USC won its first Pac-12 title since 2008 but its overall resume wasn’t good enough to get into the playoffs. That’s one of many things the Trojans have in common with their opponent in the Cotton Bowl, Ohio State.
Despite winning the Big Ten title by downing previously unbeaten Wisconsin on Saturday, the Buckeyes (11-2) finished No. 5 in the final College Football Playoff rankings as the playoff selection committee opted to give Alabama the final semifinal spot.
It’s a similar fate that befell Penn State, USC’s bowl opponent from last season. And if the Trojans’ thrilling 52-49 Rose Bowl victory over the Nittany Lions is any indication, Ohio State is going to be motivated to show it deserved to be in the playoffs.
“Ohio State is one of those teams that you turn on each and every time you get the opportunity,” USC coach Clay Helton said Sunday during the Cotton Bowl coaches teleconference.
What should USC fans know about Ohio State? It starts with its coach.
OSU is coached by Urban Meyer, who since taking over the Buckeyes program in 2012 has been almost unbeatable. He’s 72-8 with no more than two losses in any season, going unbeaten his first year and winning the national title in 2014.
Meyer also won a pair of national championships with Florida, in 2006 and 2008, and in 16 seasons as a head coach is an astounding 176-31.
Urban Meyer was on the Ohio State staff back in 1987 when they went to the Cotton Bowl last.
— Ryan Abraham (@insidetroy) December 3, 2017
It’s helped that Meyer has never struggled to recruit wherever he’s been, with each of his signing classes at OSU ranked seventh or better (per 247Sports). That’s led to the Buckeyes producing a wealth of NFL-caliber talent, with the current roster brimming with future pros.
Fifth-year senior quarterback J.T. Barrett has thrown for 2,939 yards and 35 touchdowns while rushing for 732 yards and 10 scores. For his career he’s accounted for 12,517 yards, second-most in Big Ten history, needing just 176 more to pass Drew Brees for the all-time mark.
The Buckeyes ran for 249.4 yards per game with true freshman J.K. Dobbins leading the charge. He gained 1,364 yards and 7 TDs on just 181 carries, averaging 7.54 yards per touch, and ran for 174 yards on 17 carries in the Big Ten championship.
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) December 3, 2017
OSU’s defense is ranked in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed for the third straight season, yielding 292.3 yards per game. Only four opponents have gained more than 300 yards against the Buckeyes, none since early November.
Sophomore defensive end Nick Bosa, the younger brother of OSU great Joey Bosa, leads the team with 7 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Senior defensive back Damon Webb has four of the Buckeyes’ 12 interceptions.
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