A game against Rice won’t make or break the Heisman Trophy race for any candidate, unless that candidate loses the game or is awful beyond all comprehension. We don’t need to worry about either of those scenarios for Caleb Williams as he begins a promising, hyped, scrutinized, and very consequential season at USC under Lincoln Riley.
However, there is a balance which needs to be struck in this opener against Rice. Caleb Williams needs to establish himself as the leader of this offense. Players need to leave this game knowing what Caleb can do on the field, and they need to use this game to get a better feel for how their quarterback will respond in various live-game situations. Caleb’s USC teammates need to gain information about him and the offense.
Yet, at the same time, while USC players need to gain information, the Trojans can’t give Stanford too much information for Week 2. This is a game plan which should be more vanilla than most. The fact that the weather will be extremely hot means USC should not want to have as many plays in this game as it would in other circumstances, the Stanford game being a good example. This is a game in which players need a workout and a live-game test, but they definitely don’t need to be overextended in the heat. Fewer plays, not more, would be good.
Caleb Williams needs to make a few big plays so that USC can grab a big lead in the first half and then drain the clock to reduce the workload for everyone else on the roster in these brutal (hot) conditions. This is not a game in which he should be throwing 30 or more passes. A few home runs, combined with a low overall amount of passes, would be ideal.
USC should try to establish the run early against a smaller Rice front. Caleb Williams, as he did in the spring game, needs to distribute the ball to a lot of different receivers so that they all feel part of the offense and know they need to be ready when called upon in future games.
A stat line which would be ideal for this game: Think of something along the lines of 14 of 18 passing for 225 yards with no picks, plus 30 rushing yards on one downfield scramble (not several running plays).