The Cotton Bowl might be the bowl game I’m most excited for this season, and it’s mostly due to the teams that are playing. USC and Tulane were some of the most fun teams to watch this college football season, and they are going to put on an absolute spectacle on Monday. In this article, I’ll break down the betting odds and my official predictions for the Cotton Bowl. Let’s get to work.
Tulane Green Wave vs. USC Trojans Odds
The opening line for this game made USC around 3.5-point favorites, and we saw it get bet down to a pick ‘em before some buyback on the Trojans. There are significant absences in this game for USC that I’ll break down below that have caused the line to jump around for this game. Meanwhile, Tulane is entirely intact for this game.
The over/under here is set at 62.5 points, which is on the higher side but is arguably still not high enough for the type of game we should expect here. Both offenses are incredibly potent, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the total starts to creep up in this game. Remember that 62 is a relatively key number and the next one after that is 65.
Tulane Green Wave vs. USC Trojans Prediction & Pick
If you’ve been following my work at all this season, you already know where I’m going with this pick. Tulane had an incredible season behind a steady, well-coached defense and their ultra dynamic running back Tyjae Spears. Tulane will have a huge motivational edge in this game as USC had CFP aspirations before losing to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship.
USC still has some underlying issues that could be exposed here. Their special teams are significantly worse than Tulane’s – USC ranks 130th on PFF, and Tulane ranks 8th. The Trojans are also still due for monumental turnover regression that we talked about all season, and that could come here against a disciplined Tulane team.
Willie Fritz is a phenomenal coach who nearly pulled off an outright upset of Lincoln Riley’s Sooners in Norman last season as 31.5-point underdogs last year. This time around, he has the horses to finish the job, as evidenced by his 11-2 ATS record this season. Let’s make it 12-2 in this game.
Tulane Green Wave vs. USC Trojans Key Matchups
Tyjae Spears vs. USC run defense
Tyjae Spears had an otherworldly season for Tulane. There wasn’t a more dynamic running back in college football this side of Bijan Robinson. Over his final seven games, he had 134 carries for 1,064 yards (7.9 YPC) and nine touchdowns. He went over 120 yards in each of those final seven games.
Spears will be fully fresh for this game after a lengthy break, and he’ll be running against one of the worst run defenses in the country with those fresh legs. Against the run, USC ranked 126th out of 131 FBS teams in success rate. They also ranked 120th in opportunity, which is the rate of runs allowed that gain four or more yards.
Tyjae Spears for Heisman pic.twitter.com/Ep93PF7Rn3
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) December 3, 2022
Tulane has a solid passing game to fall back on with the uber consistent Michael Pratt under center, but Spears is the heartbeat of this football team, and he has a wonderful matchup to exploit in this matchup. Look for his rushing props if you play PrizePicks or are in a market where sportsbooks offer them.
Caleb Williams vs. Tulane secondary
On the other side of the ball, I can’t wait to see Caleb Williams go up against this Tulane pass defense. It’s worth noting that the Heisman-winning quarterback is still recovering from that hamstring injury he suffered against Utah, but all indications are that he will play if he is cleared by the team’s medical staff.
Williams will be without two stout interior offensive linemen, Brett Neilon and Austin Vorhees, due to injuries, along with Jordan Addison who is a likely first-round pick in the NFL. In addition, running back Travis Dye remains out with the season-ending knee injury he suffered in November.
That means the offensive burden will fall on Williams’s shoulders even more so than normal, and he’s going against an outstanding Tulane secondary that ranked 14th in PFF’s coverage grades and 13th in pass down success rate allowed. Most importantly, they ranked 11th in explosiveness allowed, and USC often relies on explosive plays.
Caleb Williams is special. pic.twitter.com/corCDK3bTM
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) November 27, 2022
The stars of the Tulane defense were linebacker Dorian Williams, cornerback Jarius Monroe, and safety Macon Clark, all of whom were All-American Athletic Conference First-Team nominations. Of course, they haven’t faced a quarterback like Williams this year, but they’ll be ready for this opportunity.
The Verdict: With a significant motivational edge, back the underdog in Tulane one last time. Willie Fritz has led a revolution in New Orleans, and the Green Wave will be ready for this opportunity. Caleb Williams is fantastic, but he’s likely still not 100% healthy and he’s without some key contributors on offense. This should be an exhilarating back-and-forth game, but I like Tulane to wind up on top with Tyjae Spears running all over USC’s porous run defense.