Utah vs USC Caleb Williams
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USC flirted with a College Football Playoff berth in its first season under coach Lincoln Riley, but the Trojans ultimately missed the cut after a Pac-12 Championship Game loss to Utah knocked them from the top four of the final CFP Rankings. That sting is still fresh for USC quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams, who is says there's extra motivation in 2023 for the Trojans to be one of the final four teams standing.

"I'm very determined [to get there]," Williams said at Pac-12 Media Day Friday in an ESPN interview. "I haven't been in the College Football Playoff in my two years of playing. ... It's been tough. It bothers me because I play for championships. I don't play for anything else. So not being able to have the chance and being so close frustrates me. This year it's going to be a good one."

The 2022 season wasn't the first time Williams was part of a team that spent much of the year in the CFP conversation only to fall short in the end, as he referenced. During his true freshman season at Oklahoma in 2021, the Sooners were undefeated into mid-November before losing games at Baylor and Oklahoma State, eliminating them from the CFP picture. Williams overtook Spencer Rattler as Oklahoma's starting QB midway through that season before transferring to USC, following Riley to Los Angeles after he left his post with the Sooners to become Trojans coach. 

Williams is expected to be among college football's top stars again in 2023. He was named a preseason first-team All-Pac-12 selection, and is a key factor in why media members predicted the Trojans to win the Pac-12 title this December. 

Riley, too, is eager for the Trojans to put their best foot forward in 2023, especially considering it will be USC's last season in the Pac-12 before the Trojans -- along with crosstown rival UCLA -- depart for the Big Ten in July 2024. The Trojans were picked by media members to win the Pac-12 title, which the program last accomplished in 2017. 

"Does it motivate us any more than if it wasn't our last year in the Pac-12? No," Riley said. "But is there also a sense of that this your last chance to play some of these teams and go into some these venues? Absolutely. We feel that, and we want to put our best foot forward."