2022 Heisman Trophy Candidates: Pac-12 Conference
The Pac-12 is going to look very different in 2024 compared to 2022, when USC and UCLA will join the Big Ten and leave behind the other member schools in the conference. This year, though, USC is still in the Pac-12, and Lincoln Riley will coach against the rest of the Pac-12. That is a starting point for a discussion of potential Heisman Trophy candidates in the Pac-12.
Caleb Williams, Quarterback, USC
Caleb Williams is clearly the top Heisman candidate in the Pac-12. He was brilliant last year at Oklahoma, throwing only four interceptions while throwing and running for a large number of touchdowns. What will help Williams this year is that he will go into August training camp knowing he is the starting quarterback for the whole year. No one will take the job away from him. Last year, Caleb Williams did not have that comfort zone at Oklahoma. He went into 2021 knowing that Spencer Rattler was the top quarterback for the Sooners. Williams didn’t replace Rattler until October, when he led a comeback victory against Texas. This year, Caleb Williams will play the whole way, from start to finish. That, plus Lincoln Riley’s continued guidance as an offensive mastermind, should give Williams the resources and support he needs to make a significant push for the stiff-arm trophy.
Jordan Addison, Wide Receiver, USC
The fact that Jordan Addison plays with Caleb Williams, himself a top Heisman candidate, could undermine Addison’s Heisman chances. However, we saw in 2020 that a great receiver can rise above the quarterback on his team to win the award. DeVonta Smith beat out teammate Mac Jones for the 2020 Heisman at Alabama. It could be the same for Addison and Williams at USC. Caleb Williams might have a great season, but Addison could have an even greater season. If Addison makes spectacular catches and clutch catches, and he makes the kinds of plays which define USC’s season, he could rise above Caleb Williams and give the Heisman another victory for wide receivers.
Cameron Rising, Quarterback, Utah
The USC Trojans will be centrally challenged by the defending Pac-12 champions, the Utah Utes. Utah has been able to become a top-tier Pac-12 program because its quarterback play has improved. Utah did not get the level of quarterback performance it needed to win conference championships in previous years. The Utes’ offense would run out of steam in November and lose a game the team should not have lost. Cam Rising, in 2021, prevented Utah from losing that kind of game late in the season. He was a very efficient passer and a capable runner who kept the Utes’ offense balanced and unpredictable. If Rising can lead Utah past USC and give the Utes back-to-back Pac-12 championships, he is going to get a long look as a Heisman candidate this year.
Tavion Thomas, Running Back, Utah
If Cam Rising has a solid but not spectacular season, and Tavion Thomas gives Utah an elite rushing attack which helps the Utes rise above Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams, and USC, Thomas could become the Pac-12’s surprising dark-horse candidate for the stiff-arm trophy.