Cotton Bowl | Tulane vs. USC Prediction: Odds, Spread, and More

Two teams coming off turnaround seasons face off in the Cotton Bowl, and our Tulane vs. USC prediction examines the odds of a football fairytale.

The turnaround, feel-good team of the 2022 college football season, the Tulane Green Wave, rolls into Arlington to face the USC Trojans in the 2023 GoodYear Cotton Bowl Classic. Can the AAC champions take down the Pac-12 runner-up? We’ve got all the latest college football betting odds and a Tulane vs. USC prediction.

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Tulane vs. USC Betting Preview

  • Spread
    USC (-2)
  • Moneyline
    USC (-130), Tulane (+110)
  • Over/Under
    63 points
  • Game time
    1 p.m. ET
  • Location
    AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
  • Predicted Weather
    70.1 degrees, rain, 16.1 mph winds
  • How to watch
    ESPN, fuboTV 

Can you put the green into Green Wave by betting big on Tulane in the Cotton Bowl? Are the Trojans a team you can trust? Let’s examine the latest Tulane vs. USC betting odds to see if you can cash in on the Cotton Bowl.

Tulane has been the most reliable team in college football against the spread this season. They’ve covered in 84.6% of their games this year, with the Green Wave’s 11-2 ATS record matching their straight-up success. Those 11 wins include two where they were a spread and moneyline underdog, with their win over Big 12 Champion Kansas State in mid-September the marquee victory of their season.

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USC has been the most reliable team in the nation at covering the over this year. The Trojans are 10-3, covering the over, meaning that 76.9% of their games have been high-scoring affairs. They failed to cover the 63-point line for the Cotton Bowl in those three games (Oregon State, Fresno State, and Washington State).

Tulane has covered the 63-point line in five of their games this year, including in three of their last four games to round out the year. While there is the potential for this game to be a wild, high-scoring affair, there are several factors that could be cause for pause, as we’ll discover in our Tulane vs. USC prediction.

Prediction for Tulane vs. USC

Just one year after going 2-10, Tulane is the Group of Five representative in the Cotton Bowl after a remarkable 11-2 season that saw them crowned the AAC champion. Does the tremendous turnaround for Willie Fritz’s team have a fairytale ending, or will Power Five USC prove too talented for Tulane to tame in Texas?

The destination of the Cotton Bowl trophy could very much depend on the status of USC quarterback Caleb Williams. The Heisman Trophy winner has been the offensive catalyst for the Trojans this season, a team that seemed destined for the College Football Playoff before falling short with a defeat to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Williams is USC. That isn’t hyperbole. It isn’t an understatement. The Trojans have undergone their own transformation this season, transitioning from a 4-8 team last year to an 11-2 offensive juggernaut during the 2022 college football season. Yes, their success is attributable to a number of factors, including the acquisition of head coach Lincoln Riley and a remarkable hit rate in the transfer portal.

Yet, Williams is USC. When he has been at his insatiable best, the Trojans have been untameable, unstoppable, undeniable. His hamstring injury against Utah showcased that when he’s not healthy and when he’s unable to perform to the highest of his considerable talent, then USC is fallible, weakened, and ripe for attack.

At the time of writing, it appears that Williams should be at least good to start the Cotton Bowl clash against Tulane. That’s a major boost for a USC team that will be missing starting running back Travis Dye, center Brett Neilon, guard Andrew Vorhees, and 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison.

It speaks volumes about Williams’ ability that even without all that talent, this game likely hinges on whether he suits up and sustains his participation through all four quarters.

Williams is particularly important against a Tulane passing defense that has been somehow both imperious and underrated this season. The Green Wave has multiple players with multiple interceptions, including leading tackler Dorian Williams. They’re fast to the catch point and furious in getting into the backfield.

The result has been holding opposing quarterbacks to a 58.4 completion percentage average and 6.0 yards per attempt while limiting opposing offenses to 188.5 passing yards and 20.5 points per game as one of the nation’s most threatening defenses.

On the flip side, USC’s defense has been their Achilles heel during the 2022 college football season. Giving up an average of 27.9 points per game, they’ve been relatively easy to throw on and even easier to run on. Only three teams in the Pac-12 gave up more rushing touchdowns than the Trojans this fall (25), and USC has allowed 4.66 yards per rush.

Enter Tyjae Spears. While USC’s chances of success hinge on whether Williams plays, Tulane’s chances of providing a shock in the Cotton Bowl rest on the shoulders of Spears. Don’t misunderstand me, the Green Wave has impact makers on offense in the form of quarterback Michael Pratt and wide receivers Duece Watts (574 receiving yards, eight touchdowns) and Shae Wyatt (692 receiving yards, seven touchdowns) and they’ll be important.

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However, it’s Spears’ ability to dominate on the ground that could clinch this game for the Green Wave. In his final season with Tulane, Spears rushed for 1,376 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry while finding the end zone 15 times. The Tulane rusher also adds a significant threat as a receiver, snagging 21 receptions for 242 yards and another two touchdowns. He has been dominant.

If Williams is fully healthy and able to play the entire game, it alters the complexion of this Tulane vs. USC prediction for the Cotton Bowl. With uncertainty over the elite Trojans talent, Tulane takes the win, covers the spread, and wins the Cotton Bowl, and Spears is crowned MVP to complete a football fairytale.

Tulane vs. USC Prediction
Tulane 36, USC 30

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