Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:45 AM EST odds are subject to change.
Tulane +115 over USC
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic – AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
1:00 PM EST. We’ve spoken previously about the “bubble burst” scenario and every now and then we get an opportunity to take advantage of such a situation on a grand stage such as a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Literally, a month ago, the Trojans of Southern California were preparing to play for the Pac 12 Championship and if they won, they would have been the #4 Seed in the College Football Playoff. Instead, there’s a collective yawn in L.A., not just from Lakers and Rams fans lamenting the plights of their current teams, but the USC support base that was apparently thinking the Trojans were going to draw a better assignment in the New Year’s Six (say, Alabama or maybe Clemson) than the current version of the Wave. But many Pac-12 insiders view this clash warily from the Trojans’ perspective and not just because the Greenies went 11-2 and won the American for Willie Fritz. Rather, sources say the team has not been especially enthusiastic after their playoff balloon deflated in the Pac-12 title game vs. Utah, which ran roughshod in a 47-24 romp, exposing the soft underbelly of a yielding USC defense that was a borderline liability all season. But the real concern on the USC side is how healed Heisman-winning QB Caleb Williams might be after straining his hamstring against the Utes and looking about as mobile as a late-career Peyton Manning against Kyle Whittngham’s defense.
The bottom line is that if Williams is noticeably slowed, and mobility hampered, Lincoln Riley’s first USC edition suddenly begins to look like the 2021 Trojans that preceded his arrival. Without Williams’ ability to extend plays, the Trojans offense stalled against Utah, which outscored Troy 44-7 from the middle of the second quarter onward in Vegas on December 2. We are relatively sure that an Alex Grinch Trojan defense, which bent and bent all season and often bailed itself out by forcing opponent giveaways (contributing to a nation’s best +22 turnover margin), is going to get gouged by a collection of slashing Green Wave runners led by American Offensive MVP RB Tyjae Spears, while vet QB Michael Pratt posted passing stats not too dissimilar from Williams. Among the opt-outs on the Trojan side are key WR Jordan Addison, last year’s Biletnikoff winner at Pitt who battled injuries this season.
Tulane will be showing up to this game, there is no question concerning that one. For the Green Wave, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Tulane started the season well off the radar in terms of the American Athletic Conference discussion, let alone as a New Year’s Six prospect. Nevertheless, Tulane dispatched Kansas State (Big 12 Champion), #24 Cincinnati (defending AAC Champion and 2021 College Football Playoff participant), and #24 UCF (a mid-major blue blood) to earn the right to face one of the most recognized brands in college football. If TCU had not made it to the National Championship Game next week, perhaps Tulane would be the most talked about surprise on the New Year’s Six menu. However, instead the market is fixated on USC’s name, Power Five association, Coach (Lincoln Riley), and the fact that they bode the services of the Heisman Trophy winner. Yet despite all of these characteristics, oddsmakers opened this one up at a near pick-em knowing they would be hammered with USC money, especially in Vegas, where folks in that region flock to the sportsbooks to wager on Saturday, Sunday and today’s games.
Tulane’s offense is great, its defense is great (it did not let rootin’, tootin’ scootin’ QB Adrian Martinez of Kansas State dominate them at all) and they figure to be much more focused and motivated than the favorite.
Tulane +115 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.30)