The final week of the 2022 college football regular season turned everything on its head. Top teams such as LSU, Clemson and Oregon lost in big upsets, definitively eliminating them from College Football Playoff contention. However, no result had a bigger impact than Ohio State’s lopsided loss to arch-rival Michigan.
The Wolverines, who entered the game as a nine-point underdog, pulled away for a 45-23 road win over the Buckeyes. Michigan scored five touchdowns from more than 40 yards out, including two huge runs by Donovan Edwards to ice the game. The defense also tightened up, holding the Buckeyes to just three points in the second half while forcing two turnovers.
This game didn’t just impact the playoff picture, but the Heisman Trophy race as well. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who had been a Heisman favorite all season, had a subpar game, throwing multiple interceptions for the first time this season. He did complete 31-of-48 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to overcome those costly turnovers.
Make no mistake, Stroud has had an outstanding season and is still one of the absolute best players in the country. However, this performance is a black eye on his 2022 campaign, one that effectively eliminates him from Heisman contention.
Let’s go over why Stroud’s performance against Michigan cost him the Heisman Trophy.
3. Ohio State may not make the College Football Playoff
Making the College Football Playoff isn’t a requirement to win the Heisman, but certainly helps one’s case. Since 2014, the first season of the CFP, seven of eight Heisman winners advanced to the final four. The only exception is Baltimore Ravens superstar Lamar Jackson, who accounted for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns as a sophomore for Louisville in 2016.
Stroud and the Buckeyes aren’t out of the running yet, as some scenarios could allow them to sneak in. However, Ohio State does not play another game before selection day, and thus does not control its own destiny. Even if the Buckeyes do get in, the Michigan loss still leaves a scar on the season.
If Ohio State doesn’t make it, Stroud hasn’t been quite strong enough to win the Heisman. He has similar passing stats to Jackson in 2016, but is a complete non-factor on the ground, whereas Jackson was an electric rusher. Maybe one could make an argument if there weren’t any other strong contenders this season, but that isn’t the case.
2. Stroud hasn’t been as impressive as the competition
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Stroud has the third-best Heisman odds in the country at +2500. TCU quarterback Max Duggan sits just ahead of him at +2000, while USC quarterback Caleb Williams is the clear favorite at -3000. When comparing the trio’s stats, it’s easy to see why Stroud has fallen behind his fellow signal-callers.
Stroud and Williams have very similar passing stats, with Stroud having more touchdowns and a slightly higher QBR, while Williams has more yards and fewer interceptions. However, Williams has been much better on the ground, with 351 yards and 10 touchdowns compared to Stroud’s 74 yards and no touchdowns. Meanwhile, Stroud tops Duggan in nearly all passing stats, but Duggan has been significantly better rushing.
Of course, the fact both USC and TCU are in prime playoff position doesn’t help Stroud’s case. He is already a long shot to win, and if Williams and Duggan make the playoff over him, Stroud can kiss his Heisman hopes goodbye.
1. Stroud fell apart in the Buckeyes’ biggest game
Heisman winners step up when it matters most, playing their best football in so-called “Heisman moments.” Some notable examples include Joe Burrow torching Alabama in 2019 or Bryce Young doing the same to Georgia’s vaunted defense in last year’s SEC Championship Game. As great as he has been, Stroud hasn’t really had a “Heisman moment” this season.
In Ohio State’s two biggest games prior to Michigan, against Notre Dame and Penn State, Stroud was relatively pedestrian. He threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame, then for 354 yards and one touchdown against Penn State.
Strong performances to be sure, but not Heisman-worthy.
Then we get to the Michigan game, where Stroud did not play well. His stat line was fine, but the two turnovers cost the Buckeyes dearly, and he had a bad second half. He could have bolstered his Heisman case with a strong performance in the win, but instead killed his case with a weak one.
Is Stroud an outstanding player who will likely be a star at the NFL level? Yes. Has Stroud done enough to earn the most prestigious award in college football? No.