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Odds on Denzel Ward as a healthy scratch?
— Armando DelaHostria (@buckeyemondo) December 17, 2017
Don’t bet on it.
In fact, it’s hard to even pin down what kind of odds to put on Denzel Ward sitting out the Cotton Bowl with no health concerns since it seems so extremely unlikely. Maybe that sounds hard to believe since the projected first-round draft pick at cornerback potentially has so much to lose with an injury in a game that obviously doesn’t mean as much as the College Football Playoff, but there are several factors that point to Ward not wanting to miss out on the matchup with USC.
First of all, I want to make clear that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with players protecting themselves when such a huge, life-altering payday is looming. That’s up to the individuals involved, and I don’t fault them either way. Now, with that out in the open, back to the reasons why Ward will want to put on the scarlet and gray for what is almost certainly the final time.
That alone, by the way, is a major factor. The tradition of the program, the college experience and going out on a high note are all meaningful, and there’s no second chance at them after declaring for the draft and signing with an agent. The Buckeyes have talked routinely this season about the brotherhood and bond they’ve built this season, and having witnessed it up close, it’s definitely genuine. That’s another reason guys like Ward, Sam Hubbard and Jerome Baker have made their intentions to play clear even before heading down to Texas. They don’t want to miss out on the chance to play together once more, and it would also feel like abandoning a family member to skip the Cotton Bowl.
There’s also the matchup to consider. Ward’s stock can’t go all that much higher, but considering the amount of future professionals on both rosters in this marquee matchup, the benefits to playing could wind up being significant with a strong outing. There will be tons of attention on USC quarterback Sam Darnold as the draft hype builds, and if Ward succeeds in helping slow him down, that’s going to stick in the minds of decision-makers around the league.
Is there some risk to going out there to do it? Sure. But Ward deciding not to take it and passing on the Cotton Bowl sure looks like a heavy underdog.
Read more answers to questions about the Ohio State Buckeyes here.
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