Nov 11, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) walks off the field after a game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Williams: ‘Game-time decision’ on 2024 NFL Draft

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams is undecided about declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft.

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner told the Los Angeles Times that it will be “a game-time decision.”

The deadline to declare is Jan. 15. The draft is scheduled for April 25-27 in Detroit.

Williams entered this season as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick for 2024. Although his individual numbers were strong, the Trojans took a step back with a 7-5 season.

“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 told the L.A. 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. I’ve had to have talks with (USC head coach) Lincoln (Riley) — because obviously I haven’t been through it — or with my family members or people like that, just how to deal with this and lead, how to stay the same person I was before the season or after our first loss or second loss.

“So, it was different. It was a learning process.”

Williams has completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 3,633 yards with 30 touchdowns and five interceptions in 12 starts this season.

During his Heisman-winning campaign in 2022, he completed 66.6 percent of his throws for 4,537 yards, 42 TDs and five picks in 14 games. USC started 11-1 before losing to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game and to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl.

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Ethan Garbers (4) throws during the second quarter against the USC Trojans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA takes advantage of USC’s mistakes to snap skid

UCLA caused three Southern California turnovers, including Alex Johnson’s fumble return for a touchdown, and the Bruins rolled past the host Trojans 38-20 on Saturday in Los Angeles.

UCLA (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12 Conference) came into Saturday’s rivalry matchup on a two-game skid in which it scored just 10 and seven points in losses to Arizona and Arizona State. But the Bruins put up 14 points in the first quarter against Southern Cal with touchdowns on a T.J. Harden goal-line rush and Ethan Garbers’ 14-yard pass to Hudson Habermehl.

The Garbers touchdown throw to Habermehl — the first of two scoring connections between the duo on the day — was set up when Kenny Churchwell III forced a fumble from Zachariah Branch at the Trojans’ 19-yard line.

UCLA’s opening scoring drive was the result of a short field set up when the Bruins defense forced a fourth-down stop near midfield on the Trojans’ opening possession.

The Bruins did not have a scoring possession start on their side of the field until the third quarter, when an under-duress Garbers found Harden for a 7-yard touchdown at the end of a 65-yard drive.

The touchdown gave UCLA some breathing room after Southern Cal cut the deficit to four points before halftime on Caleb Williams’ 14-yard touchdown throw to Brenden Rice and Denis Lynch’s 34-yard field goal.

UCLA pushed the advantage to two possessions on Harden’s 7-yard TD catch in the third quarter, then went ahead 28-10 when the Trojans’ MarShawn Lloyd coughed up the fumble that Johnson returned 11 yards for a touchdown.

The scoop-and-score put an exclamation point on a standout afternoon from the Bruins defense. Devin Kirkwood intercepted Williams in the first half, while Laiatu Latu sacked Williams twice.

JonJon Vaughs and Gabriel Murphy each added another sack, and UCLA totaled nine tackles for loss.

The Bruins’ effective pressure in the backfield contributed to UCLA holding USC to just 3 yards rushing. Seven came on an Austin Jones touchdown carry late in the fourth quarter.

Garbers went 18-of-31 passing for 155 yards with the three scores. Harden carried 22 times for 142 yards. Both of Habermehl’s receptions went for touchdowns.

Williams finished 31 of 42 for 384 yards in the loss. Rice caught eight passes for 147 yards.

The loss was Southern Cal’s first at home to an unranked opponent in Lincoln Riley’s two seasons as head coach.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; The SC Trojans logo at midfield at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before a game between the Fresno State Bulldogs and the Southern California Trojans. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former USC, NFL assistant Dave Levy dead at 91

Dave Levy, who won four national championships as an assistant coach at USC before spending more than 20 years in various professional leagues, died of natural causes in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Wednesday, the school announced.

He was 91.

Levy coached on John McKay’s USC staff from 1960-75, helping the Trojans to national titles in 1962, ’67, ’72 and ’74. After McKay left to coach the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL, Levy served as an assistant athletic director for four years.

He joined the San Diego Chargers in 1980, coaching the offensive line and tight ends before becoming offensive coordinator. In 1989, he moved on to the Detroit Lions (1989-96), serving as running backs coach for the first two seasons of Barry Sanders’ NFL career before moving to offensive coordinator.

Levy then spent two years in NFL Europe as an assistant with the Amsterdam Admirals (1999-2000), a year with the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL (2001), and one with the Calgary Stampers of the CFL (2003).

He also coached high schools, most notably at Long Beach Poly in Southern California, where he won a pair of CIF championships in the 1950s.

A 2015 inductee to the USC Athletic Hall of Fame, Levy actually played football and baseball at rival UCLA.

–Field Level Media

USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) talks with USC Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley during the first half of the game against No. 6 Oregon Ducks on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

Rivals UCLA, USC stumble into final Pac-12 showdown

Los Angeles rivals UCLA and host Southern California meet Saturday in the 93rd installment of their annual series.

Both the Trojans (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12 Conference) and Bruins (6-4, 3-4) come into the matchup — the last before each leaves the Pac-12 for the Big Ten Conference — on losing streaks.

USC dropped its second consecutive game last Saturday, 36-27 at Oregon. The Trojans lost the previous week at home to undefeated Washington, 52-42.

“We’ve been … right on the doorstep of getting it done, but haven’t quite been able to get over the hump here in the second half of the season,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said on his radio show Monday. “When you set out big goals and you go for it, every now and then, you’re going to come up short.”

USC is out of contention for the Pac-12 championship heading into its regular-season finale. Defense has plagued the Trojans throughout their turbulent 2023, with opponents scoring at least 34 points in each of the last seven games.

Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was dismissed before last week’s visit to Oregon, but USC still gave up passing touchdowns of 77 and 84 yards against the Ducks.

UCLA, meanwhile, has struggled on the other side of the ball in consecutive losses of 27-10 at Arizona on Nov. 4 and 17-7 at home last week to Arizona State.

The Bruins had three consecutive possessions deep in Arizona State territory end without producing any points.

Quarterback injuries have impacted UCLA offensively.

Dante Moore did not play against Arizona State, but Bruins coach Chip Kelly said on Monday he is practicing. The freshman is 91-for-75 on the season for 1,344 yards with 10 TDs but has been intercepted seven times.

Fellow Bruins QB Ethan Garbers is 64-for-94 for 786 yards with six touchdowns and three picks, while Collin Schlee has operated primarily as a ball-carrier when he has been under center.

“They all can throw the ball very well, so that’s not a problem,” UCLA wide receiver Logan Loya said. “Sure, maybe the timing’s a little different, you can say the same thing for the quarterbacks about each receiver, too.”

USC quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, meanwhile, is tied with Oregon’s Bo Nix for the second-most passing touchdowns in the country this season with 29. Williams has also rushed for 11 scores.

–Field Level Media

Oregon outside linebacker Teitum Tuioti sacks USC quarterback Caleb Williams as the No. 6 Oregon Ducks host the USC Trojans Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

Bo Nix, No. 6 Oregon fend off Caleb Williams, USC

Bo Nix passed for a season-high 412 yards and threw four touchdowns, and No. 6 Oregon held off Southern California’s late rally for a 36-27 win on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.

The Ducks (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) built a 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter when Bucky Irving ran for 19 of his game-high 118 rushing yards on a touchdown carry.

USC (7-4, 5-3) battled back when Caleb Williams found Brenden Rice for a 9-yard touchdown to cap a 75-yard drive. A missed field-goal attempt by Oregon’s Camden Lewis gave the Trojans possession, and Austin Jones capped a 77-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.

Williams’ cross-field throw on USC’s two-point conversion attempt following Jones’ touchdown was completed, but short of the goal line, and Oregon successfully ran out the clock thanks to a pair of Irving first-down conversions.

The Ducks jumped ahead early with first-half touchdowns on Nix passes of 77 yards to Tez Johnson, 84 yards to Troy Franklin and 15 yards to Terrance Ferguson.

Johnson caught a game-high seven passes for 126 yards. Franklin recorded a game-high 147 yards on just two catches, hauling in a 63-yard reception in the second quarter that helped set up a 33-yard Lewis field goal.

Evan Williams paced the Ducks defense with nine tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.

Oregon remains in control of its destiny for a Pac-12 championship game berth and consideration for the College Football Playoff. The Ducks were the highest-ranked one-loss team in Tuesday’s poll reveal.

USC, meanwhile, was effectively eliminated from conference-title contention with its third Pac-12 loss.

Williams, the Trojans’ reigning Heisman Trophy winner, went 19-for-34 passing for 291 yards, throwing the touchdown pass to Rice and running for another score. USC finished with just 73 total rushing yards, despite getting touchdowns on the ground from Jones, Williams and MarShawn Lloyd.

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) throws a pass during the second half against the California Golden Bears at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

With Pac-12 title game in sight, No. 6 Oregon welcomes USC

Sixth-ranked Oregon will try to move one game closer to reaching its fourth Pac-12 championship game in five seasons when it welcomes visiting Southern California to Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.

The Ducks (8-1, 5-1) held firm at No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday, tops among all one-loss teams. They roll into Saturday’s matchup winners of three straight, all by at least 14 points, after last week’s 63-19 blowout of Cal.

Quarterback Bo Nix enters the game a rising candidate for the Heisman Trophy with 2,723 yards on 235-of-301 passing with 25 touchdowns against just two interceptions.

Nix has also rushed for five touchdowns to pace the nation’s most prolific scoring offense at 47.4 points per game. USC is second in the nation at 45.5 ppg.

The Trojans (7-3, 5-2) have scored no fewer than 32 points in any of their conference games behind reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.

Williams went 27 of 35 for 312 yards with three touchdowns and rushed for another score last week vs. Washington, but the USC defense surrendered a season high in points for the second time in as many weeks in a 52-42 loss.

The Trojans gave up 49 points a week prior in a one-point win at Cal and come into Oregon having allowed at least 41 points in five of their last six outings.

USC’s defensive struggles led to the dismissal of coordinator Alex Grinch on Sunday. Defensive line coach Shaun Nua and inside linebackers coach Brian Odom were promoted to co-defensive coordinators to replace Grinch.

“Any time you have a situation like this, you start to look at, OK, who would be the next man up, the same way that you would an injured player,” USC head coach Lincoln Riley said on his weekly radio show appearance on Monday. “(Nua and Odom) both have great experience coaching their positions.”

The new co-defensive coordinators face a considerable task for the Trojans’ final two games. USC has allowed 34.5 points per game, more than any other power-conference team save Cal.

In last week’s loss — which put the Trojans in a must-win position this week to salvage any hope of making the Pac-12 championship game — USC gave up 256 rushing yards and four touchdowns to Washington’s Dillon Johnson.

Oregon, meanwhile, boasts one of the conference’s top ball carriers in Bucky Irving. He averages 91.2 rushing yards per game, has scored nine touchdowns on the ground and gains an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

Saturday will not be an Oregon team’s first time seeing an Odom-coordinated defense. Ducks coach Dan Lanning noted that Odom called the defense in Oklahoma’s 47-32 Alamo Bowl win over Oregon in December 2021, prior to Lanning’s arrival. Odom took over play-calling duties for that game after Grinch left to follow Riley to Los Angeles.

“There will be a lot of similarities to some of the stuff they already do,” Lanning said during his Monday news conference. “That group will probably have some new wrinkles we potentially haven’t seen. But it all comes back to what football’s all about: tackling, blocking, breaking tackles, making catches.”

–Field Level Media

Apr 23, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive coordinator Alex Grinch during the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Southern California fires DC Alex Grinch

Southern California fired defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, Yahoo Sports reported Sunday.

The Trojans have lost three of their last four games and tumbled out of the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll Sunday afternoon. The most recent dismal showing was a 52-42 home loss to No. 5 Washington on Saturday night.

The Trojans also allowed 48 points in a loss to Notre Dame, 34 in a defeat to Utah and 49 in a one-point win over Cal.

USC ranks No. 121 among 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring defense, yielding 34.5 points per game. The team is 119th in total defense (436 yards allowed per contest).

Grinch, 43, followed head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC ahead of the 2022 season. He had spent three seasons as the Sooners’ defensive coordinator and was co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2018.

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Washington Huskies running back Tybo Rogers (20) carries the ball against USC Trojans safety Calen Bullock (7) during the second quarter at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports

Dillon Johnson powers No. 5 Washington past No. 20 USC

Dillon Johnson rushed for career highs of 256 yards and four touchdowns, Michael Penix Jr. passed for two scores and No. 5 Washington remained undefeated with a 52-42 defeat of No. 20 Southern California on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Johnson’s standout performance concluded when he scored his fourth touchdown with 2:20 remaining, giving Washington the first and only two-score advantage either team held in the shootout.

The Huskies (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12) broke the back-and-forth stalemate when, after a 43-yard Grady Gross field goal put Washington ahead 45-42, the defense forced USC to punt for the first time since late in the first quarter.

Voi Tunuufi sacked Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams for a 12-yard loss that pushed USC out of field-goal range, setting the scene for Washington to deliver the decisive blow with its eighth scoring drive of the night.

Johnson broke a 53-yard run on the next offensive play, later carried for another 11 yards down to the goal line, then punched in the touchdown.

Johnson also scored on a 52-yard carry in the second quarter and a pair of short rushes in the first half — the second of which gave Washington its first lead of the game.

Zion Tupuola-Fetui’s strip of Williams deep in USC territory with 67 seconds remaining in the first half led to a Johnson goal-line touchdown carry.

With Washington taking possession to start the second half, the Huskies had an opportunity to open up a two-score lead. They drove to the USC 21-yard line before Eric Gentry’s deflection of a Penix pass turned into a Christian Roland-Wallace interception in the end zone.

USC (7-3, 5-2) forced ties in the second half on Williams touchdown passes of 25 yards to Brenden Rice and 20 yards to Mario Williams.

Caleb Williams also threw a 41-yard touchdown to Tahj Washington in the first half. Caleb Williams finished 27-of-35 passing for 312 yards with the three scores and a fourth touchdown rushing. Darwin Barlow and Raleek Brown each ran for a score for the Trojans.

Penix ended the night 22-of-30 passing for 256 yards, with his touchdown throws going 4 yards to Ja’Lynn Polk and 22 yards to Devin Culp. Penix also rushed for a TD.

Rome Odunze led Washington with 82 yards on five receptions.

Washington paced USC with 122 yards on eight catches. Austin Jones rushed for 127 yards on 11 carries in the loss.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins tight end Moliki Matavao (88) celebrates after scoring on a 26-yard touchdown reception against the Colorado Buffaloes in the second half at Rose Bowl. UCLA defeated Colorado 28-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA, Washington to travel cross-country twice in 2024 Big Ten schedule

UCLA and Washington football will rack up frequent flyer miles in their first season in the Big Ten.

The Big Ten on Thursday released its football schedule for 2024, its first year as an 18-team league thanks to the additions of UCLA, Southern California, Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12.

Maryland’s home game against Michigan State on Sept. 7 will mark the first Big Ten game of the season, while Southern California will make its league debut on the road at Michigan on Sept. 21.

The Bruins — who fly to Hawaii and LSU in their nonconference schedule — will host Indiana on Sept. 14 for their first Big Ten game. But they’ll head to the East Coast twice in three weeks during October to face Penn State (Oct. 5) and Rutgers (Oct. 19).

Washington’s travel schedule is only slightly less taxing. The Huskies’ first Big Ten game comes Sept. 21 against Northwestern, but they will visit Rutgers on Sept. 28 and return east to face Penn State on Nov. 9.

The league ensured with its “Flex Protect XVIII” schedule model that 12 annual rivalries were protected. Also, teams based in the Eastern and Central time zones get to either play a home game or take a bye week after traveling to one of the four new West Coast teams for a game.

The Oregon-Washington game was added to rivalry weekend, taking place on Nov. 30. The same won’t be true for USC-UCLA because USC is hosting Notre Dame for its regular-season finale on Nov. 30. The California rivals will play Nov. 23 instead, and UCLA moved a nonconference game against Fresno State to Nov. 30 to accommodate.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Berkeley, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) drops back to pass against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 USC out to end No. 5 Washington’s unbeaten season

Looking to continue its perfect season, No. 5 Washington travels to Los Angeles on Saturday for a Pac-12 showdown with 20th-ranked Southern California.

The Huskies (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) arrive with a streak of four consecutive single-digit victories after holding off Stanford last Saturday, 42-33. The nine-point margin was Washington’s widest over the recent stretch, which also includes wins of 31-24 on Sept. 30 at Arizona; 36-33 on Oct. 14 vs. Oregon; and 15-7 on Oct. 21 vs. Arizona State.

With its positioning in Tuesday’s first College Football Playoff rankings, Washington is just outside the coveted top four needed to earn the first Pac-12 bid to the national semifinals since the 2016 Huskies did so.

The Huskies have won 15 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak among FBS teams behind No. 2 Georgia (25).

Like Washington, USC (7-2, 5-1) has also had its share of nail-biting finishes in recent weeks. That includes a 34-32 loss on a last-second field goal Oct. 21 vs. Utah for the Trojans’ second loss of the season, complicating their aspirations for a playoff bid.

No team has ever made the field with more than one loss, but USC can move into the conference lead with a win on Saturday.

The Trojans’ run of close finishes also include a 43-41, three-overtime defeat of Arizona on Oct. 7, and last weekend’s 50-49 rally from down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win at Cal.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams went 23-for-40 for 369 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for a pair of scores vs. the Golden Bears. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has passed for 25 touchdowns against just four interceptions — three of which came in the Trojans’ Oct. 14 loss at Notre Dame — and has rushed for nine scores on the season.

“Elite playmaker,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said of Williams. “(His) eyes are downfield and (he) buys time (using his feet).

“(He) will not be afraid to make any throw on the run, deep down the field, so we’ve got to do a really good job staying on the receivers, or any skill player.”

Williams’ ability to connect with a variety of targets beyond just receivers has been evident the last two weeks with tight end Lake McRee’s uptick in production. McRee caught three passes for 35 yards against Utah, then hauled in four catches for a season-high 71 yards at Cal.

USC’s top two targets, however, are receivers Tahj Washington and Brenden Rice. Washington has 35 receptions for 711 yards and five touchdowns, while Rice has produced 519 yards and nine TDs on 30 receptions.

Washington’s Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk, meanwhile, rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the Pac-12 in yards per game with 113.4 and 104.5.

Pass-catchers should play a prominent role in Saturday’s showdown of Heisman hopefuls. As Williams looks to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin as the only two-time recipients of the award, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. may be the leading contender to wrest the trophy away.

Penix went 21-of-37 passing for 369 yards with four touchdowns and one interception last Saturday. His nation-leading 368.1 passing yards per game are almost 40 more than the next-most prolific quarterback, and he has thrown 24 touchdowns — third most nationally — for the nation’s ninth-highest scoring offense at 40.4 points per game.

“Runs the offense really, really well,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said of Penix on Monday’s Trojans Live radio show. “You can tell he’s got a lot of experience with Kalen and his system, and you can tell. It shows up.”

USC ranks among the eight teams producing more points per contest than Washington, however, with the nation’s second-leading output of 45.9 per game.

Saturday’s matchup is the first between USC and Washington since 2019, and the first in Los Angeles since 2015. Both were Huskies wins.

–Field Level Media