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San Jose State vs. No. 6 USC: Caleb Williams’ Heisman defense begins, history hugely against repeat

The highest-ranked college football team in action in Saturday’s Week Zero is No. 6 USC as it hosts a solid San Jose State team with the Trojans at -31. Southern Cal quarterback Caleb Williams begins the defense of his 2022 Heisman Trophy as the +450 favorite to repeat, but there are two massive trends working against the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Even casual college football fans know that the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy is former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin in 1974-75. That’s back when college football offenses were still tailored to tailbacks. That’s not the case now and has shown in the Heisman results as just one running back since 2010 has won the award (Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015). A total of 18 of the past 22 winners since 2000 have been quarterbacks.

Caleb Williams looks to make Heisman history.

Voters essentially expect the previous year’s winner to exceed what he did the following season to repeat and that’s awfully tough to do. Good luck to Williams beating what he did in 2022 in leading the #FightOn to the Pac-12 title game and setting school records for total offense (4,919 yards), most touchdowns scored rushing and passing (52), passing completions (333), passes attempted (500), most passing yards gained (4,537), most touchdown passes thrown (42, first nationally), lowest rate of interceptions (1%, 5 in 500 attempts) and highest passing efficiency rating (168.5).

If that’s not enough working against Williams, the only preseason favorite to win the Heisman since 2010 was Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in 2014 at +425, and he was barely favored over 2013 winner Jameis Winston (+500) of Florida State. In 2017, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield was the favorite for some of the offseason but by the time it kicked off, USC’s Sam Darnold was the +450 leader.

For this year, Williams is set at over-under 3600.5 passing yards and 32.5 passing TDs. No other player to win the 2023 Heisman is below +1100. For Saturday against San Jose State, he is set at over-under 313.5 passing yards, 3.5 passing TDs and -145 for an anytime TD.

The Top 11 Heisman favorites are all quarterbacks. Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison (+2000) has the shortest odds of any non-QB and is taking huge action at many books – even though the Buckeyes haven’t named their starting QB yet.

USC was 2-0 against the spread last season as at least a 30-point favorite in Year 1 under Lincoln Riley and Williams, both from Oklahoma. San Jose State was 7-6 SU last year but 0-7 ATS in its final seven games, tied for the longest active ATS losing streak in the FBS. The #AllSpartans are 8-1 ATS in their past nine as double-digit dogs.

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