Caleb Williams Transfers to USC, Shifting College Football Futures Markets
It’s been an incredibly eventful offseason so far for USC football. The arrival of new head coach Lincoln Riley completely shifted the outlook for a storied program that had fallen on a bad stretch, and the odds markets were already reflective of a growing sense of positivity around this team. On Tuesday, former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams announced he is following Riley and transferring to USC.
Williams, a true freshman last year, shared time with Spencer Rattler, a high-profile quarterback in his own right, but took over as the starter as the season went on. Williams put up 1,912 passing yards and 21 touchdowns to just four interceptions. In a 52-21 win over Texas Tech, he threw for 402 yards and six touchdowns and put his incredible talent on full display. Williams ended the year with 242 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 47-32 bowl win over Oregon, a team he will play again this season in the Pac-12.
Game on 😎💯 @CALEBcsw #FightOn✌️ pic.twitter.com/hkjh8MLssR
— USC Football (@USC_FB) February 1, 2022
Caleb Williams to Win the Heisman?
With Williams’ future up in the air, his Heisman odds could be recently found at +2500 on FanDuel Sportsbook. It remained unclear if he would return to Oklahoma, follow Riley to USC, or even transfer to Wisconsin, a potential late destination. After his USC decision, Williams can be found at +1200 odds on FanDuel. On PointsBet, Williams’ 2022 Heisman odds dropped from +1200 to +800. 2021 Heisman finalists Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are the only players listed at shorter odds.
Riley coached Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray to back-to-back Heisman Trophy awards in 2017 and 2018. In addition, Jalen Hurts finished second in Heisman voting behind only LSU’s Joe Burrow in 2019. Williams has comfort with Riley’s system and showed his unique skill set can produce gaudy numbers last season. In addition to the high-profile nature of USC football and the likelihood that Williams could lead the Trojans to the College Football Playoff for the first time in his first season in Los Angeles, his Heisman odds are worth a wager.
This all begs the question, though. Could Williams lead USC to a national championship?
USC Title Futures
Despite the high-profile hiring of Lincoln Riley and rampant speculation surrounding Caleb Williams, USC could be found at +8000 odds to win the national title on FanDuel Sportsbook. Those odds put them around other upstart programs like Tennessee and North Carolina in title futures. Now, USC’s national title odds have dropped to +4000 on FanDuel. On DraftKings, USC’s title odds fell from +3000 to +2500, the fifth-shortest odds after Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and Clemson.
Pac-12 futures have not yet been released, but USC will likely be at or near the top in odds for a conference that lost a lot of its luster last season. Oregon lost its best player in Kayvon Thibodeaux. While Dorian Thompson-Robinson is returning for his senior season, UCLA will likely fall behind their Los Angeles neighbor in Pac-12 title odds.
— Lincoln Riley (@LincolnRiley) February 1, 2022
Is USC Worth Betting On?
USC struggled mightily last season with a 4-8 record overall and a 3-6 record in the Pac-12. They ranked as high as 14th in the AP poll, but Clay Helton was dismissed just two games into the season following a shocking 42-28 loss to a Stanford team that finished last year with just a 3-9 record. The Trojans allowed 31.8 points per game, the second-most in the Pac-12, and struggled in all three phases of the game.
However, USC’s numbers last season aren’t particularly prescriptive for what this new roster will look like, especially after some key additions. Wide receiver Mario Williams, Caleb Williams’ top target at Oklahoma, and cornerback Latrell McCutchin both followed Riley from Oklahoma to USC. Running back Travis Dye is also joining the team after transferring from Oregon. Dye finished last year with 1,673 yards from scrimmage and 18 total touchdowns.
I say this as a Southern California football fan who would love nothing more than for USC to be a powerhouse program right away – exercise some caution when placing wagers on this team. The arrivals of Riley and Williams are absolutely cause for optimism, and within a few years, I have no doubt this program will be competing among the elites in the country. However, it likely won’t happen overnight.
Williams would still need to beat out Young and Stroud to win the Heisman, and USC would need to beat out Alabama and Georgia to win the championship. This team is moving in the right direction and should be fun to watch this season, however, so placing a few small bets could be an excellent investment from an entertainment aspect.