Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward to sit out Cotton Bowl vs. USC

Cotton Bowl Classic Preview and Prediction: USC Trojans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Cotton Bowl Classic Preview and Prediction: USC Trojans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Are the Ohio State Buckeyes a smart bet to cover the point spread Friday night when they host the USC Trojans at 8:30 p.m. ET in the Cotton Bowl? Six of those were played between 1968 and 1984, but they haven't faced off in a bowl game since.

Nick Starkel threw for a Belk Bowl-record 499 yards and also had four touchdown passes for Texas A&M (7-6). After opening as 7-point favorites on December 4, the Buckeyes are now 9.5-point favorites, according to Westgate Superbook. The Buckeyes scored the first 24 points of the game and turned the Trojans over four times on the night before grounding the Pac-12 champions down the stretch in the second half.

"I don't think Porter is going to be able to go in this game", Helton said Thursday. Here are three takeaways from the Buckeye's victory over the Trojans. Even with the win, USC fell short of a chance to play in the College Football Playoffs.

Northwestern (10-4) still finished off back-to-back bowl wins in consecutive years for the first time in program history, and the Wildcats notched their second 10-win season in three years under coach Pat Fitzgerald. The first seven were in the Rose Bowl.

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At least the defense didn't play in preventive packages as they came after Darnold full force till the end of the game. With the Trojans threatening at the USC 23-yard line, a Darnold sack on third and 5 resulted in another fumble, this one recovered by junior linebaker Jerome Baker.

All four touchdowns scored in the first half came after turnovers. You don't have to be as in sync offensively if you lean on your running game. Electrifying tailback Ronald Jones kept the offense balanced and racked up plenty of yardage along the way. With all eyes on a matchup between college football blue-bloods, the Trojans' offense was not up to the task.

Queiro nabbed a Stephen Johnson pass near the right sideline, tippy-toed to stay inbounds and raced 26 yards for the clinching score with 7:49 left in the game. The secondary is vulnerable, surrendering nearly 247 yards a contest (98th).

As All-American junior defensive back Denzel Ward sat out the came in a controversial decision to protect his National Football League draft stock, it was teammate Damon Webb returning a Darnold pass for a touchdown - after he had earlier recovered a fumble to set up an early Buckeye TD. Their 5th-ranked scoring offense will have the Trojans in At&T Stadium instead of the Clemson Tigers.

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That's where J.T. Barrett rushed in for the touchdown. Nonetheless, neither Meyer nor his team have said they feel particularly cheated (by their own efforts or the selection committee's decision) for not getting to play for a championship this time around. He was asked to be the bell cow for Urban Myers offense. Wide receiver Parris Campbell was Ohio State's second-leading rusher with 42 yards on three carries on three carries. Many believe he could be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft if he declares as expected. The Buckeyes are kicking themselves for the loss to Iowa where they allowed 55 points in the game.

Darnold was 26 of 45 for 356 yards.

Up 17-0, the Buckeye defense wasn't done yet. The secondary wasn't far behind, limiting opposing quarterbacks to only 183 yards a game (20th).

The game is big to the Buckeyes who are playing - or may be playing - in their last college game. "It's something that's a true blessing to be able to do that at a huge university that's tradition rich like Ohio State". The defensive play of the Buckeyes is why it has moved in that direction.

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