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USC Trojans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Point Spread - Pick

USC Trojans (11-2 SU, 3-9-1 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2 SU, 6-7 ATS)
Cotton Bowl
Date/Time: Friday, December 29, 2017 at 8:30PM EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: USC +7/OSU -7
Over/Under Total: 64.5

The USC Trojans take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Cotton Bowl on December 29 at AT&T Stadium. It's weird for some of us older college pigskin fans to see the Big Ten champion face the Pac-12 champion and have it not be the Rose Bowl, but this is still a high-stakes matchup between conference champions and 11-win teams that fell just outside the top-four. USC last played on the 1st of the month, beating Stanford, 31-28, to win the Pac-12 Championship. Ohio State last played on the 2nd, beating unbeaten Wisconsin to win the Big Ten. Some felt it was enough to get them into the College Football Playoff, but they are in this spot instead.

Ohio State had a nice season. An early-season loss to Oklahoma was a setback, but a bizarre early-November 31-point loss to Iowa was too much to overcome, even if Ohio State's resume is pretty deep this season. In addition to beating an undefeated Wisconsin team, they also beat Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan. Their last win, a 27-21 win over the Badgers, was a great win and they were in top form in the last month of the season. Will there be a letdown landing in this spot? A lot of teams would love to be in a high-profile bowl spot like this, but will a Buckeyes' bunch that had the CFP in their crosshairs be deflated?

The Ohio State offense has been a handful this season, averaging 42.5 points a game with a fair amount of balance on this side of the ball. Quarterback JT Barrett has been a real gamer this season, overcoming some rocky moments to put up 35 touchdowns through the air and 10 more on the ground. He sprays the ball around to different playmakers, like Parris Campbell, KJ Hill, Terry McLaurin, Binjimen Victor, and Johnnie Dixon. A lot of different players have created production through the air this season, with eight different players scoring multiple touchdowns. On the ground, they offer a nice one-two punch, led by JK Dobbins and his 1364 yards, along with Mike Weber and his ten touchdowns. This group looks to do damage against an USC defense that hasn't always been that sharp this season.


The Ohio State defense has been very tough this season, except for a few occasions, which proved to be costly. They weren't great against Oklahoma, almost cost them the game against Penn State, and fell apart at the seams in a weird spot against Iowa. USC fits right in there offensively with the teams that exploited Ohio State this season, but the Buckeyes have been so tough in other spots that it's fair for their backers to hold out hope. They've given up an average of less than 20 points a game. They have a lot of juice up-front with Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard, and Tyquan Lewis getting after the quarterback and making plays. The secondary can be stout and make plays with Damon Webb, Damon Arnette, Jordan Fuller, and Denzel Ward. At linebacker, Jerome Baker and Tuf Borland have been very active. Again, they will be pushed to their limit in this matchup.

USC had a weird season in many respects. They started 6-0, but never looked like the team that was tearing apart opponents late last season. Injuries poured in at a ridiculous rate and they weren't the same high-powered team, eventually taking losses in the middle of the season to Washington State and Notre Dame. But in the last five games of the season, the Trojans steadied their condition and were able to march off with the Pac-12 Conference Title. Their offense started fulfilling its promise and the Trojans were able to get the big finish. And having more or less been relegated to their fate after getting destroyed by Notre Dame, they land in this spot with less of a thud than Ohio State.

Again, the Southern Cal offense was able to get things on the right track down the stretch. Over the last month-plus of the season, QB Sam Darnold was able to play better and he is smoothly running this offense. He is a real weapon, with the ability to improvise and make things happen when on the move. Running back Ronald Jones, II. really distinguished himself over the last half of the season, finishing with 1486 yards and 19 touchdowns. Also on the ground, they get help from Darnold, exciting freshman Stephen Carr, and Aca'Cedric Ware. Through the air, Darnold works with a nice cast of receivers, led by Deontay Burnett, along with Tyler Vaughns and Steven Mitchell. He also gets help from Michael Pittman, Jr. and Tyler Petite. They have peaked at the right time. Whether it will be enough to win this game remains to be seen.

The Trojans' defense hasn't been a shining light this season. It's still admirable that they kept it together as well as they did in light of all the injury woes they faced. A huge chunk of their personnel was either banged-up or on IR. Since getting lit up by Notre Dame, they have tightened up, at least enough to where the offense can take over games. They have some playmaking ability they look to unleash in this matchup. Ucheena Nwosu, Rasheem Green, Christian Rector, and Josh Fatu have been consistently applying a pass-rush. Jack Jones, Marvell Tell, Iman Marshall, and Ajene Harris have made plays in the secondary. They have playmaking ability and we'll see if they are stout enough to contain all of the Ohio State weaponry.

This is a tough matchup to calibrate. Each team has just been erratic enough to make any number of possibilities plausible. A decisive win for either team wouldn't be so mind-blowing. Granted, Ohio State has a certain level of higher bankability and have probably hit higher notes this season. I just see USC and Sam Darnold hanging in there and covering the spread against an Ohio State team that was hoping for more. I'm taking Southern Cal and the points.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the USC Trojans plus 7 points. Bet the USC vs. Ohio State game for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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