Caleb Williams is perhaps the most intriguing candidate among the Heisman favorites. Williams barely played in Oklahoma’s first five games last season, but came on in relief of Spencer Rattler and led the Sooners to a stunning comeback win against Texas. Williams’ Heisman candidacy took off after that as he put up big numbers over the next three games and made one of the signature plays of the season with his heads up first down conversion against Kansas. Williams had a ton of momentum going his way, but that was halted after he was benched in a poor performance against Baylor. Nevertheless, the true Freshman turned a lot of heads and now he heads to Southern California as Lincoln Riley brought the calvary to USC.
Caleb Williams Heisman Odds: +850
The Case For Betting Caleb Williams
Lincoln Riley is a quarterbacking king maker and some members of the national media have started gassing up the Trojans big time. Riley’s Oklahoma offenses always put up tons of points and things should be no different in LA. The Trojans return second and third leading receivers Tahj Washington and Gary Bryant Jr who combined for 98 catches last year. Mario Williams transferred in from Oklahoma after a 35 catch, four touchdown freshman season. The crowning jewel came when USC shocked the college football world by landing Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh. The Trojans receiving room is LOADED which obviously helps Williams.
Williams also has lots of room to grow as a quarterback. A lot of his success last year came on receivers winning battles for 50-50 balls. If he grows as a passer, his ceiling as a player is extremely high. There’s also added narrative involved with USC. USC is one the preeminent bluebood programs in the sport, but the Trojans program has been on a downswing for a while. USC has won just one Pac-12 title since winning seven straight from 2002-08 in the Pete Carroll heydey. If Riley can come in and get USC to contendership in year one Williams will very likely be a big part of it and that will help his cause with Heisman voters.
The Case Against Betting Caleb Williams
The USC defense stunk out loud in 2021. USC was 106th in defensive SP+. They were 117th in EPA per play defense. They were 112th in the country in pass efficiency defense. They gave up 4.6 yards per carry on the ground. Alex Grinch came with Riley from USC and while he’s a good coach, he’s not a miracle worker. USC will probably have to win some shootouts to contend for the Pac-12 title which would be good for Williams’ Heisman case, but it also increases the chances they lose games. Much of USC’s season will hinge on a critical road game at Utah. The Utes are very tough to beat at home and should have a pretty potent offense themselves. With a win Williams vaults himself into serious Heisman discussion. With a loss and the Trojans are behind the eight ball in the Pac-12 South race and thus the playoff race and it’s so hard for candidates at power programs to get Heisman votes if they don’t play on a playoff contender.
Heisman voters aren’t particularly savvy. The narrative has already been established that USC is going to hit the ground running under Lincoln Riley. Even if Caleb Williams puts up big numbers, but USC disappoints because their defense isn’t good enough to get stops when they need to then Williams is going to suffer in the Heisman race. It sucks that his Heisman hopes may be beyond his control, but that’s how it goes sometimes. USC are the favorites to win the Pac-12. If they don’t win it, then it’s just hard to see Caleb Williams winning the Heisman.
Betting on Caleb Willams to win the Heisman comes down to how you feel about USC as a whole. If you do buy the narrative that Lincoln Riley is going to win right away then you have no reason not to bet on him to win the Heisman. I think USC will have a good but not great year this year and really make the jump in year two under Riley. I fully recognize I could be wrong about it, but even as the sport changes you need to be able to play some defense to win games. USC should have trouble with Utah and Notre Dame and really could be in a few shootouts that could go either way. I don’t fault anyone for rolling with Lincoln Riley’s track record and betting some Williams here.