It’s Miller Moss’ team

The quarterback’s Holiday Bowl performance nearly guarantees him the starter role.

The Holiday Bowl opened people’s eyes to the quarterback Moss could be. (Bryce Dechert / Daily Trojan)

All the signs are pointing to it.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Miller Moss is the heir to junior quarterback Caleb Williams for USC’s first season in the Big Ten. At this time last year, it seemed like it would be freshman quarterback Malachi Nelson — the No. 1 recruit in the ESPN300 for the 2023 recruiting class — but Nelson has since entered the transfer portal and committed to Boise State.

Even this time last month, it seemed USC would make its own move in the transfer portal and pick up a quarterback to replace Williams and supplant Moss. Now, all of the big quarterback pieces are off the board. Washington State’s junior quarterback Cameron Ward is off to the NFL. Kansas State’s senior quarterback Will Howard — who visited USC — committed to Ohio State on Jan. 4. Despite some buzz and rumors surrounding him and USC, Oregon State’s freshman quarterback Aidan Chiles is sticking with his transfer pledge to Michigan State.

That leaves Moss.

While Moss is no Williams, that is not a knock on the redshirt sophomore. None of the quarterbacks in the transfer portal, or on any college football roster for that matter, are like the Heisman Trophy winner. There’s a reason Williams was crowned as the best player in college football for the 2022 season.

But just because Moss is not the same player as his predecessor, does not mean he can’t handle the role of starting quarterback. He proved he could do it in USC’s 42-28 win over Louisville in the Holiday Bowl. Moss threw six touchdowns, breaking the record for the most passing touchdowns from a Trojan quarterback in USC bowl history.

Prior to the Holiday Bowl, people acted as if Moss was some scrub, just because he was not the starter. But the only year Moss was not sitting behind Williams — again, a Heisman Trophy winner — was 2021, when Moss was just a freshman.

The Holiday Bowl opened people’s eyes to the quarterback Moss could be. They saw the potential of a quarterback who was the No. 112 recruit in the 2021 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. They saw the character of a player who could have transferred when Lincoln Riley became the head coach, but did not.

Fans now see that Moss is, and always has been, the right quarterback to replace Williams. Riley even joked that Moss’ Holiday Bowl performance might have dissuaded players like Howard from coming to USC.

“He might’ve scared off anyone who wanted to come here anyway,” Riley said in the postgame press conference.

The Trojans might still look to the transfer portal to have someone compete with Moss so the redshirt sophomore does not get complacent. Frankly, the odds are high that Riley will get another quarterback as, assuming Williams declares for the NFL Draft, there would only be two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster for next season in Moss and redshirt sophomore Jake Jensen.

However, that transfer likely will not be able to dethrone Moss. Look at a former USC quarterback in Ole Miss’s junior quarterback Jaxson Dart. The Rebels brought in senior quarterback Spencer Sanders, a veteran transfer from Oklahoma State, before this past season to compete with Dart. The former Trojan won the battle against Sanders, a quarterback who had 9,553 career passing yards before coming to Ole Miss.

Granted, Dart had more experience heading into the quarterback competition than Moss currently does, making three starts his freshman year at USC and then 12 games as a sophomore with Ole Miss. But if Dart could beat out Sanders, Moss — with two years of experience under Riley — can take down any quarterback who might still come to USC.

Moss won’t have an easy schedule ast quarterback in 2024 — the Trojans play Michigan, who won the National Championship game Monday night, and four other teams ranked in the most recent Top 25 College Football Rankings  — but he already proved he can take down a ranked team. Louisville, who has a top-40 scoring defense even after giving up 42 points to Moss and USC, was ranked 15th in the last CFP poll.

He waited for his shot. It took three years. It took earning a whole undergraduate degree, which he did in Spring 2023. But Moss is ready to be the first starting quarterback for the Trojans as they venture into the Big Ten.

It’s Miller Time.

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