DALLAS — The Ohio State Buckeyes play at AT&T Stadium for the first time since winning the inaugural College Football Playoff three years ago.

The last remaining players from that 2014 team that beat Oregon in Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys palace will finish their illustrious college careers Friday night against Southern California in the Cotton Bowl. It is an intriguing game of conference champions, a matchup featuring explosive offenses and future NFL talent galore — and yet, it still feels a bit anticlimactic.

That’s mostly because of the playoff-or-bust mentality that exists now. It also serves as a testament to the heights Ohio State has reached and maintained under Urban Meyer. If the Buckeyes lose, they’ll have lost three games in a season for the first time in Meyer’s six years as coach.

A record of 11-3 would be nothing to sneeze at. At Ohio State now, it would feel like the flu.

"I think at Ohio State it’s very interesting what we see as success," senior quarterback J.T. Barrett said. "At other places when you go 11-3, it’s a really good year. At Ohio State, it’s not.

"Our expectations are really high. I remember when I first came in, it was very clear that at Ohio State you (must) win every game you play. It’s very hard to do that."

It is, and now in the playoff era, success at Ohio State is often measured by whether the Buckeyes make the playoff. OSU was devastated by its exclusion from the playoff this year despite winning the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes are trying not to let that define their season. A victory over USC would be an immense boost.

"It’s very important," Meyer said. "It would be the 12th win. (With a victory) it’s going to be certainly a top-five, top-four, top-three team — a great team and a great season."

Beating Southern California would certainly be a worthy cap to the season. Since beating the Trojans in the 1974 Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes have lost seven straight games to USC.

"I didn’t know that," senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes said. "We’re going to have to change that."

Like Ohio State, the Trojans are a two-loss team that had hoped for a playoff spot after winning the Pac-12 title. USC features a quarterback, Sam Darnold, who’ll go near the top of the NFL draft if he chooses to forgo his final two years of eligibility. Surrounding him is a talented group of receivers led by Deontay Burnett and a run game highlighted by Ronald Jones II.

On defense, the Trojans have plenty of pro-caliber players, even if the performance has been spotty at times.

"We’re going to treat it as a playoff game," Jones said. "They are, too. Make a statement: Just let us in next time. But it’s definitely a big game."

For Barrett and center Billy Price, who are the only remaining starters from the 2014 team, this will be a final chance to cement their legacy. Many players from their 2013 recruiting class are already in the NFL. Several were considered can’t-miss players, but plenty were unheralded and developed into integral players and leaders.

Meyer mentioned Barrett, linebacker Chris Worley and defensive end Tyquan Lewis as examples.

"Those guys are all under-the-radar guys that ended up being as good a players and as good a leaders as I’ve ever had," Meyer said.

Those seniors, as well as the ones from the 2014 class, have compiled a resume as impressive as almost any in Ohio State history. But their work is not done.

"Right now, we’re 11-2 and it’s go win the Cotton Bowl," Barrett said of the Buckeyes’ mindset. "Talking about whether it’s a successful season or not, I’m not the one to do that. I’m pretty sure some of y’all will make that determination if we’ve had a successful season or not. I’m just focused on winning the Cotton Bowl and getting prepared to do that."

It might not be the playoff, but it is the next-best thing.

"It’s two historic programs, great football players on each team," Holmes said. "It’s going to be a helluva game."