The USC Trojans (11-2) hoped to be in the College Football Playoffs this weekend or at least in Monday’s Rose Bowl. Instead, they fell short in the Pac-12 title game against Utah and landed in the Cotton Bowl against the Tulane Green Wave (11-2). The upstart AAC champions are likely to be highly motivated for this rare matchup between a Group of Five member and a traditional blue blood.
These teams have met three times in history, but not since 1946, including a USC win in the 1932 Rose Bowl. Monday’s Cotton Bowl is set for 1:00 p.m. ET on ESPN from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Trojans are favored by 2.5 points, with the game total set at 63 points.
Tulane Green Wave Overview
This has been a dream season for the Green Wave, including a win over Big 12 Champions Kansas State in September. They are 2-1 against ranked teams, splitting against UCF and winning at Cincinnati. The Green Wave have scored at least 27 points in seven straight games and average 35.2 ppg on the season.
Quarterback Michael Pratt has completed 64.5% of his passes this season for 2,776 yards. He has 25 touchdowns, five interceptions, and another ten touchdowns on the ground with 395 yards rushing. Pratt was spectacular in the AAC Championship Game, torching UCF for 394 yards and four touchdowns.
Tyjae Spears had a brilliant season in the Tulane backfield. He has 1,376 yards on the ground and 1,618 all-purpose yards with 17 total touchdowns. Spears has topped 100 yards in seven straight games and should relish the chance to run against a USC team that ranks 126th in the nation in yards allowed per rush.
Tulane doesn’t have any reported opt-outs for this game. The defense allows 188.5 yards passing on the season and 155.6 per game on the ground. Tulane hasn’t faced USC in decades, but they did push head coach Lincoln Riley to the brink last year in Oklahoma before falling 40-35.
USC Trojans Overview
The USC Trojans have been ranked in the top 15 all season, reaching as high as four before the Pac-12 title game loss to Utah. They are 2-2 against ranked teams this season, with both losses coming to Utah by one point in October and 23 in December. They also knocked off UCLA and Notre Dame, making Tulane the fourth straight top-20 opponent they have faced.
The Trojans do have Heisman winner Caleb Williams ready to go in the Cotton Bowl after suffering a hamstring injury in the Pac-12 Championship Game. He finished the season with 4,075 yards passing, 372 rushing, 47 total touchdowns, and four interceptions. Williams has topped 300 yards seven times in 2022 and has at least two touchdown passes in all but two games this season.
The Trojans will be without top wideout Jordan Addison as he prepares for the NFL draft. Addison led the Trojans with 59 catches, 875 yards, and eight touchdowns on the season. In his place, Williams will throw to Tahj Washington (45 rec, 675 yds, six TD), Mario Williams (34/596/5), and Brenden Rice (33/437/2).
Running back Travis Dye has been injured since the Colorado game in November. In his absence, Austin Jones ran for 120 yards against UCLA, 154 against Notre Dame but just 35 against Utah. He will have to work without center Brett Neilon and guard Andrew Vorhees who are both out hurt for the Cotton Bowl.
USC is favored by 2.5 points on the spread and -150 on the money line. Tulane is +130 on the money line underdog and +2.5 points on the spread. The total is 63 points, with both the over and under at -110.
Tulane will be the more motivated team for this game, as they have absolutely nothing to lose and all the bragging rights to play for. The Group of Five teams are a combined 3-5 in New Year’s Six games, with Cincinnati losing the last two years.
USC’s defense hasn’t been good most of the season, and they tend to give up a lot of yards. Look for Tulane to take advantage of that, and then the Trojans need to find replacements for Dye and Addison to keep up. Either way, this game should have plenty of points in Texas.