Colin: Strictly talent wise, how do USC and OSU stack up?
Baver: USC will be the most talented team Ohio State has played this year. They have at least 8 guys that have a shot of going in the first four rounds of April’s NFL Draft, and that of course includes QB Sam Darnold, who could be the overall #1 pick. Do they have as much talent as Ohio St? I don’t think so. If you look at the starters on each team, it’s pretty close, but Ohio State is deeper.
Colin: Ok, as with all other non-playoff bowl games, which team is more motivated to win this game?
Baver: That’s the million-dollar question. Ohio St was probably more disappointed than USC when they didn’t make the playoff, but I’ll certainly take Urban Meyer over Clay Helton as a motivator. I am guessing Urban is hammering his guys about redeeming themselves after last year’s embarrassing loss to Clemson. And Ohio State has lost 7 straight against USC dating back to the 70’s. You can bet that Urban is pounding that point home as well.
Colin: Are there any players leaving early for the NFL or conflicts of interest that may impact the outcome?
Baver: Urban says no one on his squad is sitting this one out. Now that doesn’t necessarily make it so. We shall see. The word is that Denzel Ward is practicing, and with Ward probably being OSU’s top draft choice come April, I would have thought he was the most likely to sit. I have heard nothing about any USC guys sitting out.
Colin: Can OSU finally beat the Trojans and if yes how can they do it?
Baver: The biggest advantage that Ohio State has is their D-line against a USC offensive line that has struggled at times protecting Sam Darnold this year. Pressuring Darnold will be key.
And this might sound like a broken record, but JT is going to have to find the open guys and hit ‘em. I think USC is going to score their points, so Ohio St can’t waste opportunities. This is a USC defense that has struggled defending the pass, as they rank 98th nationally in passing yards given up. Now USC does have a ferocious pass rush, but when his O-line protects him, JT has to make the throws.
Colin: What about USC should concern the Buckeyes?
Baver: USC’s balanced offensive attack. They rank 15th nationally, averaging 489 yds per game on offense. They can pound the ball with Ronald Jones, and Sam Darnold can certainly beat you through the air. The Trojans do have some problems translating good drives into 6 points, and they will have to be more efficient in that regard if they want to beat Ohio State.
Colin: So what’s your call on the outcome?
Baver: I think the USC defense will have problems keeping the Buckeyes under 35 pts. The So Cal D has given up a truckload of big plays this year, and OSU’s offense can certainly make big plays. I think Urban will have his guys up for this game, as least in comparison to Clay Helton’s USC team. Helton has never impressed me, and I will take the better-coached, deeper Ohio State team. I like Ohio State 38-28.
Colin: What other Bowl games will you be keeping an eye on?
Baver: I am not sure I would lay 3 pts against Clemson, but I like Alabama in a spot where they are being doubted. Bama is much healthier now than they were against Auburn. And Alabama is in the revenge spot this time around. I like the Tide to advance to the title game. In the other semi, I wouldn’t want to bet against Baker Mayfield. He may be a punk, but the kid is a flat-out gamer. I think that one will be close, with Mayfield making the difference.
In the other New Years Six games… I think Wisconsin will be too much for the ‘Canes. I think Washington-Penn State is a toss-up and too close to call. And I like Auburn to win convincingly against UCF.
As for your Nat’l Champ, I hope I am wrong, but I think Bama has the best shot. But any of the 4 playoff teams can win it.