Hendon Hooker could’ve waltzed to the Heisman Trophy had Tennessee found a way to beat Georgia. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs bulldozed the Volunteers and held Hooker to a season-low 195 yards with an interception.
C.J. Stroud might’ve vaulted back to the front of line among Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks had the wind and rain not turned every pass against Northwestern into an adventure. Alas, Stroud finished with just 10 completions in 26 attempts for a career-low 76 yards and failed to throw at least one touchdown for the first time in his career.
That Hooker and Stroud failed to capitalize has allowed a third quarterback to grab the spotlight. First-year Southern California starter Caleb Williams has been on a torrid run for nearly a month, boosting his Heisman candidacy and the Trojans’ chances of winning the Pac-12 and reaching the College Football Playoff.
After posting another eye-opening line in Saturday’s win against California, Williams moves ahead of Hooker and Stroud to top this week’s list of the top FBS quarterbacks:
1. Caleb Williams, Southern California (3)
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He’s in the midst of an extraordinarily prolific stretch: Williams went for 360 yards and five touchdowns in last weekend’s 41-35 win, giving him 1,152 passing yards and 15 scores without an interception in his past three games. His play has helped USC overcome a cratering defense and move within striking distance of the playoff with at least three and as many as four games left before the postseason.
2. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (1)
Held in check for the first time in his two years in the SEC, Hooker completed 69.7% of his throws against Georgia but averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt and failed to throw a touchdown for the first time as the Volunteers’ starter. Of his 195 passing yards, 80 came on meaningless drives with the Bulldogs already ahead by three scores.
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3. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (2)
If for nothing else, give Stroud credit for avoiding any turnovers in a narrow win against Northwestern that could’ve turned with one sloppy possession. But to call Stroud’s performance in the 21-7 victory the worst of his career would be a dramatic understatement.
4. Bryce Young, Alabama (5)
Alabama keeps losing despite Young’s very best efforts, making it impossible to pin the Crimson Tide’s slide into second or third place in the SEC West on the reigning Heisman winner. In fact, the eyeball test and his overall numbers suggest Young is even better than he was a year ago, only slowed by a woefully unprepared receiver corps and a middling offensive line. Asked to do it all, Young consistently delivers in the clutch with a flair for the dramatic and is the sole reason Alabama isn’t teetering on the outskirts of the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll.
5. Max Duggan, TCU (4)
TCU leaned on the running game to fend off Texas Tech, earning the 34-24 win largely by virtue of 234 yards on 51 carries. Duggan had his quietest start of the season but delivered in the fourth quarter with two touchdown passes to build an insurmountable lead with five minutes left.
6. Bo Nix, Oregon (6)
Oregon and USC could very well meet in the Pac-12 championship game, with the winner going to the playoff and the winning quarterback punching his ticket to New York City as a Heisman finalist. If slightly overshadowed by Williams, Nix has been on a terrific run of his own. In his past four games, the Auburn transfer has completed 79.5% of his throws at 11.1 yards per attempt for 1,234 yards. Overall, Nix ranks 14th nationally with 22 passing touchdowns and tied for fifth with 13 scores on the ground. He is one of just two FBS quarterbacks with double-digit touchdowns as a passer and as a runner.
7. Drake Maye, North Carolina (7)
Maye is tied with Nix for the FBS lead with 35 combined touchdowns, with an FBS-best 31 coming through the air. He threw for a pair in last weekend’s 31-28 win against Virginia, both coming in the second half. That continues a season-long trend: Maye has been terrific late, with eight touchdowns and no turnovers in the fourth quarter of games as UNC has won five games by a single possession. He has an absurdly bright future.
8. Stetson Bennett, Georgia (NR)
Another productive and error-free start against the Volunteers has put some velocity behind Bennett’s growing Heisman odds. Outplaying Hooker doesn’t hurt, obviously. Bennett completed 17 of 25 attempts for 257 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover in the Bulldogs’ 27-13 win, giving him four games this season against Power Five competition with multiple scores without an interception.
9. Jayden Daniels, LSU (10)
Daniels has rewritten his season and LSU’s playoff chances after a sluggish and worrisome start to the regular season. In the three games since last month’s 40-13 loss to Tennessee, the Arizona State transfer has thrown seven touchdowns, run for another seven and accounted for 1,039 yards of total offense as the two-loss Tigers climb the rankings.
10. Frank Harris, Texas-San Antonio (NR)
His numbers are great. His grasp of the scheme is superb. His ability to remain poised late in games has keyed three narrow victories since October. Harris is the driving force behind the Roadrunners’ development into one of the top Group of Five programs in the country. What he does is win: With Harris under center, UTSA is 19-4 since the start of last season and 10-1 in games decided by a single-digit margin.