Caleb Williams' final year at USC will not include a repeat trip to New York City as a Heisman finalist. On Friday, we found out just how far he missed out on the award he won last year.
The Heisman Trophy Trust revealed the entire top 10 in voting for the 2023 version of the award, specifically the six players who finished behind Jayden Daniels, Marvin Harrison Jr., Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. One member of that quartet will receive the award on Saturday.
Behind them were, in order, Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe, Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon II, Missouri running back Cody Schrader, Michigan running back Blake Corum and Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy.
Williams didn't make the cut, nor did Drake Maye, the UNC quarterback expected to challenge Williams for the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
The fifth through 10th spots in the 2023 Heisman balloting were released tonight on The Top 10 Heisman Trophy Reveal Show Presented by @NissanUSA that aired live on @ESPN. #HeismanTrophy #MoreThanATrophy pic.twitter.com/QlFZkSAn7H
— The Heisman Trophy (@HeismanTrophy) December 9, 2023
Williams not winning the Heisman is hardly a surprise, but seeing at least 10 players voted above him underscores how badly USC's season went, and the importance of narrative and team context in what is supposed to be an individual award.
Here's a fun exercise. Take a look at these stat lines and decide which quarterback you would want on your team:
Quarterback A: 302.75 passing yards per game, 30 TDs, 5 INTs, 68.6% completion rate, 9.4 yards per attempt, 142 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs
Quarterback B: 324.5 passing yards per game, 33 TDs, 9 INTs, 65.9% completion rate, 9.1 yards per attempt, -18 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs
Quarterback C: 313.5 passing yards per game, 37 TDs, 4 INTs, 66.1% completion rate, 9.1 yards per attempt, 372 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs
Quarterback A is Caleb Williams. Quarterback B is Michael Penix Jr. Quarterback C is Caleb Williams at the time he won the Heisman Trophy last year. Williams was actually a more efficient passer this year by passer rating (170.1 to 168.5), and posted those stats with a worse supporting cast than Penix.
If anything, those numbers show how much USC wasted a generational talent this year. They wasted him last year too, but they at least went 11-3 and reached the Cotton Bowl. This year, the record was 7-5, with a torrent of humiliation submerging the second half of the Trojans' schedule. A porous defense and subpar play in the trenches left USC incapable of challenging quality teams, right up to a 38-20 loss to rival UCLA to end the regular season.
USC has taken a nice step to fix its biggest woes with the poaching of UCLA defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn, but Williams obviously won't be around to benefit from that. He has already opted out of the Holiday Bowl against Louisville.