The USC Trojans were one win away from likely playing in the College Football Playoff, but instead, they will square off with American Conference champion Tulane today in the Cotton Bowl. We’ll preview the game between these two impressive scoring teams before getting into my best bet for the action.
Having a Heisman trophy winner at quarterback and an offense that averages 500 yards per game is usually enough to win a conference and make it to the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the 11-2 Trojans, as they could not win the Pac-12 ruining their chances of a CFP berth.
One could argue that Caleb Williams getting a hamstring injury in the Pac-12 title game was the reason for all of this, but in reality, the Trojans' inability to rely on their defense was likely the cause. The Trojans' defense allowed an average of 415.1 total yards per game this season while also being ranked 105th in the country in opponents passing yards per game.
In the Trojans' last five games, they only allowed less than 27 points once, and the offense they will face today is one of the better scoring offenses in the country. Tulane averaged 33.8 points per game this season while averaging 200.3 rushing yards per game.
Runningback Tyjae Spears rushed for 1,373 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, while his backfield mate Michael Pratt was able to rush for 395 yards and ten touchdowns. Pratt also found success through the air, putting up 25 passing touchdowns and only five interceptions, so the Green Wave can beat teams both on the ground and through the air.
Tulane is also one of the few teams in the country that has yet to be affected by transfer portal departures or draft opt-outs. The Green Wave has two injured back-ups today, but aside from that will be rolling out the same team that won the American Conference Championship.
Tulane is currently favored by +2.5, and I’ll be backing them in this one. For starters, the motivation factor in this game for the Green Wave is off the charts. Just one season after finishing with two wins, they have the chance to win a New Years Six bowl game and knock off a dominant P5 team.
The Trojans' offense is wildly impressive, but they will be without primary wide receiver Jordan Addison and two of their starting offensive lineman today. It’s unclear if Caleb Williams is fully healthy either, so this will likely not be the same offense we saw average 41.4 points per game and 7 yards per play.
Another big reason for me backing Tulane is their defensive ability. The Green Wave had a much more balanced team than the Trojans, as they were able to rank 26th in average points allowed per game and 25th in average passing yards allowed per game. Tulane will pose much more of a challenge than most of the Pac-12 defenses the Trojans faced this season.
The mix of motivation and equally impressive play on both sides of the ball is more than enough for me to back the underdog here.