Pick Six: Can USC’s Caleb Williams join Archie Griffin as a two-time Heisman Trophy winner?

Here we are again.

Just like last year, college football has a returning Heisman Trophy winner — this time, USC quarterback Caleb Williams — trying to join the sport’s most exclusive club: Two-time winners of the most prestigious player of the year award.

Ohio State running back Archie Griffin stands alone, winning the Heisman in 1974 and ’75.

In 2022, Alabama’s Bryce Young became the 11th returning winner since Griffin to be unable to complete the two-fer, undercut by injuries and a Crimson Tide offense that lacked the type of playmakers he had in 2021.

Williams, like Young, won the award with a brilliant sophomore season. Not only did Williams pass for 4,537 yards and 45 touchdowns, but he helped Southern California return to national prominence after several years of mediocrity.

Winning another Heisman is so hard because voters tend to want the player to be even better the next year.

That’d be tough for Williams, but he does have this going for him: USC stumbled at the finish and missed making the College Football Playoff in 2022.

Williams’ path to joining Griffin is to lead his team at least one step farther. Can he do it?

Projecting the major awards in college football:

HEISMAN TROPHY (most outstanding player)

Top contenders (other than Williams): Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia; Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State; Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina; Bo Nix, QB, Oregon; Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington; Jordan Travis, QB, Florida State.

Long shot: Alabama’s starting quarterback.

And the winner is … Harrison becomes just the fifth wide receiver to win the award, but second in the last four years after Alabama’s DeVonta Smith in 2020. Side note: Williams will be a finalist.

CHUCK BEDNARIK AWARD (defensive player of the year)

Top contenders: Harold Perkins, LB, LSU; Jaylan Ford, LB, Texas; Malaki Starks, DB, Georgia; Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB, Clemson; Dallas Turner, LB, Alabama; Jared Verse, DE, Florida State.

Long shot: Leonard Taylor, DT, Miami.

And the winner is … Verse. Do-it-all linebackers and pass rushers tend to scoop up defensive player of the year awards. Verse is a terror off the edge who should get into double-digit sacks.

OUTLAND TROPHY (best interior lineman)

Top contenders: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame; Kelvin Banks Jr., OT, Texas; Cooper Beebe, OG, Kansas State; Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State; Jer’Zhan Netwon, DL, Illinois; Leonard Taylor, DT, Miami.

Long shot: Maason Smith, DT, LSU.

And the winner is … Banks surpasses future first-round picks in the next NFL draft in Alt and Fashanu to become the most dominant tackle in the country as a sophomore.

DOAK WALKER AWARD (best running back)

Top contenders: Braelon Allen, Wisconsin; Blake Corum, Michigan; TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State; Quinshon Judkins, Mississippi; Rocket Sanders, Arkansas; Will Shipley, Clemson.

Long shot: Ja’Quinden Jackson, Utah.

And the winner is … Sanders. No Power Five running back who had at least 200 carries last season had a better yards per attempt than Sanders’ 6.50. Get him another five more carries per game and you can pencil him in for 1,800 yards.

BILETNIKOFF AWARD (best receiver)

Top contenders: Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State; Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State; Malik Nabers, LSU; Rome Odunze, Washington; Dorian Singer, Southern California; Xavier Worthy, Texas.

Long shot: Jimmy Horn, Colorado.

And the winner is … Harrison, of course. No disrespect to former Tennessee star Jalin Hyatt, but Harrison should have won this award last year.

JIM THORPE AWARD (best defensive back)

Top contenders: Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa; Will Johnson, CB, Michigan; Kalen King, CB, Penn State; Kool-aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama; Ben Morrison, CB, Notre Dame; Malaki Starks, S, Georgia.

Long shot: Beau Brade, S, Maryland.

And the winner is … Starks. The versatile sophomore edges out a bunch of lock-down corners.


Butkus Award (best linebacker): Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson.

Mackey Award (best tight end): Brock Bowers, Georgia.

Groza Award (best kicker): James Turner, Michigan.

Ray Guy (best punter): Kai Kroeger, South Carolina.


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