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Heisman Trophy betting: USC’s Williams goes from late-season long shot to likely winner

Trojans’ electrifying quarterback comes from back of the pack to clinch college football’s top honor

USC quarterback Caleb Williams (left) celebrates a touchdown with offensive lineman Mason Murphy earlier this season. Williams, who is the overwhelming favorite to win this year's Heisman Trophy, has accounted for 44 touchdowns (34 passing, 10 rushing). (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
USC quarterback Caleb Williams (left) celebrates a touchdown with offensive lineman Mason Murphy earlier this season. Williams, who is the overwhelming favorite to win this year's Heisman Trophy, has accounted for 44 touchdowns (34 passing, 10 rushing). (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)Read moreRonald Martinez / Getty Images

If you happen to be holding a Heisman Trophy betting slip with Caleb Williams’ name on it — and that betting slip was purchased roughly a month ago — congratulations. Christmas has come early for you.

Even before this week’s slate of conference championship games are played, Williams already is a lock to hear his named called when the 2022-23 Heisman Trophy is awarded in New York City on Dec. 10.

When that happens, the sophomore quarterback from USC will have completed an impressive run from late-season Heisman Trophy afterthought to winner. And as Williams raises the trophy and smiles for the cameras, plenty of bettors who backed the Oklahoma transfer in the Heisman Trophy betting market will be sporting ear-to-ear grins, too.

That’s particularly true for those who backed Williams in late October, when his Heisman Trophy odds were at their peak.

Here’s a look back at how Williams bucked those odds to become the eighth USC player — and first since Reggie Bush in 2005 — to win college football’s most prestigious prize.

Note: Odds updated as of 11:15 a.m. on Nov. 29.

Heisman Trophy odds (via BetMGM)

Caleb Williams
Current Odds
Last Week’s Odds
Opening Odds
C.J. Stroud
Current Odds
Last Week’s Odds
Opening Odds
Max Duggan
Current Odds
Last Week’s Odds
Opening Odds
Off the board
Stetson Bennett
Current Odds
Last Week’s Odds
Opening Odds

It’s tempting to say Williams winning the Heisman is a big surprise — tempting, but not entirely accurate.

The 6-foot-1 quarterback from Washington, D.C., came off the bench as a freshman at Oklahoma last year and lit up the stat sheet. After replacing starter (and 2021 preseason Heisman favorite) Spencer Rattler, Williams completed 64.5% of his passes for 1,212 yards with 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Williams also rushed for 442 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

Although he made a midseason push up the 2021 Heisman Trophy odds board, two November losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State ended his candidacy.

Still, when he followed Sooners coach/offensive wizard Lincoln Riley to the bright lights of Hollywood during the offseason, Williams was expected to put up gaudy numbers. That’s why he opened as the third choice in BetMGM’s 2022 Heisman Trophy betting market.

Williams’ +800 preseason odds trailed only two fellow quarterbacks: Alabama’s Bryce Young, who won last year’s Heisman, opened as the +250 favorite to repeat. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud was slotted between Young and Williams at +400.

By the time USC kicked off its season Sept. 3 against Rice, Williams’ Heisman odds had dropped to +600.

That number was sliced in half after Williams started the season by completing nearly 75% of his passes (64-for-86) for 871 yards, six TDs and no picks in a trio of blowout victories over Rice, Stanford and Fresno State. Along the way, Williams led the Trojans’ offense to an average of 50.7 points.

» READ MORE: CFB championship week odds: USC, TCU barely favored

Williams rides the Heisman odds roller coaster

Even though USC raced out to a 6-0 start to the season and scored more than 40 points in four of those games, Williams’ Heisman odds tumbled at BetMGM.

He fell back to +400 after a 17-14 win at Oregon State in Week 4, then dipped all the way to +1000 heading into a Week 7 Pac-12 showdown at Utah.

Why the market adjustment? It wasn’t because Williams struggled — in fact, he had 14 passing TDs, three rushing TDs and just one interception during his team’s season-opening six-game winning streak. But he was only averaging slightly more than 200 passing yards per game.

At the same time, Stroud and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker were putting him huge numbers for undefeated teams. Both QBs jumped to the front of the Heisman pack (with Alabama’s Young falling off following an injury and a pair of midseason losses, including one to Tennessee).

However, Williams was spectacular in the Trojans’ agonizing, last-minute 43-42 loss at Utah on Oct. 15. He completed 25 of 42 passes for 383 yards and five touchdowns, while adding 57 rushing yards on eight carries.

After that performance, Williams’ Heisman odds dialed back to +700 — still behind Stroud and Hooker.

A bye week and another sensational game against Arizona — 31-for-45, 411 yards and five more passing TDs — didn’t change that reality. Because Stroud and Hooker kept producing (and winning), Williams’ Heisman odds kept stretching.

Following the Arizona game in Week 9, BetMGM customers had a chance to nab Williams at +1400 to win the Heisman. Those who did got Williams at what ended up being his peak price.

Because from there, Williams’ odds fell to +800 after another five-touchdown performance against Cal (four passing, three rushing). Despite yet another five-touchdown effort (three passing, two rushing) in a 55-17 win over Colorado in Week 11, Williams’ odds dipped to +1100 at BetMGM.

That would be last time bettors would get value on the then-teenager.

» READ MORE: Heisman Trophy odds, picks: Which long shots are worth betting behind favored Stroud?

And then there was one

On the eve of USC’s annual rivalry battle with UCLA, Williams left his teenage years behind him, as he celebrated his 20th birthday. The following night, he walked into the storied Rose Bowl and carved up the Bruins, completing 32 of 43 passes for 470 yards, adding 33 rushing yards and scoring three more touchdowns.

The Trojans needed every bit of Williams’ superhuman effort to outlast UCLA 48-45 and keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive.

Although he tossed an interception for the second straight week in the Saturday night thriller, Williams woke up the next day No. 2 on BetMGM’s odds board at +125, right behind Stroud (-130). By the time he went to bed a day later, Williams (-125) and Stroud (+110) switched positions.

Then came last weekend.

Three hours after Stroud and Ohio State got steamrolled at home by archrival (and fellow unbeaten) Michigan, Williams led USC to a 38-27 home victory over streaking Notre Dame.

His numbers were somewhat pedestrian against the Irish (267 combined passing and rushing yards). However, he found the end zone four more times (three rushing)

So heading into Saturday’s Pac-12 championship rematch against Utah in Las Vegas, Williams has a 65.8% completion rate, 3,712 passing yards, 351 rushing yards, 44 total touchdowns (34 passing) and just three interceptions.

He also has the Heisman Trophy effectively in his grasp.

Yes, BetMGM is still taking action on four players: Williams (-2500), Stroud (+2000), TCU quarterback Max Duggan (+2500) and Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (+10000).

However, anyone who is considering wagering on any of the three long shots would be better served donating their money to charity. Because the 2022-23 Heisman Trophy race is over.

All that’s left is the formal announcement a week from Saturday — followed by a lot of celebrating by Williams, his family and all those who bet on him.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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