Cotton Bowl 2017: Five things to look forward to in USC vs Ohio State

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Sam Darnold has no choice but to put on a show

For anybody into the whole Sam Darnold vs Josh Rosen debate, this would be the opportunity that Darnold needs to solidify the case for him being the better prospect. Sure, he’s led the Trojans offense to a great place, but they won’t be having an easy test against the Buckeyes.

Ohio State boasts the eighth-best defense in college football. That comes as an obvious challenge, but there’s something more concerning about Darnold’s play is that he has success against teams that don’t have a great defense, and he’s not really faced anything quite like this.

The closest thing that comes to mind is USC’s lone bad loss of the year that came against Notre Dame. They have the 44th-best defense in college football, yet were able to hold the Trojans to just 14 points in a 35-point blowout victory.

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Not only that, but Stanford has the 72nd-best defense in college football and they were the only ranked team that USC beat this season besides the University of Arizona. The Wildcats had one of the worst defenses in all of college football this season, ultimately landing at 116.

So what does this tell us?

Well, the short side of it is that if Darnold isn’t mentally prepared above anything else, the Ohio State defense is going to rock USC out of the building. However, this is a great moment at the same time for Darnold to put on display the fact that he can play well against a top ten defense in college.

Ohio State’s defense allows 292 yards per game on average, so if Darnold is going to crack through and pass this test, he’ll likely have to surpass 300 yards in total offense to keep his team in the game.

The best metaphor for this situation is playing with fire. Either Darnold will jump on many draft boards with a solid performance, or he could flunk so badly that he might want to stay in school a bit longer before declaring for the NFL Draft.