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USC headed to Cotton Bowl to play Tulane

After being left out of the College Football Playoff field, USC will still be heading to a New Year’s Six bowl.

The Trojans (11-2) were selected with an at-large bid to go to the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 to play Tulane (11-2). The game will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Following the regular season, USC was in position to go to the CFP for the first time in history. But a 47-24 loss to Utah on Friday in the Pac-12 championship game knocked the Trojans from that consideration, with USC finishing No. 10 in the final CFP rankings.

USC has twice played in the Cotton Bowl, going 1-1 in those appearances. The last trip to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex was in 2017, when the Trojans lost 24-7 to Ohio State.

The Trojans will enter bowl season with some injury concerns. Quarterback Caleb Williams, who remains a top Heisman candidate, pulled his hamstring in the first quarter of the Pac-12 title game and was clearly limited through the rest of the contest, not showing his trademark elusiveness in the pocket.

And senior center Brett Neilon appeared to injure his ankle against Utah, too. The four-year starter posted a farewell to USC on Instagram on Saturday, appearing to concede that the injury will keep him out of USC’s bowl game.

“It was an absolute honor to put on this uniform and be a Trojan,” Neilon wrote. “Im (sic) damn proud to be apart (sic) of this special program.”

Tulane earned its way into the Cotton Bowl by virtue of being the highest-ranked G5 program. The Green Wave defeated UCF 45-28 in the American Conference championship game on Saturday.

Like USC turning its program around under first-year head coach Lincoln Riley after last season’s 4-8 record, No. 16 Tulane is another turnaround story. The Green Wave went 2-10 in 2021 and bounced back for its first double-digit-win season since a 12-0 campaign in 1998.

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