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2017 Cotton Bowl preview

The two winners of the power five conferences that did not make the College Football Playoff will play in the 2017 Cotton Bowl. These teams have played a lot historically, with USC leading the all-time series with a 12-9-1 record. It should be another good one in Dallas. Here is the 2017 Cotton Bowl preview:

USC Trojans (11-2)

2017 Cotton Bowl preview
Sam Darnold (Photo by nj.com)

USC was a trendy pick to make the College Football Playoff, but ended up not being able to live up to expectations. They still won the Pac-12 and got to ten wins, while beating seven different bowl eligible teams. The Trojans lost a close game to Washington State and got blown out by Notre Dame, which cost them their chances to play in the CFP.

The offense has some future NFL players on the unit and score 34.5 points per game. Ronald Jones II and the running game are a huge part of that and average 194.9 yards a game. Jones II has 1,486 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the season. He is often overlooked because he plays next to Sam Darnold, but is a star in his own right.

Darnold was thought to be the first overall pick, but struggled early on in the season. He has since rebounded and finished well. He has 3,787 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on 63.7% completion. After throwing six interceptions in the first three games of the season, Darnold has only thrown six the rest of the season. Deontay Burnett has 74 catches for 974 yards and nine touchdowns to lead the team Other receivers have produced, but will need to step up against Ohio State.

Their defense is average, allowing 26.3 points per game. They rank 56th against the run and 97th against the pass. Defensive linemen Christian Rector and Rasheem Green have created a good pass rushing duo. Rector has 7.5 sacks, while Green has nine. Corner Jack Jones leads the team with four interception. There is talent on the defensive side of the ball, but they are going to be put to the test against Ohio State.

Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)

2017 Cotton Bowl preview
J.T. Barrett (Photo by espn.com)

The Buckeyes thought they should have been in the CFP over Alabama, but a loss at Iowa held them back. Other than the loss to Iowa, their only other loss was to Oklahoma. They do have quality wins over Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin on their resume.

Offensively they have stepped up this season by scoring 42.5 points per game. They do have struggles at times, but overall they have had a good year. The Buckeyes do a lot of damage on the ground with 249.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks 15th in the country. J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber and quarterback J.T. Barrett create a three headed rushing attack behind Rimington Award-winning center Billy Price. Dobbins has 1,364 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, while Weber has 608 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Barrett makes the offense dynamic with his running ability with 732 rushing yards and 10 toucdhowns.

Throwing the ball hasn’t been the most consistent thing for Barrett, but he is a very experienced starter. He has 2,939 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 64.7% completion. Barrett threw four interceptions in the loss to Iowa, but otherwise has played well for most of the season. They spread the ball around with eight receivers having over 200 receiving yards. Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill are the top receivers with over 500 receiving yards and three touchdowns a piece.

The defense has been really good this season, allowing 19.9 points per game. They rank eighth against the run and 20th against the pass. Their defensive line is one of the best in the country and has helped the Buckeyes get 37 sacks on the year. Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis all are excellent pass rushers that are hard to deal with.

Prediction

Ohio State’s offense will be able to run the ball on USC and will throw to keep them off balance. Darnold has been doing better at protecting the ball, but will be pressured into making mistakes by the Buckeyes’ defensive front.

Ohio State Buckeyes 41 USC Trojans 34

 

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