USC and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams can put a bow on their renaissance season with a win over Tulane in the Cotton Bowl on Monday, Jan. 2, at 1 p.m. ET.
Williams was the eighth Trojans player awarded the Heisman, and first since Reggie Bush in 2005. Williams, who transferred from Oklahoma to continue playing for coach Lincoln Riley, was fourth in the nation in passing yards (4,075) and tied for the FBS lead with 37 touchdown passes.
Tulane qualified for the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five school after winning the American Athletic Conference. The Green Wave have a good defense, ranking 35th in the nation in yards allowed per game (342.4) and T-25th in points allowed per game (20.5).
Here’s a closer look at Tulane vs USC in the Cotton Bowl.
Tulane vs USC Odds for Cotton Bowl
USC opened as a 2-point favorite, but that spread moved to 2.5 after it was reported Williams would play in the game. The Trojans and Green Wave each average more than 35 points per game, which makes the total a bit low at 63 points.
Tulane vs USC Prediction for Cotton Bowl
USC 35, Tulane 31
USC had national championship dreams and College Football Playoff aspirations that were dashed by Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, so the major question is if Riley can get the Trojans up to play a game against a GO5 team from 1,900 miles away. Plus, leading receiver Jordan Addison announced he was opting out of the game to prepare for the NFL draft, which is a detriment to the Trojans offense.
I’d consider the upset if not for Williams, who was the sport’s most valuable player in 2022. He blew out his hamstring and was clearly hampered in the Trojans’ 47-24 loss to the Utes in Las Vegas on Dec. 2.
Riley said Williams’ bowl-game status was up in the air, but with a full month to get ready, the QB declared himself ready to go. That’s good news for Tahj Washington, Brenden Rice, Austin Jones, and the rest of the Trojans’ skill position players on offense.
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Tulane shouldn’t be taken lightly though, lest USC fall victim as Kansas State did earlier this season.
The Green Wave will be a tough opponent based on their high-octane offense, which averaged 35.2 points per game, and quarterback Michael Pratt had 2,776 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, 10 rushing TDs, and just five interceptions.
Green Wave running back Tyjae Spears had 1,376 rushing yards and 17 total TDs, too, so Tulane should put up points against a porous USC defense that allowed 27.9 points per game.
Still, the Trojans haven’t participated in a bowl since the 2019 Holiday Bowl, and haven’t won one since the 2016 Rose Bowl. USC has more skill, and with Riley, should have enough pride to cap a successful season with a win.
Tulane vs USC Best Bets for Cotton Bowl
USC -2 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook
WAGER: 1 Unit
As a representative of Group of Five schools, Tulane should be sky-high to face USC have the home-field advantage by virtue of the relatively short 500-mile trip from New Orleans to Dallas.
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However, if USC wins, it’ll almost definitely cover this two-point spread, making this the best bet you can place for the Cotton Bowl.
Over 62.5 Points (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook
Wager: 1 Unit
USC scores a lot of points and allows a lot, too. Even when Williams was playing at about 30 percent against Utah, the Over still hit.
Bowl games tend to feature a lot of points anyway, so barring a complete USC no-show, this seems like a lock.