2023 Heisman Trophy race begins and ends in Pac-12

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 19: Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies reacts after beating Colorado Buffaloes 54-7 at Husky Stadium on November 19, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 19: Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies reacts after beating Colorado Buffaloes 54-7 at Husky Stadium on November 19, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

It’s been 48 seasons since someone has won the Heisman Trophy for a second time. That man was Archie Griffin of Ohio State in 1974 and 1975. USC’s Caleb Williams is the next Heisman Trophy winner to take a swing at snagging back-to-back Heisman Trophy awards and joining Griffin as the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in college football history.

Although Williams has the best odds to win the award at +500 according to FanDuel, he is going to have some stiff competition in doing so. Especially from other quarterbacks within his own conference. The Pac-12 boasts some pretty good signal callers in 2023 who might give Williams a run for his money in hoisting a second Heisman Trophy and winning the conference in USC’s last season before joining the Big Ten Conference in 2024 with crosstown rival UCLA.

Pac-12 has multiple Heisman Trophy contenders

One of Williams’ stiffer competitions comes from Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. who comes in with odds at +1200 to be standing in New York City at the end of the season with his name etched into bronze.

Washington was third in the Pac-12 last season behind USC and eventual Champion Utah. Penix led the Huskies to a 11-2 overall record with seven of those wins coming in conference play. Their only losses were in back-to-back weeks on the road at UCLA, and Arizona State.

The Huskies were able to avoid both the Trojans and Utes on their schedule last year, but are scheduled to play the Pac-12 favorites in back-to-back games near the end of their season. This sets up nicely for Penix Jr. to make a series run at the Heisman Trophy and dethrone Williams in doing so. A nationally televised game in which two possible Heisman candidates square off against one another near the end of the season could be just what it takes to do so.

Even in a loss, there is the possibility that they could then see one another for a second time in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game, which could even set the stage for a more grandiose presentation for the voters.

Statistically speaking, Penix Jr. wasn’t far behind Williams. He finished last year with 4,641 yards passing and 31 touchdowns to go with only eight interceptions. Williams threw for 4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns, and only five picks. It just looks like Penix Jr. is missing a little more spotlight and a bigger stage at the end of the season. A win over Williams for a Pac-12 title might do the trick for the former Indiana Hoosier.

Penix isn’t the only Pac-12 quarterback looking to unseat Williams this season. Oregon’s Bo Nix comes into 2023 with +1800 Heisman Trophy odds with a similar story as Penix Jr. Nix is entering his fifth season of college football.

After starting as a true freshman for Auburn, Nix found himself in Oregon, giving his career the jump start it needed. Last season Nix threw for 3,593 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading the Ducks to a 10-3 record with seven of those victories coming against fellow Pac-12 opponents.

Although Nix doesn’t currently have as good of odds as Penix Jr. or Williams’, he does have a schedule that sets up nicely for him as well. Oregon hosts USC late in the season and of course, just like Washington, if the Ducks can find a way to get to the Pac-12 Championship game, a head-to-head battle with Williams for a second time could be ratings gold.

If opportunity is a big part of winning the Heisman Trophy, then of course, all of this talk about Pac-12 quarterbacks who could unseat Williams also means that Williams’ chances of winning it for a second time in a row also goes up.

And we haven’t even talked about other talented players from around the nation who will be playing in other conferences; such as quarterback Quinn Ewers from Texas in the Big 12, quarterback Jayden Daniels from LSU in the SEC, quarterback Jordan Travis from Florida State in the ACC, or even Big Ten running back Blake Corum from Michigan or wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. from Ohio State.

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There are plenty of capable talents ready to challenge Williams for the Heisman Trophy in 2023. The only question is, who will step up? Whoever it might be, you can rest assured that the path to New York City is going to go through the quarterback play on the west coast once again.