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How USC’s Caleb Williams compares with Heisman finalists, past Trojan QBs

USC quarterback Caleb Williams will have to add a new shelf to his trophy case after the day he had Thursday. The sophomore was named the Associated Press Player of the Year, then won the Walter Camp and Maxwell Awards during the College Football Awards Show on Thursday night.

And if history is any indication, Williams will be adding the Heisman Trophy to his collection by the end of Saturday night.

The Trojan star was named one of four finalists for college football’s most prestigious award Monday night, alongside TCU’s Max Duggan, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Georgia’s Stetson Bennett IV. The four quarterbacks were in New York City on Friday, posing for pictures and answering questions ahead of Saturday’s ceremony at the Lincoln Center.

Williams entered Manhattan as the favorite to win the Heisman, and Thursday’s haul of trophies certainly added to his front-runner status. But when comparing his 2022 campaign to those of the two other USC quarterbacks to win the award, Matt Leinart in 2004 and Carson Palmer in 2002, it seems even more likely that Williams becomes the eighth Trojan to hoist the Heisman.

In his first season as a Trojan, Williams completed 296 of 448 passes (66.1%). He threw for 4,075 yards, 37 touchdowns and four interceptions. And he rushed 109 times for 372 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The rushing yards by a quarterback and the total touchdowns are USC single-season records, so no need to drag the ground stats of the slow-footed Leinart and Palmer into that debate.

After his regular season in 2002, Palmer had completed 62.9% of his passes for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns, to go with 10 interceptions. Leinart in 2004 completed 66.6% of his passes for 2,990 yards, 28 TDs and six interceptions in the regular season.

But comparing total statistics heading into the Heisman ceremony isn’t a fair exercise. Leinart and Palmer did not have a Pac-12 championship game to play in during their careers, so they entered award voting with only 12 games played, whereas Williams has 13.

But how do they compare on a per-game basis?

Palmer averaged 303.25 passing yards per game with 2.7 touchdowns and 0.83 interceptions. Leinart threw an average of 249.2 yards, 2.3 touchdowns and 0.5 interceptions.

And Williams’ per-game marks this season? They come out to 313.5 passing yards, 2.8 touchdowns and 0.31 interceptions.

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