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Ohio State marks final measuring stick for USC in Cotton Bowl

By in Press Enterprise on December 29, 2017

By Joey Kaufman

ARLINGTON, Texas — There was disappointment at stages of USC’s season.

After national championship buzz swirled around the program during the summer months, the Trojans were hobbled by uneven play early in the season and fell out of serious playoff contention by Halloween. Some observers noted a slew of injuries. Others pointed to the few signs of progress and little incremental improvement.

But the second half of the season commenced a turnaround by the Trojans, who won their final five games en route to a Pac-12 championship, their first conference crown in almost a decade and a fulfilling finish.

“I’ve seen people talking about this as one of the worst seasons, it doesn’t feel like we’ve done this, done that, but we did,” safety Chris Hawkins said.

Their final tilt, Friday night against Big Ten champion Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, marking a traditional Pac-12-Big Ten matchup, might ultimately serve as another measuring stick.

“It’s our Super Bowl,” Trojans coach Clay Helton said.

Though schedules have been expanded throughout major college football, a victory Friday would give USC 12 wins in a season for only the seventh time in school history. It would also come against fifth-ranked Ohio State, as successful as any program in the nation this decade and an annual playoff contender.

Despite prior accomplishments, a loss would leave them with a sour taste and some feeling of disappointment.

“There’s always more to prove,” tight end Tyler Petite said. “There’s always someone that’s going to say, ‘Oh, the Pac-12 was soft this year, you guys didn’t win by enough, whatever.”

The Buckeyes, who narrowly missed the College Football Playoff, are the highest ranked team the eighth-ranked Trojans have faced this season, a clear-cut barometer.

It is a situation that parallels last season, when USC met playoff-snubbed Penn State in the Rose Bowl and upended the Big Ten […]    

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