Saturday, May 18, 2024

No. 10 USC vs. No. 16 Tulane: Who has the edge in the Cotton Bowl?

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No. 10 USC vs. No. 16 Tulane

Cotton Bowl

When: Monday, 10 a.m. PT

Where: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Tex.)

TV/Radio: ESPN/AM 790

Records: USC 11-2; Tulane 11-2

Line: USC by 1.5

Injury report: USC: OUT: WR Jordan Addison (ankle), EDGE Romello Height (shoulder), C Brett Neilon (leg), OT Andrew Vorhees (undisclosed); Tulane: N/A

What’s at stake? For USC, its first 12-win season since 2008 and first bowl win since the 2017 Rose Bowl. It would also mark the Trojans’ first Cotton Bowl win since the 1994 season and would give the Trojans momentum entering the off-season with national championship aspirations in mind. For Tulane, it would complete the improbable swing from a two-win team in 2021 to 12 wins this season. And for a program playing in its first New Year’s bowl game since 1940, a win would be a major historical achievement for the Green Wave.

Who’s better? As far as blue-chip players who will be going on to the NFL draft this year and those to come, USC has the more talented roster. But Tulane beat Kansas State in Manhattan, Houston in Houston and Cincinnati in Cincinnati. Both USC and Tulane played above expectations this year, and it’d be unwise to discount the Green Wave.

Matchup to watch: USC receivers vs. Tulane defensive backs. Down Addison and two senior offensive linemen, with quarterback Caleb Williams coming off a hamstring pull, the pressure will be on USC’s receivers to get open so that Williams can get rid of the ball quickly. That’s not an easy task against a Tulane defense that allowed 188.5 passing yards per game and broke up 44 passes this season. USC will rely on the likes of Tahj Washington, Mario Williams and Kyle Ford to win individual matchups with Jarius Monroe, Lance Robinson and the rest of the Green Wave secondary.

USC wins if: Williams is able to escape some pressure and is only sacked four times or less. … The Trojan defense can bring stud running back Tyjae Spears down on the first attempt and hold him below 100 yards rushing. … USC’s defense can force two or more turnovers against a Tulane team that only gave the ball up 15 times this season.

Prediction: USC 35, Tulane 31. It’ll be a close one, but Williams puts together one last memorable drive to deliver the Trojans a win to close out the first season under Lincoln Riley the right way.

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