USC bowl game: Trojans to play in Cotton Bowl vs. Ohio State

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images /

Anxiously awaiting the announcement of a USC bowl game? Wait no more. The Trojans will be playing in the 2017 Cotton Bowl against Ohio State.

The Pac-12 champion Trojans are headed to the Cotton Bowl for the first time since 1995, where they’ll take on Big Ten champ Ohio State at AT&T Stadium. It’s the second-straight USC bowl game as part of the New Year’s Six under Clay Helton, both coming against winners of the Big Ten who just missed out on the playoff.

USC, 11-2 and ranked No. 8 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, clinched their NY6 bid with a 31-28 win over Stanford in Friday night’s Pac-12 Championship Game. It was the Trojans their first conference title since 2008.

Despite preseason aspirations of going to the playoff —plus midseason setbacks in the form of road losses to Washington State and Notre Dame— the Cotton Bowl is a perfect opportunity for USC to end the season on a high note. Especially when it comes against such a marquee opponent.

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The USC-Ohio State series is a historic one that dates back to 1937, when the Trojans eked out a 13-12 win over the Buckeyes with a fourth quarter score.

Troy has won 13 of the 23 meetings —good for a 13-9-1 record overall— which includes a bevy of iconic matchups like seven Rose Bowls and eight games in which both teams ranked in the AP Top 10.

During the 1970s, the Trojans and Buckeyes’ Rose Bowl rivalry became one of college football’s best. USC’s national championships in 1972 and 1974 were punctuated with Rose Bowl wins over Ohio State, and Charlie White’s touchdown with 92 seconds left in the 1980 Rose Bowl allowed John Robinson’s team to play spoiler to the No. 1 Buckeyes.

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Most recently, the teams met in a home-and-home series in 2008 and 2009, with the Trojans sweeping both games. Rey Maualuga’s pick six helped lead USC to a 35-3 rout over the 5th-ranked Buckeyes in the first tilt, while Joe McKnight, Matt Barkley and Stafon Johnson all played monumental roles in a final drive for the ages the following year in Columbus.

Despite a series full of bowls and elite teams, this year’s Cotton Bowl will mark the first time USC and Ohio State will meet outside of the Coliseum, Horseshoe or Rose Bowl.

Under normal circumstances, the matchup would have taken place at the Fiesta Bowl, but the Buckeyes have made two straight trips to Glendale. They lost 31-0 to Clemson in last season’s College Football Playoff semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. The bowl selection committee wanted something different.

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OSU’s 2017 team is led by senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who led the Bucks to a Big Ten Championship Game win over previously unbeaten Wisconsin on a surgically repaired knee. Their 11-2 record and compelling resume put them in the CFP discussion, though they ultimately lost out to 11-1 Alabama.

The 2017 Cotton Bowl will kickoff at 5:30 p.m. Pacific on Friday, December 29 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.