8:46 pm pt: Particularly heartbreaking is just how well the USC defense is playing in this game. The Buckeyes offense was supposed to dismantle USC Trojans defense. A very brief google search yielded this article, and this article, and this article, and this article, and this one. I suspect you could find many more. All of these articles explain in great detail how Trojans defense would be savagely mauled. Ohio State however has been awful on offense generating all of three points on their own (not off of turnovers). This will likely be the worst statistical performance by the Buckeyes offense in quite some time.
8:34 pm pt: Chase McGrath missing a field goal in the fourth quarter was brutal. That is five trips inside the 40 with only seven points to show for it. OSU is leading the points per trip inside the 40 5.6 to 1.4. The Trojans still need three scores so OSU really just needs to protect the ball and kill clock.
8:13 pm pt: “If you win the drive-finishing battle (using points per trip inside the 40), you win 75 percent of the time” The Trojans have only been inside the Ohio State 40 on four occasions thus far compared to Ohio State’s three trips. Unfortunately two of those trips ended after sacks another ended in a fumble and the fourth resulted a touchdown. The Buckeyes three trips inside the USC 40 all resulted in points.
As a result OSU is averaging 5.6 points per trip inside the 40 while USC has 1.75. Historically, teams with a points per trip inside the 40 in the range of 5.5-7 win about three out of every four times. When the points per trip inside the 40 is in the 1-2 range like USC, those teams only won about 5 percent of the time.
7:56 pm pt: The first half of the 2017 Cotton Bowl has played out remarkably similiarly to the first half of the Trojans’ contest against the Utah Utes. In the opening half of that game the Trojans turned the ball over on the opening possession, had another turnover returned for a touchdown, with three turnovers in total in the opening half. The Trojans trailed 21-7 at the half in that game.
The Trojans had just four non-garbage time possessions in the second half but scored three touchdowns. Meanwhile the USC defense continued to play lights out and without the offense giving the ball away the defense was able to keep their opponents off of the scoreboard until the final drive.
7:28 pm pt: Tee Martin (or whomever is calling the offensive plays) seemed quite content to try and blow this golden opportunity. Darnold was able to hit Daniel Imatorbhebhe taking the ball to the one. After that they ran their speedier running back straight Stephen Carr into the middle of the pile as opposed to their stronger running backs.
When that failed the Trojans ran what may be one of the stupidest formations that fool no one. Again they lined up their receiving talent bunched together on the short side of the field where they had zero room to actually work with and with that much congestion actually throwing it to them would likely result in an interception. USC then ran Ronald Jones II to the outside in the opposite direction. Somehow the OSU defense actually missed this and instead of blowing it up USC was able to score. This was a huge blunder by the Buckeyes’ defensive coaching staff.
7:25 pm pt: Finally USC gets a break with K.J. Hill fumbling a punt from Reid Budrovich. Marvell Tell III recovered the ball at the Ohio State 15.
7:13 pm pt: The 24-0 score notwithstanding the USC defense has held up remarkably well. Barrett is only 4 for 8 for 75 yards passing and under 90 yards rushing. The Buckeyes have actually only had one good drive and it went for a field goal. Their first touchdown came after a fumble with OSU 19 yards away from scoring. Their second touchdown was a pick six. The third touchdown came from another USC turnover compounded by a 15-yard facemask penalty leaving the Buckeyes all of 44 yards away from their next touchdown.
5:51 pm pt: Three runs and two passes later Ohio State scored a touchdown on at J.T. Barrett run. Buckeyes lead 7-0 with 12:25 left to go
5:45 pm pt: USC opening drive featured just about everything that normally goes wrong short of a penalty. Two consecutive and painfully predictable runs that went no where forcing an obvious passing situation. Facing an obvious passing situation Darnold then went to trusty yet occassionally overused Deontay Burnett. Burnett picked up the first down but then fumbled.
Ineffective play calling; check. Lack of an effective running game; check. A turnover; check. The only surprises here were that USC did not commit a penalty, and that someone other than Darnold turned the ball over.
It is the USC Trojans and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2017 Cotton Bowl. Stay tuned for live updates.
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