The Ohio State Buckeyes barely missed out on the College Football Playoff after winning the B1G Championship. Now, they’ll head down to Dallas, Texas to play in the Cotton Bowl. And down in Texas, Ohio State will face the USC Trojans on Friday, Dec. 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Here are five things to know about the Trojans, who finished first in the Pac-12 South with a record of 8-1 in league play and won the conference championship, finishing with a 11-2 overall record.
Five game win streak
Ever since getting crushed by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on the road in late October, USC has been on a hot streak. A five game win streak that is.
Heading into this match-up, the Trojans have won five straight against Arizona State, Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, and Stanford. And during most of those games, USC dominated. However, the Bruins and the Cardinal did give the Trojans a run for their money. But, they are hot none the less.
Sam Darnold has fixed his turnover issue
To begin the season, USC quarterback Sam Darnold (who was perceived by some as one of the best signal callers in all of college football) began the season with a turnover issues. In fact, through the first five games of the year, Darnold threw nine interceptions. In 2016, he only threw nine in 12 games played in.
During the back half of this year, Darnold has limited his interceptions, as he only tossed three picks in the last seven games. However, Ohio State has created 12 interceptions this year, which is nearly a pick per game. So, the Buckeyes could force Darnold into some tricky situations. But with the way he has been playing as of late, that seems unlikely.
Don’t forget Ronald Jones
USC running back Ronald Jones is not talked about in enough around the country. That is probably because one, he plays in the Pac-12, and two, Stanford back Bryce Love overshadows him. Despite this, Jones is still a bad man that can make defense pay when he has the ball in his hands.
On the year, Jones tore up defenses. The junior back ran 1,486 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He even ran wild against Stanford, which is known for its defense, in the Pac-12 Championship. Jones recorded 140 yards and two scores against the Cardinal. So, if Ohio State forgets about him and primarily focuses on Darnold, Jones might just make the Buckeyes pay for that type of gameplan.
It’s defense can create pressure
The Trojan defense loves to bring the pressure. It can create lots of havoc for opposing quarterbacks.
On the season, USC has recorded 43 sacks, which is sixth best in the FBS in terms of sacks per game at 3.31. This year, the Trojans have seven different players with at least 2.5 sacks, led by defensive lineman Rasheem Green with 9 sacks, linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and defensive end Christian Rector, with 7.5 sacks, respectively. So, Buckeye signal caller J.T. Barrett will need to keep his head on swivel come game time.
It leads this bowl series
These two teams have faced each other seven times in the postseason, with the all them coming in the Rose Bowl. But this will still feature the traditional rivalry between the B1G and Pac-12 as Ohio State looks to even the series with USC, which currently hold a 4-3 edge.