USC QB Caleb Williams will not play in Holiday Bowl

The college career of Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams is now complete after three seasons, with head coach Lincoln Riley announcing Monday that the former Heisman Trophy winner will not play in this month’s Holiday Bowl.

After winning the Heisman for his exploits at USC during the 2022 season, Williams’ 2023 campaign fell far below expectations, with the Trojans going 7-5 so far and 5-4 in the final season of Pac-12 Conference play, including a 38-20 defeat to rival UCLA.

In what is now his final college game, Williams was 31-of-42 passing for 384 yards against UCLA with one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked four times.

A potential No. 1 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, Williams passed for 3,633 yards, 30 touchdowns and five interceptions this season, compared to 4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2022, his first season with the Trojans.

As a freshman in 2021 at Oklahoma, Williams passed for 1,912 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions before making the jump to USC along with Riley.

Williams had said that playing in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against Louisville at San Diego would be a game-time decision, but the plan not to play comes a full three weeks early.

Although Williams’ individual numbers were strong, the Trojans took a step back primarily due to a porous defense.

“I’ve never been in this situation, where I’m 7-5 and there are no playoff hopes at the end of the season,” Williams said last week, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I’m dealing with it emotionally, dealing with it spiritually and physically. It’s been one of the most important years I think I’ve had. It’s tricky.

“… It was different. It was a learning process.”

USC started 11-1 in 2022 with Williams at the helm before losing to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game and to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl. The Trojans have now gone 7-7 since earning their spot in last year’s Pac-12 title game.

USC is expected to use either Miller Moss or Malachi Nelson at quarterback in the Holiday Bowl. Both are candidates to be the starting quarterback next season when USC moves into the Big Ten Conference.