Tulane vs. USC Cotton Bowl Classic Top Picks: Trojans To Win Shootout Behind Heisman Winner

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NCAAF Pick: USC ML (-133) at Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review)

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USC ML (-133)
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After missing out on the College Football Playoff, this writer wonders how motivated No. 10 USC will be when the Trojans face No. 16 Tulane in the Jan. 2 Cotton Bowl. Which side of the spread (or moneyline in this case) at BMR’s top-rated books has the best value? Let’s see what the NCAAF odds can tell us.

Any Lone Start State locals who are interested in betting on the Cotton Bowl game can do so at one of these Texas betting sites.

Tulane Green Wave vs. USC Trojans

Monday, January 2, 2022 – 01:00 PM EST at AT&T Stadium

ESPN has this matchup between No. 16 Tulane, the surprising champion of the American Athletic Conference, and No. 10 Southern Cal, the Pac-12 runner-up, in the 87th Cotton Bowl Classic.  

It’s the third Cotton Bowl game for USC. The Trojans beat Texas Tech 55-14 on Jan. 2, 1995, and fell to Ohio State 24-7 on Dec. 29, 2017. USC has 34 bowl wins in 54 all-time postseason appearances, both among the most in NCAA history. It’s the first Cotton Bowl for Tulane, the first New Year’s Six bowl for the program, and the 15th all-time bowl game.  

USC is 2-1 all-time vs. Tulane on the NCAAF picks, but the schools haven’t played since 1946. 

One of the Best Seasons Ever At Tulane 

Perhaps no coach did a better job in the nation this season than Tulane’s Willie Fritz—he was a finalist for several national Coach of the Year Awards and was the AAC Coach of the Year—considering the Green Wave were 2-10 last season but are 11-2 this year and beat Central Florida 45-28 in the American Athletic Conference title game.  

It was the first AAC football title for the program and the first time the football team both played in and hosted the conference championship game. The nine-game win total improvement this season over last is tied for the best-ever in a single season in FBS history along with Stanford (1940), Hawaii (1999), and Miami of Ohio (2010). 

These Players Are on Fire

Junior quarterback Michael Pratt threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns vs. UCF and rushed for another score to earn game Most Outstanding Player honors. He was the first Tulane player to throw for more than 350 yards since Justin McMillan in 2018. Tyjae Spears rushed for 199 yards and a score, and Shae Wyatt had five catches for 110 yards and two TDs.  

It was the first time that Tulane had a 100-yard rusher, 100-yard receiver, and 300-yard passer in a game since 2010 against Rice. The Green Wave had a whopping 648 yards (254 rushing and 394 passing), the fourth-most in school history and the most since the 2017 campaign. 

Tulane had a school-record 15 All-AAC selections this season and Spears was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. He has rushed for 1,376 yards and 15 scores and caught 21 passes for 242 yards and two TDs. Spears is the first Tulane player to be named a conference player of the year since QB Shaun King in 1998 when the school was playing in Conference USA.  

This bowl is a huge deal for Tulane, its first major bowl since 1940, so no players have opted out as of this writing. The Green Wave are 15-3 ATS in their past 18 games overall.  

USC Unbeaten Vs. Everyone But Utah 

USC would have been in the College Football Playoff had it beaten Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but the Utes beat the Trojans for the second time this season, 47-24, to knock Coach Lincoln Riley’s team out of the top four in the rankings and to this bowl game. Ohio State took USC’s No. 4 ranking and spot in the playoff against No. 1 Georgia. 

Quarterback Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy by a fairly wide margin, joining Mike Garrett (1965), O.J. Simpson (1968), Charles White (1979), Marcus Allen (1981), Carson Palmer (2002), Matt Leinart (2004) and Reggie Bush (2005, later vacated) as USC winners. 

Williams has completed 66.1% of his passes for 4,075 yards with 37 touchdowns and just four picks while rushing for 372 yards and 10 scores. Those 47 total TDs broke the previous school record of 41 set by Matt Barkley in 2011 and Cody Kessler in 2014. Williams’ 4,447 total offensive yards also are a school record. He was hurt in the Pac-12 title game but should be fine for this one.

In addition to being named the Heisman winner, Williams also won the Maxwell Award and was named the AP Player of the Year, Walter Camp Player of the Year, and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. 

They're Unstoppable

Williams, defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu, offensive linemen Andrew Vorhees and Brett Neilon, and defensive back Calen Bullock were all named First Team All-Americans. Those are the most in a single season since 2007 when USC also had five. Tuipulotu, also the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, is third nationally with 12.5 sacks and has 21 tackles for loss. Bullock has a team-high five picks. 

Of course, Williams transferred from Oklahoma the last offseason when USC hired away Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley. USC was 4-8 in a disastrous 2021 campaign but 11-2 this year. The seven-victory increase matches the biggest one-season turnaround in USC history.  

The Trojans will be down some key players as receiver Jordan Addison, the 2021 Biletnikoff winner while at Pittsburgh, Vorhees, Neilon, and linebacker Ralen Goforth will all miss the game.  

As long as USC does care it should win because it simply is that much more talented than Tulane. Expect a lot of points. The over is 4-0 in Tulane’s past four games and 7-0 in USC’s past seven. 

NCAAF Pick: USC ML (-133) at Bookmaker 

NCAAF Pick: Over 62 (-108) at Heritage Sports

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Over 62 (-108)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.