A Look at the Milestones C.J. Stroud, Ohio State and Other Buckeyes Could Achieve in the Rose Bowl

By Dan Hope and Matt Gutridge on December 24, 2021 at 11:05 am
Chris Olave and C.J. Stroud

With just one game to go in the 2021 season, Ohio State and several of its players still have a chance to set school records or achieve other notable milestones.

The Buckeyes’ chances of rewriting the record books this season took a hit when they lost to Michigan, keeping them out of the Big Ten Championship Game and College Football Playoff and limiting them to just 13 games instead of as many as 15 games. Still, C.J. Stroud and the offense are on pace to set multiple Ohio State records while there are numerous other Buckeyes who are also well within reach of hitting milestones with big games against Utah.

While any individual or team records set in the Rose Bowl will certainly pale in comparison to the bigger goals Ohio State fell short of achieving this season, there will be opportunities for the Buckeyes to make history in Pasadena nonetheless.

Stroud could set multiple passing efficiency records

In his 11 starts during the regular season, Stroud completed 70.9 percent of his passing attempts. If Stroud can continue to complete his passing attempts at a similar or better rate in the Rose Bowl, he will break the school record for completion percentage – which was most recently set last season when Justin Fields completed 70.2 percent of his passing attempts in Ohio State’s eight games.

Stroud is also currently on pace to break Ohio State’s school record for passer rating over the course of a single season, though he doesn’t enter the Rose Bowl with much of a cushion for first place. Fields set the Ohio State record for passing efficiency in 2019, when his passer rating over the course of the Buckeyes’ 14-game season was 181.4; Stroud’s passer rating for the 2021 season currently sits at 182.2.

Additionally, Stroud is on pace to break Ohio State’s single-season for passing yards per game, which is currently held by Dwayne Haskins (345.1 in 2018). Stroud averaged 351.1 passing yards per game during the regular season, which means he needs to throw for at least 279 yards – a number he’s topped in nine of his 11 starts this season – in the Rose Bowl to stay ahead of Haskins.

Offense on pace to break yardage records

As a team, Ohio State is also on pace to break the school and Big Ten single-season record for passing yards per game, though the Buckeyes will need to maintain their regular-season pace in the Rose Bowl to set the new mark. Ohio State has averaged 364.9 passing yards per game this season, less than one yard more than the 364.3 yards through the air Ohio State averaged per game in 2018. To set the new record, Ohio State will need to throw for 357 yards in the Rose Bowl.

The Buckeyes are more comfortably positioned to break the school records for yards per game and yards per play. Ohio State currently leads the nation with 551.4 yards per game and 7.78 yards per play this season, both of which would be new school records if the Buckeyes can maintain those marks. 

To break the previous school record of 535.6 yards per game, which was also set by the 2018 team and is also a Big Ten record, Ohio State – which has had at least 458 yards of offense in every game this season – needs to gain only 346 yards in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes should almost certainly break the school record for yards per play, which currently sits at 7.30, a mark set by the 2020 team.

Ohio State was also on pace to break the school record for points per game earlier this season, but scoring only 26 points against Nebraska and 27 points against Michigan knocked the Buckeyes off that pace. While Ohio State still leads the nation with 45.5 points per game this season, the Buckeyes would need to score a whopping 64 points against Utah to break the school record of 46.9 points per game set by the 2019 team. Ohio State’s current scoring average is tied with the 2013 team for the second-best in school history.

Olave could join 1,000-yard club

Whether Chris Olave will actually play in the Rose Bowl remains unconfirmed, but one incentive for Olave to play one final game as a Buckeye could be the fact that he would only need 64 receiving yards against Utah to become the eighth player in Ohio State history to gain 1,000 receiving yards in a single season.

If Olave was to reach the 1,000-yard mark as Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Garrett Wilson already have this season, Ohio State would become just the sixth team in Football Bowl Subdivision history with three 1,000-yard receivers in the same season.

Olave, who already holds the school record for career receiving touchdowns with 35, could also move up into the top three in school history in receiving yards – at least – with a big game in the Rose Bowl. He currently sits fifth in Ohio State history with 2,711 receiving yards, but is just 14 yards behind fourth-place Cris Carter, 81 yards behind third-place Gary Williams, 144 yards behind second-place David Boston and 187 yards behind Michael Jenkins. 

He also ranks third in school history in career receptions (176), but would need 15 catches in the Rose Bowl to tie Boston for second.

Smith-Njigba and Wilson could also potentially build on their historic seasons in the Rose Bowl. 

JSN already has the third-most single-season receiving yards in Ohio State history with 1,259 and would need 153 yards in the Rose Bowl to pass Terry Glenn for second (177 yards to break Boston’s single-season record). He also already has the third-most receptions in a single season in Ohio State history (80) and would need just five to tie Boston for second; if he catches 10 or more passes in the Rose Bowl, he could tie or break Parris Campbell’s single-season record of 90 receptions.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Jaxon Smith-Njigba has already had one of the most productive seasons ever for an Ohio State receiver, and he’ll have a chance to build on that in the Rose Bowl.

With a 100-yard game in Pasadena, Smith-Njigba would also tie Cris Carter’s school record of five consecutive games with 100-plus receiving yards.

Wilson, like Olave, is another projected first-round NFL draft pick who has not yet confirmed whether he will actually play in the Rose Bowl, but if he does, he would need only 19 yards to move into the top five in Ohio State history for the most receiving yards in a single season.

Ohio State’s Single-Season Receiving Yards Leaders
Rank Player Yards Year
1 DAVID BOSTON 1,435 1998
2 TERRY GLENN 1,411 1995
4 CRIS CARTER 1,127 1986
5 MICHAEL JENKINS 1,076 2002
6 PARRIS CAMPBELL 1,063 2018
7 GARRETT WILSON 1,058 2021
15 CHRIS OLAVE 936 2021

Ruckert still chasing tight end touchdown record

When Jeremy Ruckert caught two touchdown passes in Ohio State’s Oct. 23 win over Indiana, it seemed almost inevitable that Ruckert would at least tie Jake Stoneburner’s school record of 13 career touchdown catches by a tight end. After catching zero touchdown passes in Ohio State’s final five games of the regular season, however, Ruckert will need to score a touchdown in the Rose Bowl to match Stoneburner’s mark.

Assuming Ruckert plays in the Rose Bowl, which would be his final game as a Buckeye before he pursues an NFL career, it stands to reason Ohio State could make a concerted effort to get him the ball in the red zone for a chance to make history. Breaking the record isn’t out of the question, either, as Ruckert has had four multi-touchdown games in his Ohio State career.

Hickman nearing 100 tackles

As you might expect, Ohio State’s defense isn’t going to set any records this season. One individual defender who is on the verge of achieving a notable statistical milestone, though, is redshirt sophomore safety Ronnie Hickman.

With 97 total tackles this season – 43 more than any other Ohio State player (Cody Simon ranks second on the team with 54) – Hickman needs just three tackles against Utah to become the first Buckeye since Raekwon McMillan in 2016 to record 100 tackles in a single season.

Since then, no Ohio State player has recorded more than 81 total tackles in a season. Hickman has already been the Buckeyes’ most productive tackler of the last five seasons, but bringing his tackle total for the season to triple digits would make his numbers stand out even more.

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