Last Monday, after all conference title winners had been decided, as well as the four teams entering the CFP this year, the four finalists for the 2022 Heisman Trophy were announced. With all four sharing the same position on the field, quarterback, this will mark the first time since 2018 that the award will be decided from an all-QB group.
USC’s Caleb Williams, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, TCU’s Max Duggan, and Georgia’s Stetson Bennett stand tall as this year’s nominees for the award. With the Heisman award ceremony slated for Saturday at 8 pm ET, NCAAF oddsmakers have been hard at work dishing out how the final four candidates stack up to win.
So, what does each candidate bring to the table to state their claim for college football’s most important player award? Let’s break down each quarterback’s case to earn the 2022 Heisman Award.
The Favorite: Caleb Williams, USC
Yes, the Trojans fell flat in their intentions of winning the PAC-12 championship as well as the final spot in the CFP after losing to Utah on Friday. But USC passer Caleb Williams once again put on a show, passing for 363 yards and three touchdowns.
To say that Williams was the most important player in USC this season is an understatement. If you take a look at his numbers, it’s easy to see why he would be touted as the overall favorite to take the Heisman Trophy home. Lincoln Riley, coach of the Trojans scored immensely by bringing in Williams over from Oklahoma with him.
Once Williams took over USC’s locker room and offense, the rest was pretty much history. In every game USC’s QB played, he took the Trojans’ offense and carried it to one stellar performance after another. His mix of a cannon for an arm, alongside his rushing skills, and an enviable football IQ that Coach Riley has continued to groom, make him a perfect candidate to take the Heisman.
The question here stands at if USC’s absence from the CFP will end up hurting his chances. But even with the Trojans missing out because of their loss to Utah, in the conversation of the most consistently outstanding football player in college football this season, Williams takes the top spot by far.
The Workhorse: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
It was a year ago when Stroud finished fourth in the running for last season’s Heisman trophy. Entering this new year, all eyes were set on Ohio State’s starting passer as the favorite to walk away with the trophy.
Through most of the season, Stroud kept holding on strong to said favoritism, but after Ohio State’s loss to Michigan, everything started to slow, especially after seeing the other three candidates all playing in their respective conference title games last week while Stroud probably chilled at home.
After watching Stroud play the past couple of seasons, you could tell that this is yet another example of an Ohio State passer ready to hit the NFL. His numbers once again put him in the conversation of most effective passer in college football. With 3,340 passing yards, 37 TDs, and only six interceptions, Stroud was the main driving force behind keeping the Buckeyes undefeated up until their debacle against Michigan in late November.
What could keep Stroud from winning the Heisman? When comparing this year to last season’s performance, there’s a decline in numbers than cannot be ignored. Sure, even with that slope, Stroud managed to tie for the most TDs in a season with USC’s Williams.
It was his performances in certain parts of the season, especially in the game against Michigan where he threw two picks and Ohio State failed to make it to the Big 10 title game, that could end up hurting his chances the most.
Even with the Buckeyes managing to squeeze into the playoffs, it might just be a bit short for Ohio State’s passer.
The Underdog Story: Max Duggan
If you’re a fan of college football, then agreeing with the fact that TCU put on one of the most entertaining seasons in quite some time is a given. Led by QB Max Duggan, who didn’t hold the starting job in the first game of the year, TCU went on to have one of the best seasons in the program’s history, only losing in their last game against Kansas State in the Big 12 title game in overtime.
Funnily enough, if you watch over Duggan’s season, it was in that game against Kansas State where the QB would put on his strongest performance. After leading the Horned Frogs over an 11-point gap to push the game into overtime, an exhausted Duggan and TCU came up one play short of winning the conference title, and who knows, maybe even the Heisman.
With 3,321 passing yards, 30 TDs, and four interceptions, with 404 rushing yards and six TDs, Duggan made TCU a team everyone inevitably started to follow and wanted to see win each game. After his performance in the Big 12 title game, the legend of Duggan will forever be instilled in TCU football.
If only TCU would’ve won that game, the conversation for Duggan winning the Heisman would be a no-brainer, but now, all he can do is wait and hope for the best.
The Last Dance Longshot: Stetson Bennett
Stetson Bennett’s story with the Georgia Bulldogs is one of the most endearing in college football. From being a walk-on who had to make his way through the JUCO circuit before getting a chance to show the Bulldogs what he could do, Bennett showed last year he was the real deal and this year he did it again.
Passing for 3,425 yards, with 20 TDs and six interceptions, all while rushing for seven more touchdowns are promising numbers for a player who is in his last season with the National Champions. The issue here is when you compare it to the other candidates.
Georgia once again this season proved to be a team that is more focused on having a strong rushing offense rather than passing the ball, and that could end up being the downfall for Bennett’s claim for the Heisman.
You would think that being the offensive leader of the best college football team in the country would mean something here, but looking at Bennett and the Bulldogs, go figure.
So Who Wins?
While personal preferences might drive me to pick Duggan, based mostly on how he managed to lead TCU in several of the most exciting college football games this season, let’s look at this from a rational point of view.
If Stroud had played this season as he did last, it would be a no-brainer to pick him. Bennett is a good QB, but on a team as talented as Georgia, it’s fair to say that not all eyes were focusing on his performances week in and week out.
So, who does that leave us with? Yes, Williams. USC’s QB took to his new job as the Trojans’ offensive leader with ease and dominance. His numbers speak volumes of how much he can do when playing in a program that works to his strengths.
Add to that the impact he’s had on the team in general and it’s safe to say that betting on Williams to take the Heisman is the way to go here.