Can Caleb Williams Win the Heisman Trophy? Why the Oklahoma QB Faces Uphill Battle

Can Caleb Williams Win the Heisman Trophy? Why the Oklahoma QB Faces Uphill Battle article feature image
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Brian Bahr/Getty Images. Pictured: Caleb Williams.

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley knows what a Heisman Trophy winner looks like.

Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018) won the Heisman under Riley’s tutelage, while Jalen Hurts finished as the Heisman runner-up in 2019.

Riley’s starting quarterback this year, Spencer Rattler, entered this season as the Heisman favorite at +300. Rattler threw for 3,031 yards with 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 67.5% of his passes in his first year as a starter.

Due to the past results of Oklahoma quarterbacks, many expected Rattler to take the next step and win the Heisman like his predecessors.

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It turns out Riley may not have been starting his best quarterback.

Down 28-7 against archrival Texas, Riley inserted freshman backup Caleb Willams into the game, and the Sooners scored 48 points after that change. Williams went 16-of-25 for 212 yards and two touchdown passes while adding 88 yards on the ground, including a 66-yard touchdown. He led the Sooners to a 55-48 win and delivered a Heisman moment.

He followed that up by going 18-of-23 for 295 with four touchdown passes and running for 66 yards and another touchdown against TCU one week later. Oklahoma defeated the Horned Frogs, 52-31, and improved to 6-0.

That performance moved Williams to +5000 to win the Heisman. But can he actually win it this year?

The freshman has appeared in five games this season, but he only really has a game and a half worth of stats and snaps as the starter.

That means Williams is weeks behind the other top contenders for the award. In the last 15 years or so, Heisman-winning quarterbacks have either had 5,000 yards of total offense or 50 touchdowns. That puts Williams at a severe disadvantage.

Oklahoma has five regular-season games remaining, and it has the inside track to appear in the Big 12 Championship, so that would give Williams six games as a starter.

The Sooners have yet to play Iowa State or Oklahoma State, both of which it could see again in the Big 12 Championship game. That would give Williams two chances to impress against one of the best defenses in the Big 12.

However, Williams is still only on pace for 2,124 passing yards, 24 touchdown passes, 616 rushing yards, and eight rushing touchdowns. That would leave him well behind the pace of previous Heisman winners and this year’s frontrunners.

That’s not the only precedent that Williams has going against him, according to our own Brett McMurphy.

Can Caleb Williams win the Heisman Trophy? @Brett_McMurphy tells @_Collin1 why history says it's not happening

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The Heisman Trophy is given to the nation’s most outstanding player. Williams may be that, but he will only have the opportunity to prove it eight times. He would only be the sixth Heisman winner not to play in all of his team’s games.

It doesn’t help matters that Alabama quarterback and Heisman favorite Bryce Young will likely have the opportunity to cement his case against Georgia and its dominant defense in the SEC Championship.

If Young lights the Bulldogs up, it will be impossible for Williams to catch up.

While a Heisman bet on Williams is a fun lottery ticket, it’s more likely that he gets his shot next season.

Assuming he’s still the starter and Rattler transfers, Williams will be one of the favorites to win the award next season. However, the value will be significantly reduced.

If you’re looking for some action on Williams this year, WynnBET has Williams at +200 to finish in the top three of Heisman voting. A strong finish to the year could allow Williams to earn an invitation to New York and serve as a precursor to what he accomplishes next season.

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