Heisman Watch: USC's Caleb Williams moves into the driver's seat

What a difference a week makes.

At this time last week, two favorites had seemed to separate from the rest of the pack of Heisman Trophy contenders, with several others within arm’s distance on the odds board at BetMGM.

Now it’s Caleb Williams and everybody else.

Williams, the USC quarterback, is now the heavy betting favorite, listed at -2500. Next in line is Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud, but he’s all the way down at +2000. Williams and Stroud are two of just four players with listed betting odds at BetMGM. That’s how much the field has shrunk in the eyes of the oddsmakers.

Just two weeks ago, you could still bet Williams to win the Heisman at +1100. But a lot has changed since then. While Williams’ play has ascended and has USC on the brink of the College Football Playoff, so many other Heisman candidates have fallen off.

Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker and Michigan RB Blake Corum got hurt. Oregon QB Bo Nix has been hampered by injury, too, and North Carolina QB Drake Maye’s level of play has dropped off during a two-game losing streak for UNC.

Most notably, Stroud struggled during Saturday’s Ohio State vs. Michigan showdown in Columbus — a game the Buckeyes lost handily. That opened the door for Williams, and he stormed through it in USC’s win over Notre Dame.

Williams’ level of play vs. Notre Dame came on the heels of an incredible performance vs. UCLA. Those two outings coming vs. strong competition on a national stage, coupled with other top players under-performing, has allowed Williams to barge through to the front of the pack, at least according to the oddsmakers.

Ballots were distributed on Monday, meaning there’s one final opportunity for Williams to make an impression on voters, this time vs. Utah in the Pac-12 title game.

(All odds via BetMGM)

USC quarterback Caleb Williams smiles after USC defeated Notre Dame 38-27 on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
USC quarterback Caleb Williams smiles after USC defeated Notre Dame 38-27 on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

USC QB Caleb Williams (-2500)

Williams dazzled once again on a big stage. In USC's 38-27 win over Notre Dame, Williams completed 18-of-22 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown while also adding three rushing scores.

Williams’ ability to evade the rush to keep plays alive was on full display as he made incredible play after incredible play to completely dismantle a strong Notre Dame defense.

For the season, Williams is up to 3,712 yards, 34 touchdowns and only three interceptions while completing 65.8% of his attempts. Williams has also added 351 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Williams has been the leader in USC’s massive ascendance in Year 1 under Lincoln Riley. Now only the Pac-12 title game stands between the Trojans and a playoff berth. USC’s lone loss of the season came at Utah back in October. Now the Trojans can get revenge while punching a ticket to the CFP and wrapping up a Heisman for Williams.

Ohio State QB CJ Stroud (+2000)

Stroud has been the Heisman favorite for the majority of the season. Just last week, he was listed at -135, well ahead of the rest of the pack.

Stroud had been putting up strong numbers as Ohio State rolled through Big Ten competition and the path to the Heisman seemed pretty straightforward. If Stroud led OSU past rival Michigan and into the Big Ten title game, where the Buckeyes would have been massive favorites over the Big Ten West representative, he would have factored heavily into the mix. He may have even won the award.

Instead, Stroud and the Buckeyes turned in a lackluster performance in a 45-23 home loss. Stroud threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns, but he had two interceptions and really did nothing to put the team on his back like Williams has in recent weeks.

Now 11-1 and without a conference championship game to play, there’s still a chance the Buckeyes can squeak into the four-team field. But the team’s performance on Saturday is going to be the last impression Stroud gave to voters. He may make it to New York, but his chances of winning took a massive hit.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud drops back to pass against Michigan on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

TCU QB Max Duggan (+2500)

TCU’s Max Duggan continues to feel like an afterthought in the Heisman race, but he shouldn’t be. Duggan has been an integral part of TCU’s epic season. The senior has thrown for 3,070 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Horned Frogs, who capped off a perfect 12-0 season by trouncing Iowa State on Saturday.

TCU was ranked No. 4 in the most-recent CFP rankings and will almost certainly move up thanks to Ohio State’s loss. TCU should already be in the playoff, but it can make sure that CFP berth is sealed with a win over Kansas State in the Big 12 title game.

If Duggan leads the Horned Frogs to a Big 12 title and into the four-team playoff, he'll be hard for voters to ignore.

Georgia QB Stetson Bennett (+10000)

The fourth and final player listed on the Heisman odds board at BetMGM is Stetson Bennett.

Bennett led Georgia to another undefeated regular season with a matchup vs. LSU in Saturday’s SEC title game next on the schedule. From there, Bennett and the Bulldogs will look to defend last year’s national championship.

Bennett has had a strong season. He’s thrown for 3,151 yards, which ranks No. 18 nationally. He has thrown 16 touchdowns with six interceptions and has added seven rushing touchdowns on the year.

Bennett has been very efficient and Georgia is the favorite to win the national championship. But it’s hard to see Bennett getting much Heisman love without the eye-popping statistics that others possess.