USC QB Caleb Williams has ‘significant’ hamstring injury

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ARLINGTON, Texas – The status of Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams for the Cotton Bowl is uncertain because of what his coach described Sunday as a “significant” hamstring injury for the likely Heisman Trophy finalist.

Williams got hurt on a run in the first half of USC’s loss to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night. He played the rest of the game, even when it was clear that he was in pain.

After the Trojans were selected to face Tulane in the Cotton Bowl, coach Lincoln Riley said Williams would need a lot of rehab to have a chance to play in the Jan. 2 game.

“He’s got a significant hamstring injury. It’s good we’re not playing probably in the next two to three weeks,” Riley said. “We’ll try to rehab that. Those things, you know, hamstrings are different for everybody, but the nature of his is pretty severe. I mean, if we played in the next couple of weeks, he most likely would not be available. We will have to see how it progresses.”

Williams, who went with Riley from Oklahoma to Southern California after last season, has thrown for 4,075 yards and 37 touchdowns with four interceptions this year, and has run for 372 yards and 10 more scores. He got hurt on a 59-yard run in the Pac-12 title game, but still finished with 363 yards passing and three touchdowns.

“He’s a warrior. He fought through it the other night when a lot of guys wouldn’t,” Riley said. “But he’s pretty sore, as you would expect. And we’ll rehab him hard and hope to have him available.”

No. 4 USC falls to Utah in Pac-12 Championship, damaging playoff hopes

Utah vs. USC
USA Today
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LAS VEGAS — No. 12 Utah pounded a limping, bloodied Caleb Williams and roared past No. 4 Southern California 47-24 on Friday night to win the Pac-12 Championship and put USC’s College Football Playoff hopes in doubt.

The loss by the Trojans (11-2) could open the way for Ohio State (11-1) to take their spot in the playoffs. USC is fourth in the CFP rankings, the Buckeyes are one step behind.

Ohio State had to be Utah’s biggest fan. The Buckeyes move up in playoff consideration, with 12-0 Michigan at No. 2 with the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, that would give the Big Ten conference two playoff teams for the first time. It also would extend the Pac-12′s playoff drought — Washington in 2017 is the last team from that conference to make the playoffs.

Utah (10-3) is heading to the Rose Bowl, but the Utes already were going there regardless of the outcome of the title game. They are responsible for USC’s only losses, having edged the Trojans 43-42 on Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City.

The Utes rolled up 533 yards of offense in the rematch, and Cam Rising passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

Williams threw for 363 yards and three TDs. He entered the game as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, but wasn’t the same after getting injured in the first quarter.

The Trojans looked as if they were going to run away with the game, taking a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter behind some stellar play by Williams.

He appeared to hurt his left knee or leg in the first quarter on a 59-yard run in which he took a big hit at the end, and he suffered a bad cut on the pinky finger of his throwing hand. He spent most of the game limping, and wasn’t the same after a sterling first quarter in which the Trojans outgained Utah in total yards 194-70, and Williams had both touchdown passes.

After USC failed to pick up a fourth-and-8 from Utah’s 37-yard line, the Utes scored two touchdowns in the final 3:55 of the first half, and suddenly the game was tied at 17. Instead of a rout, the game was beginning to look like the shootout the Utes won in October.

The game took on that tone at times in the second half, but USC had no answer for how to slow down Utah, which outscored the Trojans 44-7 in overcoming that two-touchdown deficit.

ATTENDANCE RECORD

A announced sellout crowd of 61,195 made this the largest for a neutral-site Pac-12 Championship. It beat the previous record of 58,476 fans. who watched Southern California-Stanford in Santa Clara, California, in 2015.

LSU, USC move up behind UGA, Ohio State, Michigan, TCU in CFP

LSU v Arkansas
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LSU moved up to fifth and Southern California was sixth Tuesday night in the College Football Playoff rankings behind Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and TCU.

The top four remained the same for the third straight week, but the chasing teams changed order after Tennessee lost to South Carolina last Saturday night.

Selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan, who is also the athletic director at North Carolina State, said there was a lot of discussion about LSU (9-2) and USC (10-1) this week.

“The committee at the end of the day, saw the wins over Alabama, Mississippi (for LSU) as stronger than the wins over UCLA and Oregon State (for USC),” Corrigan said. “The one area we still have questions on is the strength of the defense of USC and looking at it in its entirety, we believe that LSU deserves to be ranked five and SC six.”

Two games this weekend could create more clarity.

Michigan (11-0) is at Ohio State (11-0) on Saturday and USC hosts Notre Dame (8-3), which checked in at 15th in the selection committee’s rankings.

There are two more rankings left. The final ones on Dec. 4 set the field for the College Football Playoff. The semifinals will be played Dec. 31 in the Peach and Fiesta bowls. The national championship game will be played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

Alabama was seventh, though the Crimson Tide don’t seem to have a realistic route to make the College Football Playoff for the eight time in nine years. LSU and Georgia are already locked into the Southeastern Conference title game.

Clemson came in eighth, Oregon was ninth and Tennessee fell to 10th.

ANALYSIS

Georgia (11-0), the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game, TCU (11-0) and LSU will head into the final two weeks of the race in the best shape to earn a spot in the final four.

That’s probably overstating LSU’s position because the Tigers would have to beat the defending national champion Bulldogs to become the first team to make the CFP with two losses.

But they have a shot and that’s all you can ask for at this point in the season.

USC fans might not like seeing the Trojans behind an SEC team with two losses, but they shouldn’t fret too much.

If Georgia takes care of business against LSU, that opens up a spot for USC – if the Trojans can win out. That will be difficult against Notre Dame and either Oregon, Utah or Washington in the Pac-12 title game.

As for the Ohio State-Michigan loser, how the game plays out will go a long way toward determining if that team can take a back door into the final four. It’s also going to need some losses sprinkled around among TCU, USC and LSU.

The Buckeyes are probably better positioned to get in with a loss in the rivalry game because that opening-night win against Notre Dame is looking pretty good these days and would only go up in value of the Irish beat USC.

Michigan’s terrible nonconference schedule (Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn) is continually cited as a mark against the Wolverines.

Then there is Clemson (10-1).

Even if the Tigers finish as 12-1 Atlantic Coast Conference champions, they’re going to need some help in the form of losses by at least two of USC, LSU and TCU.

Getting drilled by Notre Dame could be tough to overcome for Clemson if both Ohio State and USC have wins against the Irish on their resumes.