Ohio State takes on USC in the Cotton Bowl in one of the more intriguing matchups of bowl season. According to OddsShark, Ohio State is favored by eight points, and the over-under is set at 65 points.
USC has not performed well in Vegas, going just 4-9 against the spread this season. The Trojans games have trended slightly towards the over with seven of their 13 matchups going over the point total. Ohio State went 6-7 against the spread, and the Buckeyes tend to hit the over. Ohio State hit the over in nine out of their 13 matchups.
Ohio State was hoping to make the College Football Playoff after winning the Big Ten, but was not able to overcome their two losses to advance to the playoff. USC won the Pac-12 and had a solid year despite playing a No. 16 ranked strength of schedule.
Let’s take a look at how the two teams match up, what the metrics say about the squads and our Cotton Bowl prediction.
USC vs. Ohio State: How They Made the Cotton Bowl
USC quarterback Sam Darnold is one of the top NFL prospects in the country.
USC was thought of as a championship contender before the season started, but, admittedly, it was an uphill battle for USC given the teams on their schedule. The Trojans picked up wins over Stanford, Texas, Arizona and Utah. USC two losses were both against ranked opponents, Washington State and Notre Dame.
Ohio State had wins over Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes losses were both ugly as Ohio State lost to Oklahoma 31-16 in Week 2. The biggest blemish on the Buckeyes resume was their 31-point loss to an unranked Iowa team.
Ohio State has a top-five ranked offense as the Buckeyes put up 42.5 points a game. USC is further down the list at No. 20 with 34.5 points.
The Buckeyes also have the edge on the defensive side with the unit ranked No. 18 as Ohio State gives up 19.9 points per game. USC’s defense ranks all the way down at No. 54 as the defense gives up nearly a touchdown more than Ohio State allowing 26.3 points per game.
Cotton Bowl Prediction: Ohio State Defeats USC in Close Contest
The OddsShark computer likes the Buckeyes chances of coming away with a comfortable victory. The computer projects a 45.8-31.2 Ohio State victory. The computer is taking Ohio State to cover the spread, and the over on the point total.
SB Nation’s S&P+ computer projections also like the Buckeyes to come away with a double-digit victory. The computer projects a 36.4-24.2 Ohio State victory. Like the OddsShark computer, the S&P+ computer is taking Ohio State to cover the spread, and the over on the point total.
We expect a closer contest given the strength of USC’s offense. With Ohio State having its eyes set on the playoff, there could be a bit of a letdown factor at play for the Buckeyes. USC could come in slightly more motivated as the Trojans have flown a bit under the radar after dropping out of the playoff picture. While Heavy still likes Ohio State to win, look for Sam Darnold to help USC make this a close game.
Heavy’s Pick: Ohio State 38 USC 35. USC Covers +8 Spread. Over on the Point Total.