It was no surprise Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud didn’t win the Heisman Trophy. Things have been trending that way for the last several weeks.
If there was a surprise it was that, as the presumed leader for that award for much of the college football season, he didn’t have enough residual support to finish runner-up to USC’s Caleb Williams.
Williams got 544 first-place votes. TCU quarterback Max Duggan finished second in the voting and was named first on 188 ballots. Stroud got 37 first-place votes and Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who was a bit of a surprise as the fourth finalist, received 36 first-place votes.
Stroud finished third after being fourth in last season’s Heisman voting.
If he had finished the way he did in 2021 instead of the way he did this season, he might have pulled in a few more votes.
A year ago, Stroud threw for 405 yards, 361 yards, 432 yards, 394 yards and 573 yards in OSU’s final five game and a total of 21 touchdowns in those games.
His 573 yards and six touchdown passes in the the Rose Bowl, despite OSU playing without its top two receivers, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, made him the preseason Heisman favorite.
He remained in the favorite’s role when he passed for 28 touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ first seven games. But the combination of throwing only eight touchdown passes in OSU’s last five regular-season games and being soundly beaten by Michigan eroded his support.
Williams’ numbers were the best in what turned out to be a quarterbacks only Heisman competition. And he had a signature game late in the season when he threw for 470 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-45 win over USC’s rival UCLA to cancel out a loss to Utah in the PAC-12 championship game.
Timing often matters a lot in Heisman races. A huge game in Week 10, Week 11 or Week 12 probably never hurt anyone’s chances. On the other hand, a bad game in Week 10, Week 11, Week 12 or a conference championship game can take the air out of a Heisman contender’s chances.
The Heisman history of three former Ohio State players illustrates that.
In 1995, Eddie George became one of the leaders for the Heisman when he rushed for 207 yards against Notre Dame on the last day of September. He took control of the race when he ran for 314 yards against Illinois on Nov. 11 and won the trophy despite being held to 104 yards in a loss to Michigan.
In 2006, Troy Smith was already the overwhelming favorite for the Heisman, but when he passed for 316 yards and four touchdowns in No. 1 OSU’s win over No. 2 Michigan, the Heisman Trust could have called the engraver and said put his name on the trophy right now.
An unproductive game at the wrong time can do huge damage, though. Ezekiel Elliott’s 2015 Heisman experience is evidence of that.
In Week 11 of that season, No. 2 Ohio State, the defending national champion, was upset 17-14 by Michigan State and Elliott gained only 33 yards on 12 carries.
He averaged 149 yards rushing in the Buckeyes’ other 12 games. But he received only five first-place votes, seven second-place votes and 28 third-place votes on Heisman ballots and finished eighth in a season when he ran for 1,821 yards a year after rushing for 1,878 yards in 2014.
SMITH-NJIGBA RIGHT CHOICE: Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s announcement that he will not play in Ohio State’s College Football Playoff semifinal against Georgia and will point toward the NFL draft in his rehabilitation of what is believed to be a lingering hamstring injury was the right call.
He suffered the injury in OSU’s season opener against Notre Dame. He made two attempts to come back, against Toledo and against Iowa, but never appeared to be moving at full speed or making quick moves in either of those games.
So far, no other Buckeyes have said they won’t play against Georgia.
BUCKEYES LEGENDS BOOK: Mark Rea, the former editor of Buckeye Sports Bulletin and author of The Legends, which told the story of 50 Ohio State football legends, has written The Legends, Part II, which tells the story of 50 more OSU greats.
The latest book has chapters on familiar names like Paul Warfield, Jim Otis, Randy Gradishar, Luke Fickell, Mike Vrabel, Maurice Clarett, Joey and Nick Bosa, Chase Young and others.
But it also shines a light on other figures less well known, like Frederick Patterson, the first Black player to score a touchdown for Ohio State and the first Black player to get a letterman’s jacket
The book is available on Amazon.com. Contact Orange Frazer Press at 937-382-3196 or go to www.orangefrazer.com for more information.
SO THERE MIGHT BE A CHANCE: Georgia is a 7-point favorite over Ohio State in their College Football Playoff semifinal on New Year’s Eve.
But since 2012, OSU is 8-2 in games in which it was an underdog. Credit to Mike Wachsman of College Football Focus for that stat.