There might not be a more improbable bowl matchup than this one.
Heading into the Pac-12 championship game, Southern California was in a position to play its way into the College Football Playoff field with a win over Utah. It was easier said than done as the Utes outscored USC 30-7 in the second half en route to their second straight Pac-12 title.
This game will be huge for the Tulane players as they would love to knock off a top-10 team. Will the USC players view the game the same way or will their minds be elsewhere?
This will be USC’s third Cotton Bowl. The Trojans defeated Texas Tech 55-14 on Jan. 2, 1995, and lost to Ohio State 24-7 on Dec. 29, 2017. This will be Tulane’s first Cotton Bowl and the first appearance in one of the original major bowl games (Cotton, Orange, Rose and Sugar) since a 1940 trip to the Sugar Bowl.
USC fell six spots to 10th in the College Football Playoff rankings while Tulane came in at No. 16. USC is eighth and Tulane 14th in the Associated Press poll, with USC coming in No. 8 in the American Football Coaches Association poll and Tulane is 17th.
USC is currently listed by the Las Vegas odds as a two-point favorite.
- Record: 11-2
- Record Against the Spread: 8-5
- Head coach: Lincoln Riley, first season
- Head coaching record: 11-2 at USC, 66-12 college coaching record
Keep an eye on the status of the NFL-bound USC players as they could opt out of the game rather than risk injury. Speaking of injury, quarterback Caleb Williams is dealing with a hamstring issue. If he isn’t 100%, it won’t be surprising to see him sit this game out.
USC will be without running back Travis Dye due to a knee injury while receiver Michael Jackson is questionable. Tulane is in much better shape injury-wise.
The only thing between USC and a perfect season are the two matchups with Utah. USC allowed 90 points and 1,097 yards so it is clear where the issues are.
The Trojans were seventh in the Pac-12 in both total defense and scoring defense. USC allowed the second-most plays from scrimmage of at least 20 and 50 yards.
The last seven games played by Southern California went over the college football betting lines total.
Scoop on Free Play from the Locker Room
- Record: 10-3
- Record Against the Spread: 11-2
- Head coach: Willie Fritz, seventh season
- Head coaching record: 42-45 at Tulane, 119-114 college coaching record
It would be hard to find a better story in college football in 2022 than what happened at Tulane.
After leading the Green Wave to three straight bowl games, the bottom fell out during a 2-10 season. The Green Wave were on nobody’s radar heading into the 2022 season. Now the American Athletic Conference champions are a win away from the greatest one-year turnaround in major college football
Dating back to 1937, the greatest improvement from one year to the next was the 1999 Hawaii team going from 0-12 to 9-4. Tulane matched that this season and can top that with a win. Willie Fritz was named the American Football Coaches Association Region 1 coach of the year and it won’t be the last award he wins in the coming days and weeks.
— Tulane Football (@GreenWaveFB) December 6, 2022
What makes the improvement even more impressive is that 16 sophomores and 10 freshmen recorded tackles for the Green Wave, and Tulane won four games when committing more turnovers than they had takeaways.
Michael Pratt has thrown for 2,776 yards with 25 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He has also run for 10 scores. Tyjae Spears has 1,376 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
Each of Tulane’s last four games went over the college football odds in each of its last total.
Southern California vs Tulane Game Information
- When: Monday, Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET
- Where: Cotton Bowl, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Tex.
- Line: USC -2
- Moneyline: USC -130, Tulane +110
- Total: 62
- Southern California vs Tulane Live Stream: ESPN
Road to the Cotton Bowl
When Riley made the surprising decision to leave Oklahoma to take over at USC, he did not come alone. QB Williams soon followed and headlined the top class of incoming transfers in the country.
USC was tested against Oregon State, Washington State, and Arizona in the first half of the season but found ways to win all of those games. Something to consider for those who bet online: The Trojans are 4-1 in one-score games.
Tulane posted a win early in the season against eventual Big 12 champion Kansas State before stumbling against Southern Mississippi. The only blemish in conference play came against UCF. Unlike USC, Tulane got a measure of revenge in the conference title game against the team that beat it during the regular season.