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After Playoff Snub, Buckeyes Look For Vindication In Cotton Bowl

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer holds the championship trophy following the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Wisconsin, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Indianapolis. Ohio State won 27-21.
Michael Conroy
AP Photo

Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer could have easily stoked a debate about expanding the four-team College Football Playoff after his Buckeyes were the first team left out this season.

Instead, in front of reporters on Thursday, Meyer focused - as much as he could - on the Cotton Bowl matchup Friday night against The University Of Southern California, another conference champion.

"We're on the outside looking in twice. We're in the playoff twice, and twice we're right on the edge of not being in it. If they extended the playoff ... but I don't see that happening," Meyer said. "College football is just hitting on all cylinders right now, so I don't know how much I'd change."

The Big Ten-winning Buckeyes won the first championship in the four-team CFP era three years ago. That game was at AT&T Stadium, where Ohio State (11-2) returns Friday night to play Pac-12 champion and No. 8 USC (11-2) in the second Cotton Bowl for both teams.

USC coach Clay Helton mostly agreed with Meyer, after initially deferring to Ohio State's coach with CFP experience to answer the question about considering an eight-team playoff.

"The playoff system has been great for our game," Helton said. "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. That's what you focus on."

Had the Rose Bowl not been a CFP semifinal this season, the Trojans and Buckeyes almost certainly would have been spending this week in Pasadena, Calif. The Rose Bowl traditionally hosts the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions, but this year will host Oklahoma and Georgia for a bid in the January 8 title game.

Instead, the two powerhouse programs with more than 1,700 wins combined meet in another traditional bowl. The Cotton Bowl is being played for the 82nd time, the ninth since moving from its namesake stadium to the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.

This is the eighth time Ohio State and USC have played in a bowl game. The first seven were all in the Rose Bowl, the last coming 33 years ago.

"This is just a classic, classic matchup on every level," Helton said, mentioning the schools, teams and bands. "I think it's great for college football for this to be able to happen and to happen right here in the Cotton Bowl."