USC Trojans QB Caleb Williams Will Sit Out Holiday Bowl, New Starting Quarterback Revealed

USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams will not play in the Holiday Bowl, likely bringing an end to his legendary college football career and his two-year run in Southern California.

On Monday, head coach Lincoln Riley announced that Williams would not face the Louisville Cardinals in the 2023 Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27. Williams, a unanimous All-American in 2022, is widely expected to forego his senior year of eligibility and enter the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Caleb Williams college stats (career): 10,082 passing yards, 93 passing touchdowns, 169.3 QB rating, 66.9 percent completion rate, 960 rushing yards, 27 rushing touchdowns

Related: Final Heisman Trophy rankings

Williams, who has publicly left the door open to a 2024 return to USC, finished his junior season on a low note. The Trojans lost five of their last six games in the regular season. In those five losses, including to the UCLA Bruins, Williams threw four interceptions.

QB RatingTD-INTCompletion RatePass YPA
Caleb Williams in wins195.717 – 166.9%10.6
Caleb Williams in wins141.113 – 468.1%7.9
2023 statistics via Sports Reference

Sitting out bowl games, outside of the College Football Playoff, has become an increasingly popular decision among top NFL Draft prospects in recent years. Bowl game opt-outs have increased since players saw Jaylon Smith – who suffered a torn ACL, LCL and nerve damage in his left knee in a bowl game – and others lose tens of millions of dollars because of an injury that negatively affected their draft stock and career. Williams’ decision makes it a near-certainty that he will declare for the 2024 NFL Draft next month.

Who will be the USC Trojans starting QB in the Holiday Bowl?

NCAA Football: Stanford at Southern California
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With Williams sidelined, the Trojans will have a new starting quarterback for the first time since before Williams and Riley arrived on-campus. However, USC’s starting passer in the Holiday Bowl likely won’t be who fans were hoping to see.

Riley revealed on Monday that sophomore quarterback Miller Moss will draw the start in the Holiday Bowl. It will be the first collegiate start for the Los Angeles native. Moss, a 247 Sports four-star recruit in 2021, has played sparingly this year. Riley indicated the Trojans’ coaching staff is excited to see the sophomore get his first big opportunity.

  • Miller Moss stats (2021-’21): 43-of-59, 542 passing yards, 72.9 percent completion rate, 9.2 yards per attempt, 166.8 QB rating, 3-0 TD-INT, 1 sack taken in seven games

Related: Heisman Trophy winners, including Caleb Williams

Interestingly, it seems freshman quarterback Malachi Nelson isn’t ready to be a starting quarterback for USC. Riley told reporters that Nelson had dealt with some “physical hurdles” this past year, which have prevented him from seeing the field or challenging Moss for backup duties behind Williams. Nelson was the second-best recruit in California and the 13th-ranked player in the nation when he enrolled in the 2023 recruiting class.

With Riley and the Trojans’ coaching staff seemingly asking for more patience with Nelson, it becomes even more likely that USC will bring in one of the top quarterbacks in the transfer portal this winter.