage that Darnold does, but he does have the overall numbers that are just as impressive as anything Sam has done this year. Barrett has thrown for 2,939 yards, 35 TDs and just 9 interceptions. He has also rushed for 732 yards and 10 touchdowns. Even though many pundits will give Darnold the edge in this matchup, I believe that Barrett will get the better of Sam because he faces a weaker defense than Darnold does.
Ohio State’s defense is one of the best in the Nation. They allow only 292.3 yards per game, 183.5 passing ypg, 108.8 rushing ypg, and 19.9 ppg. It’s a night and day comparison between OSU and the Trojans. USC allows 26.3 ppg, 404.8 total ypg, 246.5 passing ypg, and 158.3 rushing ypg.
Both teams feature a powerful rushing attack, but OSU has the advantage as they average 249.4 rushing ypg compared to USC’s 194.9 ypg. However, USC’s Ronald Jones might be the more electric back between himself and OSU’s Dobbins. Jones has 1,486 yards and 18 TDs on the season and Dobbins has 1,364 yards and 7TDs. But, once again, I point back to the defenses where OSU only gives up 108.8 rushing ypg and USC gives up 158.3. I expect Ohio State to clamp down on Jones, while Dobbins finds more success in this one.
Ultimately, I believe it will be Ohio State’s defense that is the difference maker in this contest. USC had difficulties this year against solid defenses like WSU and ND. They lost both games and I believe they will lose this one also. Ohio State’s struggles this year were mostly due to mental lapses like against Oklahoma and Iowa. Otherwise, they defeated top ranked teams like PSU, MSU, and Wisconsin. Other than Stanford, USC really had no other impressive wins.
The Trojans defense hasn’t faced an offense like OSU’s yet. The Buckeyes put up 42.5 ppg and 523.6 total ypg. I expect the Buckeyes to put up 40+ points on the Trojans this week and pull away in a solid Cotton Bowl victory. OSU 41 – USC 27
USC is 3-8 ATS this year, 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games as an Underdog, and 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games on a neutral field. Ohio State is 13-4 ATS in their last 17 games against Pac-12 opponents.