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30-Day Countdown: Day 8- OPOY Candidates

Who is the favorite for Offensive Player of the Year?

NCAA Football: Southern California Spring Game Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With tomorrow marking the start of week 0, we’re going to take a step back and look at things from the conference level for a few days. So with that let’s look at the cast of candidates who might win the Offensive Player of the Year award in the Pac-12 this year.

Caleb Williams- Quarterback, USC

2021 Stats (at Oklahoma): 64.2% comp, 1,912 passing yards (9.0 YPA), 21 passing TDs, 4 INTs, 559 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs

This might be the first USC transfer that’s a legitimate OPOY candidate but they won’t be the last. Williams followed head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to Southern Cal and will be among the preseason Heisman favorites because of it. A 5-star in the class of 2021, Williams ironically took over for last year’s preseason Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler after a few games. He helped lead a spectacular comeback win against Texas in relief and kept the job despite a few rocky moments. In consecutive games against eventual Big 12 champ Baylor and Iowa State he was just 17/35 passing for 229 yards with 1 TD and 3 INT. But that came following a game where he had 6 TDs and 0 INTs so *shrug*.

Put it all together (including an evisceration of Oregon in the Alamo Bowl) and there’s no question that Williams had an overall well above average true freshman season. With a disgustingly loaded skill position group to work with (more on that in a second) and starting from day one it seems certain Williams will put up monster numbers. The only question will be if he makes too many mistakes trying to create big plays rather than taking what’s there and if that will cost him the award.

Jordan Addison- Wide Receiver, USC

2021 Stats (at Pittsburgh): 100 receptions, 1,593 receiving yards, 17 receiving TDs

If there was one thing USC definitely didn’t need another of this spring it was a wide receiver and yet the reigning Biletnikoff winner resides in Los Angeles now. Regardless how it happened, Addison is now in a Trojan uniform and will have a chance to prove he’s still the best receiver in the college ranks. Over Pitt’s final 8 games of the season (all against power conference teams) his worst game was 6 catches for 84 yards against North Carolina.

Last year I almost didn’t put Drake London on this list because I thought it was unlikely that a receiver would get the credit over his quarterback. However London proved that a truly dominant player could win the award even when not playing the entire season due to injury. It’s a more crowded receiver room this year and with a potentially a better quarterback which may take away opportunities to shine but Addison is definitely good enough to win the award.

Cameron Rising- Quarterback, Utah

2021 Stats- 63.8% comp, 2,493 passing yards (7.8 YPA), 20 passing TDs, 5 INTs, 523 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs

Rising’s stats look almost identical to Caleb Williams from last year which would be fine except for Rising only threw for about 500 extra yards in his 100 extra passing attempts. Still, Rising didn’t start the entire season last year so if he is able to raise his efficiency up a level in his 2nd year starting while also playing every game then he will end up with stats that approach OPOY level. Realistically though Rising’s candidacy relies on Utah being the hands down best team in the conference. That’s certainly not a possibility to be dismissed so he has to be firmly on the list of contenders to start the year.

Tavion Thomas- Running Back, Utah

2021 Stats- 1,106 rushing yards (5.4 YPC), 21 rushing TDs

The Cincinnati transfer came in last year and asserted himself as the best goal-line back in the conference. In weeks 2-4 last year he only received 9 total carries as Utah figured out their rotation. But once Thomas became the bell cow for the offense he had at least 18 carries in each of Utah’s final 8 games. Similar to Rising I think Thomas needs to be the fulcrum for an offense that is the best in the conference for him to have a chance but that’s not impossible. Give Thomas an extra 50 carries this year to wind up with 1400+ yards and 25 touchdowns and the award is in reach. The biggest detraction for Thomas though is that he’s an absolute zero in the passing game. He had just 2 receptions last year.

Chance Nolan- Quarterback, Oregon State

2021 Stats- 64.2% comp, 2,668 passing yards (8.4 YPA), 19 passing TDs, 10 INTs, 373 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs

Look, I had to get a Pac-12 North representative on here somewhere even if it’s a bit of a stretch. Before we get into Nolan’s case let’s talk about the lack of returning offense in the North. Nolan and Stanford’s Tanner McKee are the only returning starting QBs. The leading returning rusher is Cal’s Damien Moore who was 17th in the conference with 515 yards last year. The leading returning pass catcher is Stanford TE Ben Yurosek who had 655 receiving yards which was 8th. The leading true wide receiver is Stanford’s Elijah Higgins (18th) followed by UW’s Jalen McMillan (19th). If someone wins the award from the North the odds are it’s going to be a newcomer but I’m not putting them on the leading candidates list.

But back to Nolan. He was tied with UCLA’s DTR for the highest yards per attempt in the conference and had the highest passing grade per Pro Football Focus. The 10 interceptions is the most worrisome but PFF only listed him as having 9 turnover-worthy plays so it’s reasonable to argue he got unlucky that 9 such plays resulted in 10 INTs (UW’s QBs last year had 17 TWP and 16 INTs). Oregon State loses a big chunk of their supporting cast so we’ll see if Nolan has what it takes to make a major leap up in his 2nd year starting without some key pieces like RB BJ Baylor and WR Trevon Bradford.

Honorable Mentions

Dorian Thomson-Robinson- Quarterback, UCLA

If he was going to win this award or even come remotely close it probably would’ve happened by now but he’ll put up counting stats.

Travis Dye- Running Back, USC

If he had stayed at Oregon he would’ve been on the list but I couldn’t in good conscience make 60% of the contenders on USC, especially when Dye will be splitting reps with Stanford transfer Austin Jones.

Michael Penix Jr./Bo Nix/Cameron Ward/Emory Jones/Jayden de Laura- Quarterbacks

I didn’t have enough confidence in any of the transfers besides Caleb Williams to put them on the list but it wouldn’t be a total shock if any of these guys lit it up after transferring to their new home and became a contender.


Who will win the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Award in 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Caleb Williams- Quarterback, USC
    (63 votes)
  • 7%
    Jordan Addison- Wide Receiver, USC
    (16 votes)
  • 21%
    Cameron Rising- Quarterback, Utah
    (48 votes)
  • 5%
    Tavion Thomas- Running Back, Utah
    (13 votes)
  • 2%
    Chance Nolan- Quarterback, Oregon State
    (5 votes)
  • 34%
    Other (say who in the comments)
    (77 votes)
222 votes total Vote Now