USC QB Caleb Williams wins 2022 Heisman Trophy

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams holds the Heisman Trophy after winning the award Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in New York. (Todd Van Emst/Pool Photo via AP)
Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams holds the Heisman Trophy after winning the award Saturday night in New York. (Todd Van Emst/Pool Photo via AP)

Quarterback Caleb Williams became the first USC player to win the Heisman Trophy since 2005 on Saturday night.

Williams was one of four finalists — all quarterbacks — in New York for college football’s most prestigious award. He beat TCU’s Max Duggan, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Georgia’s Stetson Bennett.

"I may get to be standing up here today, but y'all get to go to the College Football Playoff," Williams said to his fellow finalists shortly after winning the award. "Guess you can't win them all."

TCU, Ohio State and Georgia are in the playoff along with Michigan. Duggan finished second in the voting while Stroud was third and Bennett was fourth.

The Trojans star threw for 37 touchdowns against just four interceptions and also rushed for 10 scores. Williams was tied with Stroud and Clayton Tune for the most passing touchdowns in 2022 and his 47 total touchdowns were two more than Western Kentucky’s Austin Reed. USC finished the regular season 11-1 and had a shot to make the College Football Playoff before losing the Pac-12 title game to Utah. The Utes were the only team to beat the Trojans in 2022.

Williams completed two-thirds of his passes and averaged 9.1 yards an attempt in his first season at USC. He transferred to Southern Cal after the school made a splash and hired Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley as head coach at the conclusion of the 2021 season. Williams had emerged as Oklahoma’s starter as a freshman over preseason Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler in 2021 and threw for 21 TDs on just 211 passing attempts.

Riley, meanwhile, joins Tommy Prothro as the only coaches to coach multiple Heisman winners at different schools after Oklahoma quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won the award. In his acceptance speech, Williams mentioned the switch he and Riley made to Southern Cal in the offseason and how their dreams of winning a national title still remained.

Officially, Williams is the first USC player to win the Heisman Trophy since Matt Leinart in 2004. Leinart’s teammate Reggie Bush won the Heisman in 2005, but his win is officially vacated because of improper benefits that would likely be allowed under the NCAA’s current name, image and likeness rules.

Counting Bush, USC has now produced more Heisman winners than any other school with eight. Officially, Williams’ win means USC is now tied with Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma with seven winners.

Williams is also the 19th quarterback to win the award in the 2000s. Only Bush, Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry and DeVonta Smith have won the award over the past 23 years and not played quarterback.

Since he's a sophomore, Williams will be back in college football for the 2023 season. He's the eighth second-year player to win the award dating back to Tim Tebow's win as a sophomore in 2007. Alabama's Bryce Young won as a sophomore a season ago.

Williams’ consistent season

USC’s strong close to the regular season and Williams’ consistent excellence were huge reasons why he became the overwhelming favorite for the Heisman over the final weeks of the season.

Williams threw for over 250 yards in all but three of USC’s games and didn’t have a game with multiple interceptions. His worst performance of the season came in a Week 4 win against Oregon State when he was 16-of-36 for 180 yards and a TD.

Williams completed nearly 60% of his passes and threw for 381 yards and five touchdowns in USC’s regular-season loss to Utah. He followed that up with another five-TD performance in a win against Arizona the next week and then threw four TDs against Cal.

USC ended the season with wins over ranked rivals UCLA and Notre Dame. Williams threw for 470 yards and two TDs and ran for another in the three-point win over the Bruins and completed over 80% of his passes and had four total touchdowns in the win over Notre Dame.

That victory over the Fighting Irish meant USC simply needed to beat Utah in the Pac-12 title game to make the College Football Playoff. But Williams injured his left hamstring in the first half on a fantastic 59-yard run and was unable to move well the rest of the game. While he threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns, Williams also threw an interception and was a sitting duck in the pocket at times because of the injury as USC’s defense got run over.

An overwhelming Heisman victory

Williams’ 544 first-place votes were nearly triple the number of first-place votes Duggan had (188). Stroud received 37 first-place votes while Bennett got 36 first-place votes. Duggan was listed in second on 357 ballots while Stroud was in third on 190 ballots.

Here's how the top 10 in the voting looked. Nos. 5-10 were announced Thursday night.

1. USC QB Caleb Williams

2. TCU QB Max Duggan

3. Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud

4. Georgia QB Stetson Bennett

5. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker

6. Alabama QB Bryce Young

7. Michigan RB Blake Corum

8. Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.

9. Texas RB Bijan Robinson

10. North Carolina QB Drake Maye