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Playoff-snubbed Ohio State gets Cotton Bowl matchup vs USC

December 28, 2017

File- This Dec. 1, 2017, file photo shows Southern California running back Ronald Jones II (25) running past Stanford safety Justin Reid to score a touchdown during the second half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif. Jones would rather forget about his last trip home to play a game. So would all of his Trojans teammates who were part of that 2016 season opener in the home stadium of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, a 52-6 loss to Alabama that was the most lopsided setback in a half-century for the Trojans. “We’ve definitely got to get that sick taste out of our mouths,” Jones said, who is from the Dallas suburb of McKinney. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Cotton Bowl: Southern California (11-2) vs. Ohio State (11-2), Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Line: Ohio State by 7 1/2.

Series Record: USC leads 13-9-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Playoff-snubbed Ohio State takes on USC in a throwback to Rose Bowls past. This is the eighth postseason meeting between the Buckeyes and Trojans and the first seven were all in the Rose Bowl, the last one 33 years ago. The Big Ten champion Buckeyes haven’t lost more than two games in any of their six seasons under coach Urban Meyer. Pac-12 champion USC is trying to reach 12 wins for the first time since 2008.

KEY MATCHUP

All-America center Billy Price and Ohio State offensive line vs. USC front seven. The Buckeyes have allowed only 19 sacks, with one or none in six of the last eight games. The Trojans, with their 5-2 scheme, have 43 sacks. Four USC players have at least six sacks, led by All-Pac-12 defensive end Rasheem Green’s nine.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Southern California: Third-year sophomore and top NFL prospect QB Sam Darnold could be playing his last game for the Trojans. In his two seasons at USC, he already has a Rose Bowl title and has thrown for 6,873 yards with 57 TDs and 21 interceptions. He has 17 TDs and four interceptions in the last eight games.

Ohio State: Freshman RB J.K. Dobbins has rushed for 1,364 yards and seven TDs. The Texas native had 174 yards rushing in the Big Ten title game, his sixth 100-yard game this season.

FACTS & FIGURES

USC has won seven consecutive games over Ohio State, including four regular-season games since their last Cotton Bowl matchup. ... This is the first Cotton Bowl matching conference champs since New Year’s Day 1987, when Big Ten co-champ Ohio State beat Southwest Conference winner Texas A&M. That is the only previous Cotton Bowl appearance by the Buckeyes. ... USC is also in its second Cotton Bowl. The Trojans beat Texas Tech on New Year’s Day 1995. ... Ohio State is playing a Pac-12 opponent for the first time since beating Oregon 42-20 in the first championship game in the four-team playoff, in the same stadium as this week’s Cotton Bowl.

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