USC won the Pac-12 Conference. Ohio State won the Big Ten Conference. It was not enough for the College Football Playoff selection committee, which left both teams out of the playoff on Sunday. They will, at least, combine to make the most compelling non-playoff bowl of the season. The committee slotted No. 8 USC against No. 5 Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 29. The matchup offers a traditional Pac-12 vs. Big Ten bowl game in a year when the Rose Bowl hosts a playoff semifinal. “That's not too hard to get fired up for,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “It's USC versus Ohio State. That alone is going to excite your football team.” Many pundits had expected the teams to play each other if both missed the playoff. Most predicted that they’d play in the Fiesta Bowl. The committee opted instead for the Cotton Bowl, likely because Ohio State had played in the Fiesta Bowl in two straight seasons. Ohio State and USC each entered Sunday with some hope of making the playoff. USC, which went 11-2 and won the Pac-12 championship, was considered a long shot. Ohio State, which also went 11-2 and won the Big Ten championship, was considered a primary contender. The committee instead selected one-loss Alabama, which did not make the Southeastern Conference championship. Zach Helfand In the moments before the Pac-12 championship game began on Friday, USC safety Chris Hawkins journeyed toward the end zone alone, kneeled and put his head down. Hawkins had hardly slept the night before. At around midnight, he received word that his grandmother had died of breast cancer. “I just... In the moments before the Pac-12 championship game began on Friday, USC safety Chris Hawkins journeyed toward the end zone alone, kneeled and put his head down. Hawkins had hardly slept the night before. At around midnight, he received word that his grandmother had died of breast cancer. “I just... (Zach Helfand) Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said on Sunday that he had not yet met with his team. “Was there disappointment? I'm sure there was,” he said. He added: “This will be zero issue.” Just as surprising as Ohio State’s snub was the committee’s dim view of USC. The Trojans, it turned out,