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Can the Urban Meyer era usher in new hope for Ohio State against USC?

The last half-century doesn’t favor the Buckeyes over the Trojans, but things could be different under Meyer.

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USC v Ohio State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

“Let’s start our story 50 years ago in 1968, when Ohio State and USC met in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 14 years. The teams had met four times in the regular season in the intervening period, with the home team winning all four times.”

-Michael Bird, SB Nation

The Ohio State-USC rivalry goes way back. The series includes a handful of home-and-home matchups, but the big marquee events tend to be in the postseason at the Rose Bowl. In fact, all seven of the teams’ postseason meetings have been in the Rose Bowl, until now.

While the Buckeyes once had a handle on the West Coast squad, under the direction of legendary head coach Woody Hayes, it’s been the Trojans’ show ever since the three-year War of the Roses, which saw the Buckeyes and Trojans square off in the Rose Bowl three seasons in a row.

In the decade or so that followed, Ohio State and USC would meet three more times in Pasadena, with the Trojans winning all three by fewer than a combined five points. Things didn’t improve under head coaches John Cooper and Jim Tressel, with USC continuing their 40-plus year dominance over the Buckeyes.

This will be the first time these two teams meet during the Urban Meyer era, who will certainly be looking to shift the series momentum in the other direction — for the first time in almost half a century.

“Beyond the intrigue surrounding Darnold, there are plenty of players who make the Cotton Bowl the best bowl game outside of the College Football Playoff for NFL talent evaluators.”

-Dan Kadar, SB Nation

There will be a lot NFL scouts keeping a close eye on the Cotton Bowl tonight, with one of the more prospect-heavy matchups this postseason. Not only does USC boast one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL draft class, but the Buckeyes are looking at another impressive defensive haul headed to the league.

Both programs produce incredible NFL talent, and things have not changed in the eight years since they last met on the gridiron. Two of the Buckeyes’ top draft targets will be CB Denzel Ward and C Billy Price.

“He’s one of the best center prospects I've seen in the past decade,” former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah recently said of Price. “He has tremendous upper body torque, quick feet and outstanding awareness.”

In addition to the (almost certainly) first-round locks, the defensive line could feature many other prospects like Jalyn Holmes, Tyquan Lewis and possibly Sam Hubbard and/or Dre’Mont Jones should either decide declare early — Hubbard is extremely likely.

There’s no shortage of NFL talent on both sides of the ball for both teams, and the scouts in attendance on Friday will be looking at more than just the 2018 haul of players. They’ll be keeping an eye on potential 2019 targets, like Nick Bosa.

“The Buckeyes and Trojans have the most talented rosters in the country outside of Alabama’s, according to the 247Sports Team Talent Composite. They’d have made the Playoff if not for losing second games in embarrassing fashion earlier in the year (OSU to Iowa, USC to Notre Dame).”

-Alex Kirshner, SB Nation

The Buckeyes might not have history on their side, but Kirshner notes in his article above that the talent level on both sides of the ball for Ohio State should be enough to outdo the Trojans on Friday night. In his preview, Kirshner calls for a big, 41-24 Buckeye victory, and defends his decision.

His first argument is the strength of the Buckeye run game. With the three-headed rushing monster back in effect, the Trojans will have to try and stop, not only J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, but quarterback J.T. Barrett. Against other top offenses, the Trojans allowed an average of 6.5 yards per carry, and could have a tough time trying to stop Ohio State on the ground.

Even if USC is able to stop the ground game, the Buckeyes are no slouch via the pass. With more than enough able-bodied receivers to keep the Trojans secondary guessing, #Zone6 also has incredible talent and speed after the catch, which keeps players like Parris Campbell as threats even off eight-yard passes. Kirshner also cites USC’s inconsistent run game and the weight of the world on Sam Darndold’s shoulders as reasons the Buckeyes should come out on top.

All Ohio State Teams’ Weekend Schedule

Team Match-up When
Team Match-up When
Men's Hockey Niagara Friday, 7 pm
Football @ Cotton Bowl vs USC Friday, 8:30 pm
Men's Basketball Miami (OH) Saturday, Noon
Men's Hockey Niagara Saturday, 8 pm
Women's Basketball Indiana Sunday, 2 pm