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Conquest Chronicles Staff Prediction: 2017 Cotton Bowl Classic

#8 USC Trojans meet #5 Ohio State Buckeyes in what is shaping up to me a memorable enconter

81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Western Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With all the emotions and uncertainty throughout this 2017 season, we’ve finally arrived to our conclusion—the Cotton Bowl Classic. #8 USC Trojans face what will be their biggest this season as they take on perennial powerhouse #5 Ohio State. There a number of ways this can play out, but myself and CC’s Matthew Lowry have specific and contradicting views on how this one will go down.

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Matthew: Can USC limit the big play and slow down the Ohio State offense?

The big question for USC will be on defense. Can USC do enough to slow down Ohio State? The thing with the Buckeyes is that they’re not an up tempo team, but they can hit you with a few explosive plays. If the USC defense can disrupt Ohio State in the backfield and force them to 3rd and long situations, then USC will have a great shot at winning this game. Offensively USC must protect Sam Darnold and play disciplined football. Ohio State has a guy named Nick Bosa, who can really get to the quarterback. They can’t afford to put themselves in situations to stall a potential touchdown scoring drive because of penalties or extend drives defensively.

This is being called one of the most anticipated bowl games that’s not the College Football Playoff Semi-final games. Two historic programs going at it once again. This one will be tricky because it could go several ways, but we will be entertained. I think USC will keep the Buckeyes on their heels, however USC’s inability to put teams away and giving up the big play is what will do the Trojans in late. I have Ohio State pulling away late.

USC- 24 Ohio State-34

Pac 12 Championship - Stanford v USC Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Richard: Darnold finally shines in his biggest opportunity—declaring for the NFL Draft

The narrative has been long written about this season that Darnold has yet to look like his 2016 self. Yet we’ve seen the beginnings of a turnaround within the final three games of the regular season with the return of key receivers Michael Pittman Jr., Steven Mitchell Jr. and a seemingly healthy Deontay Burnett.

By no means will this Buckeye team be an easy task to over come. as they boast the most NFL-caliber prospects on defensive in all of college football and have the pass rushers to make Darnold continue his turnover-leading ways. However, this Trojan team is playing on something they haven’t with the exception of the Pac-12 Title Game—rest.

This team is finally had a chance to rest, heal lingering injuries the best they could heal in three weeks prepare themselves for this huge contest. Uchenna Nwosu and Ronald Jones II will have their regularly scheduled baller games, but the most important here is Darnold. He will be flushed out of the pockets and pursued all game long, but with this rejuvenated offense, I expect him to make OSU pay for it and much like scouts and media alike, they’ll forget the entirety of the 2017 season and invest all draft stock in this one game and this one performance.

Darnold leads the Trojans to a 48-44 victory in the Cotton Bowl Classic and quickly becomes the top prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft as he declares for the next chapter in his career.