CFB Bowl Special: USC clashes with AAC Champ Tulane in Cotton Bowl as Utah and Penn State face off in final traditional Rose Bowl

Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) drops back to pass as offensive lineman Michael Mokofisi (52) and offensive lineman Paul Maile (54) provide coverage against the Southern California Trojans during the second half in the PAC-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

CFB Bowl Special: USC clashes with AAC Champ Tulane in Cotton Bowl as Utah and Penn State face off in final traditional Rose Bowl


No. 16 Tulane vs. No. 10 USC

Game Time: noon CT

TV/Radio: ESPN, Sirius XM 84 & 202

This game should be all about offense as the Trojans take on the Green Wave in the Cotton Bowl. Fans are in for a treat, especially if USC quarterback Caleb Williams takes the field, as both teams look to have most of their players available for the game.

USC finished the season on a rather disappointing note suffering a tough loss in the Pac-12 Championship to Utah, the second loss to Utah this season. Overall, the Trojans had massive success in Lincoln Riley’s first season earning Williams a Heisman Trophy while instilling a much-improved culture and, as a result, a greater attraction for USC football. If Williams plays, USC should run a high-powered offense as they have all season, even though star wide receiver Jordan Addison is expected to sit this one out. Despite not running the ball particularly well, USC has the nation’s third overall scoring offense and fifth-ranked total offense. They average over 500 yards per game of offense while converting on more than half their third-down tries. This is an impressive unit, and it was expected from day one. However, this defense can give up yards and points in bunches to solid offenses, even on their good days. Specifically, a matchup to look out for is how Tulane’s strong pass defense competes against Williams and the high-flying offense of the Trojans. If Tulane forces USC to run the football more than they want to, USC’s defense will have to deal with being on the field the majority of the game, which can lead to trouble, especially late.

Tulane took home the AAC championship over UCF almost a month ago with a strong offense and solid pass defense. Outside of a bad loss to Southern Miss in September, they have overcome every obstacle they have faced this season. They beat the team that beat them earlier in the season in the game that mattered most. Tulane did that with the combination of quarterback Michael Pratt and star running back Tyjae Spears. The duo has combined for 25 touchdowns on the ground this season, with Spears running for 1,376 yards as the team’s leading rusher. Pratt is also a weapon, with his efficient throwing arm completing 64% of his throws for 25 touchdowns and just five picks. If Tulane can contain Caleb Williams and run the football effectively, they have a chance at an upset and a New Year’s Six bowl win.


No. 11 Penn State vs. No. 8 Utah

Game Time: 4 p.m. CT

TV/Radio: ESPN, Sirius XM 84 & 195

In the final traditional Rose Bowl, Utah takes on Penn State, who have both struggled at times this season but have had moments of dominance as well. These are two teams that play physical styles of football without tons of flash. They run the football and play tough defense.

Utah came away with a Pac-12 title after defeating USC for the second time this season. They did so by running the football like crazy and scoring a ton of points doing it. Since the loss of Tavion Thomas, Utah’s running game has not been as strong as it was earlier in the season; however, they have been able to supplement it with strong play from quarterback Cameron Rising and their depth at the running back position with Micah Bernard, Jaylon Glover, and Ja’Quinden Jackson. The Utes rank 22nd in the nation running the football at over 220 yards per game. They win games by controlling the clock and playing strong defense. The games that Utah loses are due to Cameron Rising being inefficient and careless with the football. With that said, Rising can make or break a game for them. If he is magnificent, Utah is tough to beat, given how few opportunities they give. They stop the run exceptionally well and force teams into difficult situations. If they can continue to play the physical style of football that serves them well, they should have no problem coming away with a victory in the Rose Bowl.

Penn State operates in a similar fashion. They run the ball well and play strong defense. They are also similar to the Utes in that their quarterback can make or break their game. Sean Clifford is capable of making big plays consistently but can get careless with the football and leave receivers out on the field. However, when the Nittany Lions commit to the run with Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton, who have combined for 19 rushing touchdowns this season, they hold the same advantages as Utah. They control the clock and limit the opportunities for the opposition. Keep in mind, Penn State has two losses on the season, both of which are to the two Big 10 teams in the College Football Playoff. They have not lost since late October, so Penn State is riding the wave of their success right now after commanding the Big 10 outside the two perennial powerhouses. The defense for Penn State takes a bit of a hit since star corner Joey Porter is sitting this one out, but the Utes will try to dominate with the run before resorting to the air. If Penn State can lock down the trenches stronger than Utah, they should be able to muscle out a win.

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