Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Southern California’s Clay Helton posed for the traditional, awkward trophy photo Thursday at the Omni Dallas Hotel, shaking hands with the Cotton Bowl trophy in between them as cameras clicked.
With that, more than three weeks of talk about the game ended. Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes and Helton’s USC Trojans play at 8:30 p.m. Friday at AT&T Stadium. This was their last press conference before the game. Here are five highlights from the coaches’ comments:
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1. Scouting report: Helton gave his impressions of the Buckeyes, a team USC hasn’t played since 2009.
“Without question, the most complete team we’ve faced,” Helton said. “Extremely well coached on both sides of the football. Defensively, the number of opportunities you get are few because they’re able to get off the field, only giving up about 290 yards a game and 19 points. The depth is what stands out, especially on the defensive front. To be able to have a guy coming off the bench in (Nick) Bosa and leading your team in sacks is beyond impressive. Offensively, so many weapons across the field. It starts with the quarterback. Being a quarterbacks coach by trade, I’m just so impressed by J.T. (Barrett), his experience and leadership and dynamic charisma on the field are just evident.”
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2. Expanded playoff: Ohio State and USC would have made the playoff it was an eight-team playoff, but Meyer doesn’t see an expansion of the field coming.
“I’ve been a part of those conversations when we were in the playoff,” Meyer said. “The thing to always keep in mind is one group and that’s the players. You start extending this thing, and you’re starting to talk about adding one more game, and it’s not just another game. It’s two sledgehammers going at each other. I don’t see where the calendar would work.”
3. Great class: The Cotton Bowl will be the last game for the fifth-year seniors — quarterback J.T. Barrett and center Billy Price among them — who were members of Ohio State’s 2013 recruiting class. That group includes a number of players already in the NFL: Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott, for example.
“I remember at my introductory press conference talking about my home state and making the great state of Ohio proud in everything we do on and off the field, and they have,” Meyer said. “They haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been close.”
4. Special guest: Meyer confirmed Elliott, who returns to action for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in Philadelphia, will be with the team on Friday. Elliott starred in Ohio State’s last game at AT&T Stadium, leading the Buckeyes to a victory against Oregon in the national championship in 2015.
5. Bowl prep: Meyer shot down the idea of using the extra practices before the bowl as a way to develop young players. While coaches might stay late to work with those players, Ohio State’s practices in December were all about the Cotton Bowl.
“It’s all about going to win a game,” Meyer said. “That’s what we do.”