What Adding Caleb Williams & Lincoln Riley Means for USC Futures & Betting Power Ratings
Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images. Pictured: Lincoln Riley.
Caleb Williams is officially a USC Trojan.
When his head coach, Lincoln Riley, left Oklahoma for USC and Williams entered the transfer portal, Los Angeles became the most logical location for the quarterback to end up.
Williams began the season as Oklahoma’s backup behind preseason Heisman Trophy favorite Spencer Rattler. But when Texas took a 38-20 halftime lead over the Sooners in the Red River Rivalry, Riley inserted Williams into the game.
He became the full-time starter one week later.
Williams led the Sooners to a 55-48 victory in Dallas, throwing for 212 yards and two touchdowns while running for another 88 yards and a score in just over one half of play.
The signal-caller finished the season with 1,912 yards passing to go along with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. He added 442 yards and six scores on the ground.
That drop in odds makes sense considering who his coach will be again.
In his five seasons at Oklahoma, Riley coached Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray to back-to-back Heisman Trophy awards in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Another Riley-coached quarterback, Jalen Hurts, finished second in Heisman voting behind LSU’s Joe Burrow in 2019.
Riley won four Big 12 titles during his time in Norman while making four trips to the College Football Playoff.
Now in Los Angeles, Riley is expected to lead the Trojans back to the pinnacle of college football. USC’s national title odds dropped from +3000 to +2500 (DraftKings) after the Williams transfer, the fifth-shortest odds behind only Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson.
The biggest free agent in the college football transfer portal has made a decision. Caleb Williams has confirmed the rumors of his transfer to USC, where he follows his former Oklahoma head coach, Lincoln Riley.
This move jumps USC’s ranking in offensive TARP from a negative value to +3 and projects to make the Trojans within a touchdown power rating of Oregon.
The transfer also helps a depleted quarterback room after Jaxson Dart moved on to Ole Miss and Kedon Slovis headed to Pitt.
Williams will bring his 18:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio to Southern Cal as a dual-threat quarterback. The sophomore generated 19 missed tackles in 30 rushing attempts after becoming the starter for the Sooners — although fumbles were logged in almost every game, including four against Oklahoma State.
Williams must improve in a crowded pocket, as his adjusted completion rate fell 27% in pressured dropbacks. This is an important element in the USC 2022 handicap, as the Trojans return just 47% of snaps on the offensive line.
With the Travis Dye transfer from Oregon, USC will field one of the most explosive ground attacks through the RPO.
With adjustments to TARP and using a new power rating to assess the Trojans’ upcoming schedule, Williams will lead his team into bowl season. A projection of 7.4 wins exists before rosters are firm prior to spring practices.
There is no reason to think USC will not be undefeated heading into Rice-Eccles Stadium on Oct. 15.
Caleb Williams’ transfer to USC obviously improves the Trojans tremendously given his familiarity with Lincoln Riley’s system. However, the question remains: Does that make them a favorite to win the Pac-12 or make them a national title contender? I say no.
Williams was a roller coaster for Oklahoma this past season. He had four games with a PFF passing grade above 80 and four games with a passing grade below 68. In fact, in his last three regular-season games against the three best defenses Oklahoma played — Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma State — he averaged only 6.4 yards per attempt and had three big-time throws compared to five turnover-worthy plays, per PFF.
Williams will have plenty of talent to throw to, as four-star recruits Mario Williams (Oklahoma) and Brenden Rice (Colorado), Jerry Rice’s son, have transferred to USC for the upcoming season.
The Trojans also have Oregon transfer Travis Dye coming in to take over the starting running back role.
USC’s schedule is relatively easy, too, with its toughest test coming against Utah in Salt Lake City. Additionally, per Collin Wilson’s TARP ratings, no defense in the Pac-12 has a positive rating heading into the season, which means Williams could light up the conference.
The only question mark is the offensive line. Per TARP, only 47.18% of the offensive line snaps return to USC.
So, as it stands today, USC is definitely not on the level of Alabama, Georgia, or Ohio State. But that’s not to say it can’t get there in a few years if it recruits the trenches better.
Still, I wouldn’t touch USC to win it all at 25-1.