Stephen Vilardo’s 2022 Pac-12 Football Championship Notes

Caleb Williams heads into the Pac-12 Championship against Utah as the Heisman front-runner

Posted on December 1, 2022


  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

Caleb Williams heads into the Pac-12 Championship against Utah as the Heisman front-runner.

A good outing at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas could cement his case for the award and punch the Trojans’ ticket to the CFB Playoffs.

He has been responsible for 44 touchdowns this season, scoring 10 rushing TDs to go along with his 34 passing TDs.

The 44 total TDs is the most in a single season in USC history, the old mark of 41 was shared by Matt Barkley in 2011 and Cody Kessler in 2014.

Williams has produced 4,063 yards of total offense this season, the second most in Trojan history trailing only the 4,225 yards of Sam Darnold in 2017.

That yardage total for him is a combination of his 3,712 yards passing and 351 yards on the ground.

His rushing total is the most ever recorded by a QB in USC history, the prior highwater mark was set by Jim Sears with 342 in 1952. (For what its worth complete rushing records for QBs only go back to that 1952 season).

Caleb Williams | Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News

Perhaps the most telling stat for Williams has been his interceptions, he has thrown just three in 407 attempts this season 0.73% of his passes have been picked off, the best rate in the nation among QBs with at least 400 attempts.

The first time he faced the Utes Williams went for 381 passing yards with five passing TDs in the loss in Salt Lake City.

In fact, in his last six games, beginning with that game against Utah he has averaged 376.7 total yards while accounting for 27 total TDs.

The 381 yards Williams put up on the Utes were the most Utah allowed in a game this season.

The Utes allowed just 190.4 yards passing per game in their other 11 games this season. The back end of the Utah defense is anchored by Clark Phillips III.

Phillips is tied for the national lead with six interceptions on the season and is one of just 14 players in the nation to return multiple interceptions for a TD.

The six interceptions on the year are the most for a Utah defender since Robert Johnson picked off six passes in 2009. For his outstanding career, the interception total is nine.

When adding in his 20 pass breakups during his time in Salt Lake City, his 29 passes defended in his career are the most of any active player in the Pac-12.

He has returned his nine career interceptions for a total of 232 yards, the fourth most in Utah history.

As a team, Utah has returned at least one interception for a TD in each of the last 19 seasons. A streak that began in 2004, it is the longest active streak in the nation.

Utah CB Clark Phillips III | Deseret News

It is not just the pass defense that has stepped up since the first time the Utes met the Trojans on October 15.

In the five games since then, the Utah defense has allowed just 271.8 yards per game, the best mark of any team in the conference during that time with Oregon State ranking second and allowing almost 54 more yards per game and Washington the third-best over 100 yards from Utah.

While Williams is garnering the Heisman talk this season, Cameron Rising has been steady for Utah.

Rising

The junior signal-caller has collected 17 wins in his career to rank sixth on the Utah all-time list and a win Friday would match Mike McCoy for the fifth most in a Ute uniform.

Rising had a nearly perfect half against Colorado in the regular season finale going 17-for-19 with 234 yards and three TDs in the opening 30 minutes.

Rising and the Utah offense will have to deal with an opportunistic Southern Cal defense that has created 27 turnovers on the season to rank fourth in the nation in takeaways.

The Trojans’ 19 interceptions in 2022 are the second most in the country and the most by a USC squad since they picked off 22 passes in 2005.

Tuipulotu

USC also has the nation’s second most prolific sack master in the nation this season with Tuli Tuipulotu averaging 1.04 sacks per game with his 12.5 on the season the most by a Trojan since Kenechi Udeze set the USC single-season record with 16.5 in 2003.

The first meeting between these two was a thriller as Utah got the 43-42 win in a shootout for the ages. In that one Dalton Kincaid was huge. He was targeted 16 times in the game and came away with a reception on every one of them.

His 16 catches were one shy of the FBS single-game record for a TE that was set in 1967 by Emilio Vallez of New Mexico and his 17 catches against UTEP. Northwestern’s Jon Harvey equaled it in 1982 vs Michigan.

Kincaid has battled injuries since then and his status in this one could be a key for the Utes.

Utah TE Dalton Kincaid | Bryan Byerly/Utah Athletics

For those interested in numbers from a bit different angle, USC has been installed as the favorite in this one with the total sitting at 67.

Utah has covered the spread in five of their last six games overall, but just two of the last six times they have played on a Friday.

The Utes have seen the total points go under the predicted outcome in four of the last five they have played.
If you look only at games the Utes have played in December, then the opposite is true, and the total has gone over in five of the last seven times Utah played in the final month of the year.

USC has beaten the spread in five of their last seven games of the season with the total going over in each of the Trojans’ last six games played.

The last 10 games USC has played in December have the Trojans going 2-0 against the spread.

The Trojans are unbeaten on the field the last 12 times they have kicked off as the favorite.

Follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenVilardo and his organization @SERCenter.

Visit his website at sercstats.com.




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