ARLINGTON, Texas — No. 5 Ohio State thumped No. 8 USC 24-7 on Friday night at the Cotton Bowl in the battle of teams that kinda, sorta had a case for being in the College Football Playoff. 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.
J.T. Barrett and Co. leaned heavily on their run game for most of the contest, pounding it 38 times for 163 yards, which amounted to only 4.3 yards per carry against a USC defense that was ranked No. 67 in the country in yards per carry against. The Trojans did a tremendous job for most of the night, limiting the Buckeyes’ offense to just 17 points (plus a pick-six).
The big story on Friday, though, was what the OSU’s defense did to a top 25 offense led by potential top-five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft in Sam Darnold. The junior quarterback was harassed all night as Ohio State notched eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. As a result, the turnover-prone Darnold fumbled twice — once in the red zone — and tossed one of the worst pick-sixes of the calendar year.
Ohio State’s senior class completed a ridiculous 49-6 four-year run with the win, setting a program record for most wins by a class in history, and Urban Meyer improved to an absurd 73-8 overall as Ohio State’s coach.
Here are six takeaways from the Cotton Bowl on Friday.
1. Turnovers kill: I don’t care if you’re the 2013 Florida State offense, losing the turnover battle 4-1 is going to be nearly impossible to recover from against a top 10 opponent. USC is not immune. The Trojans are now 5-10 since 2000 when turning the ball over four or more times. This was exacerbated on Friday by where Ohio State got the ball when USC gave it away. OSU had 19 yards to score on the first fumble, returned its second-quarter interception for a touchdown and got another fumble on its own 41. The last one it recovered on its own 14. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on the first three turnovers. You could have 32 first round picks on your team, and you’re not coming back from that.
2. No protection for Darnold: I know the Ohio State defensive front is solid, but USC made it look like Darnold was facing his first NFL team on Friday. As a result, he was dancing all night, coughed up a two fumbles and generally looked about as comfortable in the pocket as Eminem does in the broadcast booth. I don’t know that USC would have won if Darnold would have had a clean pocket, but it would have at least had a chance. He wasn’t good by any means, and some of his throws were genuinely jaw-droppingly poor, but life’s not easy with Nick Bosa in your dish all night.
3. Barrett stayed patient on the ground: The Buckeyes fed multiple backs and, ultimately, their leader Barrett to carry the night. He was particularly impressive in his collegiate swan song (in a career that dates back to the mid-90s, it seems) and didn’t try and force the issue through the air. In fact, Ohio State was pretty lousy outside of Barrett’s legs. Say what you want about Barrett’s career, and literally all of you have said something, but he won a lot of football games in the Scarlet and Gray. Friday’s performance was a microcosm of what has made Ohio State great for the past few years. He finished with 16 carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns, simply making it look way too easy at times.
4. With pros on the field, the Buckeyes’ secondary stood out: Other than Clemson-Alabama, there were probably more pros on the field at AT&T Stadium than in any other game this postseason. Both defensive fronts were terrifying, but Ohio State’s secondary was outrageous. Even without senior cornerback Denzel Ward, who sat out to prevent injury before the NFL draft, the Bucks shined against Darnold. Damon Webb’s effort will get all the run, but Jordan Fuller and Damon Arnette combined for 11 tackles, and Kendall Sheffield added two pass breakups. Their speed was breathtaking and allowed Ohio State to capitalize on an impressive performance in the trenches. When your offense only gains 277 yards, you have to win games by getting stops and creating turnovers.
5. Letdown matchup: We all circled this game as one that stood out this postseason, but it ultimately fell a little flat. There were exactly zero passing touchdowns and no points scored in the second half. As noted, the defense was pretty terrific up front on both sides (give USC credit for limiting an OSU offense that came in No. 4 in the country in points per drive), but I want fireworks in bowl matchups, and all we got on Friday was a set of blanks. Hopefully this dud is just paving the way for a couple of all-timers next Monday when the semifinals get underway.
6. Off the schneid: Maybe it was simply the Rose Bowl that was a thorn in Ohio State’s side? The Buckeyes ended a seven-game losing streak to the Trojans dating back to 1975, including a span in which Ohio State lost three consecutive Rose Bowls to USC (1975, 1980, 1985). Overall, OSU is now 9-1-13 against USC but can now boast a 1-0 record in the state of Texas and 4-4 mark in bowl games (USC still leads Rose Bowls 4-3).
We were with you the entire way as two of the most historic programs in college football history battled on the gridiron. For highlights, analysis and more from the game, check out the blog below. If you are unable to view the application, .
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