Denzel Ward Sits Out Cotton Bowl, Declares for 2018 NFL Draft

Yeah he's been the target of a ton of criticism with some outlandish expectations that nobody could live up to, but the fact remains that he'll go down as the best quarterback in Ohio State history, if not the Big Ten. After having weeks off in between games, the tendency for teams that rely on their passing game is that they're out of sync by the time they play their bowl games.

Barrett broke Drew Brees' Big Ten career record for total offense with 12,697 yards in his final game at OSU.

Ohio State has won 12 games in five of his six seasons and went 11-2 in the only outlier (last year when he guided the youngest team in the nation to the College Football Playoff). To be clear, the Cotton Bowl isn't actually played at the historic Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas; it used to be but was moved to the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium outside Dallas in 2010.

While the other programs losing might not be a big deal, their champion getting clubbed under a national spotlight is a bad look for the conference. Ward, a native of Macedonia and product of Nordonia High School, is projected to be a first-round pick and one of the first players at his position selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Another handful of this season's best players could leave early to enter the 2018 National Football League draft in the next few weeks, including All-American cornerback and likely first-rounder Denzel Ward, defensive end Sam Hubbard and linebacker Jerome Baker. "You're talking about two teams that were in that controversy and in that discussion right down to the end, and have the ability to have this game against two really premier teams in the country".

Darnold has until January 15 to declare for the NFL Draft.

Sam Darnold will likely still be a top pick if he leaves for the draft. And the OSU secondary should have been devastated when lockdown corner Denzel Ward, after practicing all week, dropped a bomb that he was going to sit out the bowl game and save himself for the NFL. The Buckeyes claimed the inaugural CPF title in Arlington three years ago, on January 12, 2015.

The Buckeyes were disappointed they missed out on the College Football Playoff, but USC was too. To the credit of the special teams, they did recover a muffed punt that would lead to an eventual USC touchdown. The Alabama Crimson Tide were picked ahead of the Buckeye to be the fourth-place team.

While USC struggled to sustain drives and convert a yardage advantage into actual, tangible points, Barrett and his and his Buckeyes took the "less is more" route.

Key matchup: All-America center Billy Price (Austintown Fitch) and Ohio State offensive line vs. USC front seven. Ohio State - Freshman RB J.K. Dobbins has rushed for 1,364 yards and seven TDs. The Buckeyes forced four Trojan turnovers and applied constant pressure on Sam Darnold. Teammate Mike Weber complimented Dobbins quite nicely, running for another 608 yards and 10 more touchdowns. Barrett will also need to use his legs to get outside the pocket to beat the Trojans with his legs and arm.

Up 17-0, the Buckeye defense wasn't done yet. He didn't throw a touchdown and turned it over three times, including an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Webb. Nick Bosa led the charge for the Buckeyes, who limited USC to 277 yards. Darnold was helped out by a big year from junior running back Ronald Jones who ran for over 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns on 242 carries. The Trojans offense is a well-run offense that extremely tough to defense unless you make Darnold uncomfortable. The Trojans rarely looked dominant over their 11-2 run with a 4-9 record ATS and suffered a major blow in their 49-14 loss to Notre Dame.

Vanessa Coleman