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Heisman Watch: Caleb Williams’ stock continues to rise, new QBs enters race

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USC Stanford Football

USC quarterback Caleb Williams has the Trojans turning heads with their prolific offense.

In this week's FPBcast, Gerry Ahern and Mike Szvetitz mull over their picks and predictions for the week that was and will be in football.

In this space last week, we wondered whether the ultra-efficient performance from Caleb Williams during his USC debut was a product of the Trojans playing an overmatched Rice squad.

The Oklahoma transfer answered that rather emphatically in Week 2. USC put up 41 points at Stanford behind another impressive display from Williams, who tossed four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Williams has now vaulted to second on the Heisman Trophy odds board. He passed the defending champion, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who led a pair of scoring drives late in the fourth quarter to stave off Texas’ upset bid but didn’t put up huge numbers overall. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud has now resumed his preseason spot as the Heisman favorite after beating up on Arkansas State, although the race still feels wide open.

Continuing with the quarterback theme, a new signal-caller has emerged as a serious contender. Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel is up to sixth on the list of favorites at +2800, according to DraftKings. He didn’t make the biggest move up the odds board, however. That would be Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who strafed Hawaii in his first start.

FrontPageBets breaks down how all of the above quarterbacks fared in Week 2 and what’s in store for each next weekend.

(Odds courtesy of DraftKings and subject to change)

C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State (+260)

After Ohio State had to grind out a win in its season-opener against Notre Dame, Stroud and the Buckeye offense put up the type of numbers we expected to see in Week 2. Stroud completed 16 of 24 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns despite watching the majority of the fourth quarter from the sidelines.

After earning an invite to New York last year, he’s now back in the driver’s seat as the betting favorite to lift the Heisman. Stroud will have another week to put up big numbers against lesser competition this week when Toledo visits Ohio Stadium before a key conference matchup against Wisconsin.

Caleb Williams, QB, USC (+320)

Williams’ preseason odds have been more than cut in half after two games in a USC uniform. Williams completed 20 of 27 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns in the Trojans’ win at Stanford on Saturday.

Clearly, the new-look offense that Lincoln Riley brought with him to Los Angeles has clicked quickly. Three of Williams’ scores and 246 of his yards went to fellow transfers Jordan Addison and Mario Williams. The fact that the Trojan defense gave up 441 yards might actually help Williams’ Heisman campaign, too, as he will likely play in a lot of shootouts this season.

USC will return home this week to play host to Fresno State.

Two top-10 teams lose at home. Georgia takes top spot in AP poll. NFL kicks off with handful of upsets.

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama (+340)

It wasn’t always pretty for Young during Alabama’s nationally-televised showdown at Texas. But when it mattered most, he came through, as usual.

Young completed 27 of 39 passes and threw for 213 yards Saturday. His lone touchdown didn’t come until midway through the fourth quarter. Alabama’s offense found the end zone just twice.

However, Young made a couple jaw-dropping plays down the stretch. First, he pump-faked, avoided pressure then found Jahmyr Gibbs in the end zone while falling down to give Alabama a fourth quarter lead. Then, he coolly dodged an unblocked rusher and scrambled for 20 yards on the Crimson Tide’s final drive to set up the game-winning field goal.

Young’s Heisman stock dipped a bit not because of concern about his playmaking ability but the offense around him. Alabama’s line struggled to block Texas’ defensive front, and the Crimson Tide clearly miss Jameson Williams and John Metchie at wideout. The team’s leading wide receiver Saturday, Traeshon Holden, caught four passes for 39 yards.

Young and Alabama get a respite next week against Louisiana-Monroe.

Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma (+2800)

Gabriel transferred from Central Florida to replace Williams in Norman and is off to a strong start. Gabriel completed 21 of 28 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns as the Sooners rolled past Kent State on Saturday, 33-3.

Through two games at Oklahoma, Gabriel has completed better than 70% of his passes while throwing for 529 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Those performances have come against UTEP and Kent State. Oklahoma will face Power Five competition the rest of the way this season, starting with Saturday’s matchup at reeling Nebraska.

If Gabriel can keep up his efficiency and Oklahoma can keep winning as the schedule gets tougher, he could have a real chance to join the long list of Sooner quarterbacks to win the Heisman.

J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan (+4000)

McCarthy made his first career start Saturday as Michigan blew past Hawaii. The sophomore’s stat line was impressive, as he completed 11 of 12 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

However, more important to his Heisman campaign was the fact that Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh named McCarthy the team’s starter for this week’s matchup against UConn -- and likely beyond. McCarthy saw spot duty behind Cade McNamara as a true freshman a year ago and showed glimpses of his dual-threat playmaking ability. If he can turn that potential into consistent production, he could be a factor in the Heisman discussion.

McCarthy should have a chance to put up even bigger numbers this week against a UConn defense that just gave up 48 points to Syracuse before Michigan starts Big Ten play against Maryland.

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Mitchell Forde is a freelance writer who covers college football for FrontPageBets. Follow him @Mitchell4D

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