Not one, not two but three Heisman candidates for Ohio State to start the season.
In case you needed another reminder prior to Ohio State's season opener against Notre Dame in a top-five showdown Saturday night: The Buckeye offense is stacked once again.
The Heisman Trophy is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football every season. Of the top candidates to begin the season, Ohio State has three of the top seven, with Alabama also having three of the top eight players, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Although Georgia won the national championship last season, it's pretty obvious why the Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes are ranked as the top two teams in the country entering this year. Alabama has reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young back at quarterback, arguably the best defensive player and a generational talent in Will Anderson and a stacked roster once again. Ohio State has arguably the best quarterback, running back and wide receiver in the country. At least that’s what the oddsmakers seem to believe as the season begins.
|QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State||+220|
|QB Bryce Young, Alabama||+400|
|QB Caleb Williams, USC||+700|
|LB Will Anderson Jr., Alabama||+1600|
|RB TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State||+2200|
|RB Bijan Robinson, Texas||+2200|
|WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State||+2500|
|RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama||+3000|
|QB Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma||+3000|
|QB Quinn Ewers, Texas||+3500|
|QB Tyler Van Dyke, Miami (Florida)||+3500|
Young won the award last year, so how is he not the favorite to begin this season, you ask? Well, it's clear oddsmakers and college football bettors believe Stroud will be a gunslinger who leads the top offense in the country, one that is very pass-friendly and has plenty of talent all over the field.
Former Michigan wide receiver and current College GameDay analyst Desmond Howard, however, doesn't believe that Stroud should be the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season.
“I don’t think that anybody should be the frontrunner except Bryce Young, because he’s the returning winner of the Heisman,” Howard said recently on College Football Live. “I don’t think that C.J. Stroud or anybody else should be even neck-to-neck right now with Bryce Young.
“When you look at CJS, he’s going to have some big games. He’ll open up the season against Notre Dame, so that’s a marquee matchup. Just at the beginning when no games are played, for him to be the favorite, I just don’t get it.
“He’s going to have some marquee games to be able to catch Bryce Young. But Bryce Young right now for me, as a former winner and a guy who is a voter, it’s Bryce Young against the field.”
Although the Heisman Trophy is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football every season, that's not always the case. It has essentially turned into a quarterback award, with 18 of the past 22 Heisman winners being quarterbacks dating back to the 2000 season. The only non-quarterbacks to win the award in this millennium: Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (2020) and running backs Derrick Henry (2015) and Mark Ingram Jr. (2009) and USC running back Reggie Bush (2005).
Ohio State has the only two-time Heisman Winner (Archie Griffin in 1974-75) and is tied atop the all-time list of Heisman wins with seven, but the Buckeyes haven't had a Heisman winner since 2006, when Troy Smith brought the award back to Columbus. Since Griffin won back-to-back trophies nearly 50 years ago, Ohio State has had just two Heisman Trophy winners: Smith and Eddie George (1995).
Of the 11 Eleven Warriors staff members that gave their Heisman Trophy predictions, nine picked Stroud to take home the Heisman this season; one picked Smith-Njigba to do so.
Let's take a look at why (or why not) each of Ohio State's three Heisman candidates to begin the season could win college football's most prestigious individual award at season's end.
Why he will win it: With a year under his belt, Stroud will be more prepared and have better patience while leading the offense. Add in the fact that he has a loaded group of wide receivers to throw to, and it's obvious why the junior is the favorite to win the Heisman this year. Stroud's not only more experienced, but after being invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony last year, he knows what it takes to get the invite to New York.
Even though he's not much of a scrambler and would much prefer to move downfield with his arm rather than by using his legs, Stroud should rack up enough passing yards and touchdowns to keep his name at or near the top of the rankings.
Why he won't win it: His only problem could be the fact that teammates such as Henderson could take yards and touchdowns away from him. Then again, if Ohio State's offense lives up to expectations, it will move the ball and score so much that it might not even matter.
Why he will win it: As a true freshman, Henderson proved he's one of the best running backs in the country. On just 210 touches last season, he totaled 1,560 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns (15 rushing, four receiving).
Now, with a year under his belt and with all of the attention on Ohio State's passing attack, Henderson has the chance to improve on those incredible numbers from last season.
Why he won't win it: The Buckeyes’ potential to dominate through the air might not work in favor of Henderson in the Heisman Trophy race. Neither does the fact that Henderson’s backup, Miyan Williams, deserves to get plenty of opportunities as well.
Why he will win it: It will certainly be tough for Smith-Njigba to follow up on a record-breaking season, but if anyone can do so, it's him. Now the guy at wide receiver for Ohio State, the junior has a chance to prove that he is, in fact, the best receiver in the country this fall. Much like Henderson, though, the Buckeyes' abundance of talent at wide receiver could potentially hinder Smith-Njigba's shot at winning the Heisman simply because Stroud will spread the wealth to other five-star receivers as well.
Why he won't win it: There's a reason only one wide receiver has won the award since 1991: Unless a wideout has some absolutely insane numbers and highlights, there's a good chance that said player's quarterback had a Heisman-caliber season as well. And we all know the Heisman Trophy usually goes to a quarterback.