COLUMBUS — Two seasons as a starter, two seasons making the trip to New York City.
C.J. Stroud is a Heisman Trophy finalist again. The redshirt sophomore Ohio State quarterback was named one of four contenders for the most prestigious honor in college football Monday.
Ohio State is tied with Oklahoma and Notre Dame for the most Heisman Trophy winners (seven) all-time — that, of course, includes running back Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman winner in the sport’s history. The last Buckeyes player to hoist the trophy was quarterback Troy Smith in 2006.
Stroud finished fourth in Heisman voting last year, behind Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.
That was after Stroud registered the second-most passing yards (4,435) and passing touchdowns (44) by a Buckeyes quarterback in a single season. He trailed only the late Dwayne Haskins in both of those categories. Stroud, however, did rank first in Ohio State single-season history with a completion percentage of 71.9% and a passing efficiency of 186.6.
The Inland Empire, California, native kicked off his 2022 Heisman campaign with a head-turning performance in last year’s thrilling Rose Bowl victory over Utah. He broke the Buckeyes single-game record with 573 passing yards — an astounding 347 of which went to slot receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba — and tied the school record with six passing touchdowns, a mark he also reached earlier that year against Michigan State.
Stroud hasn’t had quite the same statistical output this season. Most notably, his completion percentage has dipped to 66.2%, and he’s thrown for 1,000-plus fewer yards than he did last year. That said, he’s still tied for first nationally with 37 touchdown passes, and he’s tops in the country with a 176.25 passer rating, not to mention that he’s posted five 300-yard games and rounded out six outings with at least four touchdown throws.
Stroud swept the major Big Ten offensive awards for the second year in a row. Once again, he was crowned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Quarterback of the Year. Stroud was named a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year. And he was recognized as a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award and the Maxwell Award, given to the top quarterback and most outstanding player, respectively, in college football.
Stroud has helped guide Ohio State to an 11-1 record, and, while he and the rest of the Buckeyes came up short versus No. 2 Michigan for the second consecutive season, the Buckeyes still made the College Football Playoff.
Following the Buckeyes’ 45-23 defeat to the Wolverines, Stroud — a projected top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft — was asked about his legacy in Columbus.
“People are going to say I never won The Game, and I understand,” he said. “People are going to say I never won a Big Ten Championship, and I understand. So, I mean, when it comes to that, I just have to eat it, man. It’s life. Nothing’s ever been easy for me. I don’t expect it to get easy.”
Stroud added: “I think I said earlier this week that I want to be known as the best. I don’t think that I’ll have that respect from Buckeye nation anymore. … I wish I could have did more. I wish I could have won these games. But no one can question my heart.”
Because Ohio State snuck into the CFP as the No. 4 seed — courtesy of Utah beating USC in the Pac-12 Championship — Stroud now has chance to change that narrative.
And maybe even get one last crack at Michigan for all the marbles.