ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — After losing their chance to enter the college football playoff, Southern California will head to the Cotton Bowl to play the top-ranked Group of Five team in a stadium where coach Lincoln Riley He won a few championships before taking on the Trojans.
Two days after losing in the Pac-12 championship gamewhen a win would most likely have put them in the four-team CFP playoff, the Trojans were drawn on Sunday to play American Athletic Conference champion Tulane on Jan. 2. Both are 11-2 teams that have made record improvements this season.
Riley said Sunday that the status of Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams, likely a Heisman Trophy finalist, was uncertain for the Cotton Bowl after what the coach called a “significant” hamstring injury suffered. early in the Pac-12 title game.
“It’s a good thing we probably won’t play for the next two or three weeks,” Riley said. “We are going to try to rehabilitate that. Those things, you know, hamstrings are different for everyone, but the nature of yours is pretty severe. I mean, if we play in the next two weeks, most likely he won’t be available.”
Even after getting hurt in the first quarter, Williams threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns on Friday night in a 47-24 loss to Utah. He was injured on a 59-yard run.
“What a talented quarterback,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said. And what a competitor. You could tell he was hurt and he was still fighting, clawing and scratching.”
The Green Wave went from 2-10 last season to matching an FBS record with their improvement of nine wins, with a chance to get one more in their biggest bowl game since the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in 1940, when they were in the Southeastern Conference.
Tulane was ranked 16th in the final CFP rankings, six places behind USC. The two teams have played three times, but not since 1946.
Before going to USC around this time last year, Riley had been Oklahoma’s head coach for five seasons. The Sooners won four straight Big 12 championship games from 2017-2020 at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, where the Cotton Bowl is also played.
The Trojans have already matched the program’s biggest improvement from season to season, from 4-8 last year. His first AP national championship was an 11-0 run in 1962 that followed a 4-5-1 season.
The Trojans’ two losses this season are against Utah. This will be his third Cotton Bowl, his second at AT&T Stadium, and his 56th overall.
“If we really want to be the kind of program that we feel like we can be, then this Cotton Bowl game against Tulane is going to be a great opportunity for us,” Riley said.
The Green Wave, in its seventh season under Fritz, beat UCF 45-28 in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday. Quarterback Michael Pratt had 442 total yards and five touchdowns, and Tyjae Spears had 199 rushing yards with a 60-yard score to extend his FBS-best active streak of 100-yard games to seven.
RATED WAVES vs. CLASSIFIED
Tulane will go to the Cotton Bowl after back-to-back wins when ranked and playing a Top 25 opponent.
Green Wave’s victory in the AAC title game over then-No. 22 UCF came a week after they won at then-No. 24 Cincinnati, ending the Bearcats’ 32-game home winning streak. . That also snapped Tulane’s 61-game losing streak against ranked teams, which dated back to 1984 and was the longest streak in polling history.
Prior to beating Cincinnati, the Green Wave had not won a game against another Top 25 team since 1956, and the school said there were 24,142 days between those games. It took only seven days to do it again.
CONSECUTIVE HEISMAN WINNERS?
With Williams as the frontrunner, the Cotton Bowl could have back-to-back games with Heisman Trophy winners. Alabama and Heisman winning quarterback Bryce Young played in last season’s CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl.
The last consecutive Cotton Bowl Heisman winners were Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie in 1984 and Auburn running back Bo Jackson in 1985.
TROY MEN AT JERRYWORLD
USC will play its third game at AT&T Stadium. Tulane has never played there.
The Trojans lost their 2016 season opener there 52-6 to Alabama, and another scheduled game against the Tide at JerryWorld in 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic. USC lost to Ohio State 24-7 in the Cotton Bowl five years ago.
When Cincinnati became the first team in the Group of Five to reach the four-team playoffs last season, the Bearcats played their national semifinal game against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.
With this season being the Cotton Bowl’s actual turn in the rotation to host the top-ranked G5 team, it becomes the first New Year’s Six bowl to host G5 teams in back-to-back years since the four-team playoff began in 2014.
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