USC vs Tulane Odds, Prediction, Picks | Our Top Cotton Bowl Bet
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images and Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured from left: Michael Pratt (7) of Tulane and Austin Jones (6) of USC.
USC vs Tulane Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The fairytale season rolls on for Tulane, as the Green Wave meet USC in the Cotton Bowl. It marks the first time these programs have suited up against one another since 1946.
Tulane did the unthinkable this year, turning a 2-10 record in 2021 into an 11-2 season and AAC Championship. The Green Wave did it with one of the more exciting offenses in the country, led by quarterback Michael Pratt and running back Tyjae Spears.
A New Year’s Six bowl is right where many projected USC (11-2) to finish, as it was led by Oklahoma transplants Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley. The status of Williams, this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, remains uncertain after the star quarterback struggled through a hamstring injury in the Trojans’ Pac-12 Championship loss to Utah.
With USC down several of its normal starters and a lack of clarity surrounding how limited Williams may be, the Trojans are just a small two-point favorite against this year’s highest-ranked Group of Five program.
Will the Trojans have enough talent coming off the bench to win their first bowl game since the 2017 Rose Bowl, or can Tulane’s magical turnaround end with perfect punctuation?
While the Green Wave will have nearly their entire regular-season roster available, the same cannot be said of USC.
The Trojans offense will be without their leading receiver in Jordan Addison, who caught 59 passes for 875 yards and eight touchdowns. While his absence is notable, USC has a deep group of receivers that will now rely more upon Tahj Washington and Mario Williams, a pair that has caught 11 touchdowns this season, with each receiver averaging more than 15 yards a catch.
Who will be throwing them the ball in the fourth quarter is a different question, as Williams is nursing a hamstring injury. Williams has reiterated that he will play in the game, but to what extent the injury may limit his role remains to be determined.
With the Heisman Trophy winner leading the way, the Trojans offense has been one of the nation's best, ranking eighth in Pass Success and third in scoring with 41.1 points per game.
The Trojans' offensive line has been great at opening up holes for a ground game that will be without injured running back Travis Dye, with USC ranking in the top three in Rush Success and Line Yards. However, injuries to starting linemen Andrew Vorhees and Brett Neilon — who were both Action Network All-Americans — will sideline them for the Cotton Bowl, presenting yet another personnel issue for the Trojans.
For all the success Williams and Co. have had on the offensive side of the ball, USC's defense has been one of the worst in the country. The Trojans' secondary was routinely picked apart, ranking 113th in pass defense.
The front seven fared no better against the run, exemplified by the Trojans allowing more than 200 yards rushing in two of their last three games to UCLA and Utah.
Alex Grinch's defense has only one notable absence in linebacker Ralen Goforth, but the normal cast of characters isn't exactly a strong point to begin with.
Tulane already recorded a major victory since it last played in the AAC Championship, as Pratt confirmed his intent to stay in New Orleans and play for the Green Wave another year.
The junior quarterback saved his best game of the season for last, passing for a career-high 394 yards and four touchdowns in the conference championship as Tulane avenged one of its earlier losses against UCF.
The dual-threat Pratt led the AAC in passer efficiency rating this year (159.7) and was a consistent threat as a runner. Pratt added 10 rushing touchdowns to go with 25 passing scores and accounted for nearly 400 yards on the ground.
Spears put together one of the best seasons in the country for a running back, rushing for 1,376 yards and 15 touchdowns. USC's run defense fell apart down the stretch, so Spears could be in for one of his best performances to date.
The Green Wave defense has been nothing to sneeze at either — granted, it came against mostly AAC competition. Tulane's 20.5 points allowed per game ranks 23rd in the country, as it's led by a pass defense that allows just 188.5 yards per game.
The Green Wave's most notable defensive performance came against Kansas State, as Tulane held this season's Big 12 champions to only 10 points in a 17-10 Tulane victory.
Possibly the deciding factor of this game will be how effective Tulane's pass rush can be. It's been fairly mediocre this year with just 24 sacks in 13 games, but a reshuffled USC offensive line presents an opportunity to better pressure Williams, whose mobility may be hindered.
USC vs Tulane Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how USC and Tulane match up statistically:
Tulane Offense vs USC Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off) vs Pass Rush (Def)
USC Offense vs Tulane Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off) vs Pass Rush (Def)
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams
|Seconds per Play
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics
USC vs Tulane Betting Prediction, Picks
Williams has been pretty emphatic that he's feeling healthy and will be a factor in this game. Even so, his normal offense will be without several key players, making it hard to predict just how dynamic the Trojans offense may or may not be.
Some certainties in this game, however, are that essentially all of Tulane's normal offensive personnel will be available, and it will be the same Trojans defense that hampered the team all season.
Playing in the AAC keeps Pratt out of the national spotlight, but he's a really good player who will challenge USC's sketchy secondary. Utah abused USC's run defense in the Pac-12 Championship, and I think Spears is poised for a monster day as well.
Tulane's team total is set at 31.5 points, a bar it cleared in six games this season, including two of its final three games. USC held only two of its final seven opponents below 35 points.
Let's stay away from the question marks on USC's offense and go with what we know: The Green Wave offense will roll.