Heisman Watch: C.J. Stroud is the Odds-On Favorite and Lone Buckeye Among the Top-14 Odds

By Josh Poloha on September 21, 2022 at 10:10 am
C.J. Stroud

C.J. Stroud has lived up to the preseason hype so far.

Throughout the preseason, C.J. Stroud was the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at season's end, just ahead of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who won the award last year. A fourth of the way through the regular season, things are going quite well for the Buckeyes, including Ohio State's gunslinger.

Stroud remains atop the list, with USC quarterback Caleb Williams climbing into the second spot while leading the Trojans to a 3-0 record and top-10 ranking thus far. Although Alabama is also undefeated, Young – the reigning Heisman Trophy winner – has fallen to third on the list and the gap between the top three and the rest of the field is quite significant, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Top Heisman Candidates (via DraftKings Sportsbook)
Player Odds
QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State +200
QB Caleb Williams, USC +300
QB Bryce Young, Alabama +400
QB Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia +1200
QB Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma +2000
QB JJ McCarthy, Michigan +2000
LB Will Anderson Jr., Alabama +3000
RB Bijan Robinson, Texas +3000
QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee +4000
RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama +4000
QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington +4500

The fact that Young has never been the odds-on favorite to win the award this season tells you all you need to know: Bettors love Stroud and think he will continue to do quite well in his second year starting in Ryan Day's pass-friendly offense. The talent around him in Columbus certainly helps build that case, too, as the first three weeks of the season have already proven.

It’s also tough to win the Heisman Trophy twice. Former Buckeye Archie Griffin is the only two-time Heisman Winner (1974-75) and it seems as though it will take a lot for voters to name another two-timer. Whether it's expectations or just getting bored with the same old player, it seems like it will be quite a feat for Young to match Griffin's well-deserved record.

With Ohio State set to host Wisconsin Saturday night in its Big Ten opener, the Buckeye quarterback has impressed throughout much of the first three games of the season, even with such high expectations ahead of the redshirt sophomore's second year as the starting quarterback.

Stroud has completed 62 of 85 passes (72.9%) for 941 yards, 11 touchdowns, and zero interceptions, including a dominant performance against Toledo this past weekend in which he threw for 367 yards and six touchdowns while completing 22 of 27 passes, for which he was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. He ranks among the best in the country in nearly every statistical category for passing:

  • Passing yards per game: 313.67 (9th)
  • Passing yards per completion: 15.18 (13th)
  • Passing yards per attempt: 11.07 (4th)
  • Passing touchdowns: 11 (T-1st)
  • Passing efficiency: 208.64 (2nd)

Even though both Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson – who were among the top seven Heisman candidates to begin the season but are now both long shots – have missed time due to injuries, Stroud has continued to dominate. Part of that is due to the depth Ohio State has at its skill positions, but don't discount just how good Stroud is (and can be going forward). Oddsmakers continue to take notice.

With Henderson and Smith-Njigba splitting reps early on both due to their respective injuries and Ohio State's depth, Marvin Harrison Jr. is one of the many players who has taken advantage of the increased opportunity and bigger role in the offense. In fact, Harrison has impressed so much that he is now on the board with 55/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy, good for the 15th-best odds on the list.

Since the Heisman is essentially a quarterback’s award – 18 of the past 22 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks dating back to the 2000 season – Stroud is in the driver's seat when it comes to potentially winning the most prestigious individual award in college football.

Ohio State hasn'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, the Buckeyes have had just two Heisman Trophy winners: Smith and Eddie George (1995). If Stroud can keep things going, he just might be the one to end that drought.

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