Cotton Bowl sneak peek: Key players, X elements for USC, Tulane

10:00 AM ET Paolo Uggetti Alex ScarboroughClose

  • ESPN Personnel Writer Covers the SEC.Joined ESPN in 2012. Graduate of Auburn University.Playing in a New Year’s Six bowl is
  • no little alleviation prize for a USC group that was 4-8 last season. And yet the tenor of their matchup against Tulane in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic feels different on each side.For the Trojans, who were one game far from sliding into the College Football Playoff, this bowl look might feel more like a look-ahead to next season than a conclusion. However for the Green Wave, who was among the sport’s finest stories this year, a success would be as validating as their 11-win season. While this is Tulane’s 4th bowl look in 5 years, it is without a doubt the school’s biggest bowl game since it played Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1940.( Tulane and USC did meet in the 1932 Rose Bowl, a 21-12 win for the Trojans. )The Cotton Championship game itself might have a various look if players such as USC wide receiver Jordan Addison opt out in anticipation of the NFL draft or remain due to injury, as might be the case of quarterback Caleb Williams. Trojans coach Lincoln Riley did not rule Williams out of the game this past week, however stated hard rehab would need to be done between now and then for the player who Tulane coach Willie Fritz called “the best in the country”to be able to play in Dallas. No. 10 USC vs. No. 16 Tulane
    Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
    When: Monday, Jan. 2 at 1 p.m. ET
    Where: AT&T Arena, Arlington, Texas
    How to view: ESPN and ESPN App
    Opening line through Caesars Sportsbook: USC by 2


    Key player: Caleb Williams. It’s obvious. If Williams is able to dress, USC will be a much more harmful match for Tulane’s defense. Given that Williams has eligibility left and the bowl game isn’t a playoff semifinal, there’s a sensible school of idea that states he should not play despite his health. Why risk it? Well, Williams seems like he wishes to play, which as we saw in the Pac-12 title game, may be enough to convince Riley that he should.2 Associated

    X factor: Raleek Brown. With seniors Travis Dye and Austin Jones both not returning to USC next season, the backfield is about to become Brown’s play ground, and it might start as soon as this game. Brown is a luxury hire with amazing speed. He invested some time this season returning kicks along with getting a handful of brings, and all signs indicate him being the No. 1 back next season. Brown is going to be a show next season, but if he has a successful soft opening against Tulane, the Trojans will be set up well to prosper in the game.How USC wins: It’s basic: The Trojans require to do what they did all season, but stopped working to do versus Utah twice. That’s develop the run early, let Caleb Williams do Caleb Williams’ things, and hope that the defense that shows up in Dallas is the takeaway-hungry, bend-don’t-break unit that conserved them a handful of times this season, not the irregular one that gives up huge plays in bad moments.Tulane Tulane’s Tyjae Spears, who has at least 100 hurrying yards in seven straight games, acquired a career-high 199 versus UCF in the ACC title game. Stephen Lew/USA TODAY Sports

    Secret player: Running back Tyjae Spears might provide a double impact for Tulane, moving the ball on offense while keeping USC’s offense off of the field. The junior from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, hurried for a season-high 199 lawns and a goal against UCF in the AAC championship game. It was his seventh successive 100-yard rushing game, the longest active streak in the FBS. Spears is a difficult runner to bring down, with the 11th-most averted deals with in the FBS (141 ). That spells problem for a USC defense that has the 12th-most missed out on takes on in FBS (141 ).

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    X factor: As great as Spears is, he can’t be the only threat that USC requires to worry about defensively. Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt and the passing game need to do their part too. And the receiver who should be the centerpiece might be Shae Wyatt. While Pratt likes to spread the ball around– 4 players have at least 30 catches and 3 have five or more receiving goals– Wyatt has actually been heating up of late. The 6-foot-1 senior from Omaha, Nebraska, has 329 yards and six touchdowns in his last 5 games.How Tulane

    wins: The best Tulane defense needs to appear. No, not the one that quit 176 lawns and two goals rushing to UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee in a loss Nov. 12. The one that held Plumlee to minus-7 lawns hurrying and helped win the AAC championship four weeks later. USC quarterback Caleb Williams can’t be permitted to run free. And the Green Wave can’t permit him to relax and choose apart the secondary, either. While Tulane’s 24 sacks will not blow anybody away, the Wave have been proficient at reaching the quarterback, getting in touch with the QB 219 times this season, which ranks seventh in the FBS.

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