Cotton Bowl, USC vs. Ohio State: Keep an eye on these storylines at Jerry World
USC (11-2) vs. Ohio State (11-2)
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
When: Dec. 29, 6p PT
Defenses vs. strong running back(s)
On one side, it’s the JK Dobbins and Mike Webber show. On the other, Ronald Jones II had himself a junior season! The key to victory here is which team’s defense slows down the other team’s speedy star, or stars.
The Dobbins-Weber duo has worked for the Buckeyes, though the freshman Dobbins is the better pound-for-pound back. Jones has nearly 1,500 rushing yards and 18 TDs to boot but he’ll have his work cut out for him, facing one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines in the USA.
Will special teams be, um, special?
Special teams is as important as any other aspect of a football game. And, for the Buckeyes, it’s been a season of struggles (Penn State anyone?) with this unit. The Trojans have returned two punts for scores in 2017, both by WRs (Michael Pittman, pictured below, and Jalen Greene) and, with Ohio State’s year of issues just booting the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, USC’s skills players could certainly exploit the Buckeyes here en route to crucial Cotton Bowl points.
Youth vs. experience
When USC’s Clay Helton began his coaching tenure as a Duke graduate assistant in 1995, Urban Meyer was already a decade into the coaching profession and about to move to Notre Dame for a 5-year run (1996-2000) as the Irish’s receivers coach. Helton has coached 36 games and has no national titles (yet) as USC’s head coach on and off since 2013; Meyer has 72 wins at Ohio State and one national championship in six years in Columbus.
Meyer also has a pair of rings from his successful tenure in Gainesville. Aside for the aforementioned inexperience of Helton, both coaches are at the top of their game at two of the finest programs in the nation. It will be interesting to see which comes out on top …. youth or experience.
Ohio State 38, USC 30