Across The Shield: Six Players from Ohio State Advance to NFL Conference Championship Games, C.J. Stroud Feeling Blessed After Rookie Season

By Dan Hope on January 22, 2024 at 10:10 am
Taylor Decker
Lon Horwedel – USA TODAY Sports

At least five former Ohio State players will play in NFL conference championship games next weekend.

The NFC Championship Game will feature a battle between Buckeyes in the trenches as a Detroit Lions offensive line featuring a left side of Taylor Decker and Jonah Jackson will go head-to-head with a San Francisco 49ers defensive line that stars Nick Bosa and Chase Young rushing off the edges.

Jackson may be unable to play in that game, however, after leaving the Lions’ divisional round win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a knee injury. Lions coach Dan Campbell told reporters after the game that it “doesn’t look real good for next week, but we’ll see” when asked about Jackson’s injury after the game. (Update: ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Monday that Jackson underwent surgery for a “slight meniscus tear” and is expected to miss the NFC Championship Game, though he could return for the Super Bowl if Detroit beats San Francisco.)

Either way, both teams will have multiple Buckeyes on the field, with former Ohio State long snapper Jake McQuaide also playing for the Lions.

Bosa will be looking to win his second NFC title with the 49ers, having previously helped them win the conference during his rookie season. McQuaide, who is in his first season as the Lions’ long snapper, will be looking to win his second NFC title after going to the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams five years ago.

The AFC Championship Game will include only one former Ohio State player, Malik Harrison, after his Baltimore Ravens eliminated C.J. Stroud and Cameron Johnston’s Houston Texans from the playoffs in the divisional round. The No. 1 seed Ravens will host the Kansas City Chiefs, who don’t have any Buckeyes on their roster.

The schedule for Sunday’s conference championship games with the Buckeyes currently on each of the participating teams’ 53-man rosters:


  • 3 p.m., CBS: No. 1 Baltimore Ravens (Malik Harrison) vs. No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs (None)
  • 6:30 p.m., FOX: No. 1 San Francisco 49ers (Nick Bosa, Chase Young) vs. No. 3 Detroit Lions (Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Jake McQuaide)

Each of the Buckeyes advancing in the playoffs played a part in their teams’ respective divisional-round victories.

Harrison recorded a season-high five tackles and also forced a fumble on a kickoff return late in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ 34-10 win over the Texans.

Bosa and Young each recorded three tackles in the 49ers’ 24-21 win over the Green Bay Packers. Bosa also recorded five quarterback hits, the most of any defender during divisional-round weekend and tying his season-high in that category, earning him this week’s Pro Buck of the Week award as Ohio State’s top NFL performer in the divisional round.

Pro Bucks of the Week
Week Player Stats
Week 1 Saints CB Marshon Lattimore 1 INT, 3 PBU, 2 tackles
Week 2 Texans QB C.J. Stroud 30-47 passing, 384 yards, 2 TD
Week 3 Saints WR Chris Olave 8 catches, 104 yards
Week 4 Broncos OLB Jonathon Cooper 5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 35-yard fumble return TD
Week 5 Bears QB Justin Fields 15-29 passing, 282 yards, 4 TD; 11 carries, 57 yards
Week 6 Bengals DE Sam Hubbard 7 tackles, 1 sack, 5 QB hits
Week 7 Dolphins LB Jerome Baker 11 tackles, 1 TFL, 22-yard interception return TD
Week 8 Broncos OLB Baron Browning 4 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 1 FF
Week 9 Texans QB C.J. Stroud 30-42 passing, 470 yards, 5 TD; 10 rushing yards
Week 10 Texans WR Noah Brown 7 catches, 172 yards
Week 11 Alouettes WR Austin Mack 6 catches, 103 yards, 1 TD in Grey Cup win
Week 12 Rams S Jordan Fuller 4 PBU, 3 tackles
Week 13 Saints WR Chris Olave 5 catches, 119 yards
Week 14 Patriots RB Ezekiel Elliott 22 carries, 68 yards; 7 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD; 1 tackle
Week 15 Commanders WR Terry McLaurin 6 catches, 141 yards, 1 TD; 1 tackle
Week 16 Falcons DE Zach Harrison 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 PBU
Week 17 Browns S Ronnie Hickman 4 tackles, 30-yard interception return TD
Week 18 Texans QB C.J. Stroud 20-26 passing, 264 yards, 2 TD; 3 carries, 20 yards
Wild Card Texans QB C.J. Stroud 16-21 passing, 274 yards, 3 TD; 1 carry, 1 yard
Divisional 49ers DE Nick Bosa 3 tackles, 5 QB hits

While Jackson left the Lions’ 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers late in the first half and did not return, Decker helped lead a big day for the Detroit offense as the Lions put up 391 yards of offense and allowed only two sacks. McQuaide snapped for one made field goal and four converted extra points for Lions kicker Michael Badgley.

Stroud grateful after rookie season

Stroud’s final game of his the season was one of the worst of his first year in the NFL as he completed only 19 of 33 passing attempts for 175 yards with zero touchdowns. In a game where he repeatedly faced pressure from the Ravens’ defense, Stroud finished with a passer rating of 72.2, his second-worst of the season.

The disappointing finish shouldn’t overshadow everything else Stroud accomplished in his first season as a pro, such as:

  • Breaking the record for most passing attempts to start an NFL career without an interception (191)
  • Breaking the record for the most single-game passing yards (470) by a rookie quarterback
  • Tying the record for the most single-game passing touchdowns (5) by a rookie quarterback
  • Throwing for the third-most passing yards in a single season (4,108) by a rookie quarterback
  • Leading the NFL in passing yards per game (273.5) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (23:5)
  • Throwing for 274 yards and tying a rookie record with three passing touchdowns in his playoff debut

With all of those accomplishments, Stroud has plenty of reasons to hold his head high going into his first full offseason as an NFL quarterback. And he ended his final game as a rookie feeling grateful for all the experiences he had in his first season as a Houston Texan.

“It’s been a heck of a year,” Stroud said after the game. “Our future’s bright, man … I’m upset right now, but I’m really just blessed looking back on this year.”

Full stats for every former Ohio State player who played in the divisional round can be found in the table below compiled by Eleven Warriors researcher Matt Gutridge. (Note: The table only includes players who finished their collegiate careers at Ohio State.)

Buckeyes Around the NFL
NICK BOSA DE 49ERS 3 tackles, 5 QB hits 3 tackles, 5 QB hits
NOAH BROWN WR TEXANS Injured reserve (shoulder) 1 start at WR 
TAYLOR DECKER OT LIONS Started at OT 2 starts at OT
J.K. DOBBINS RB RAVENS Injured reserve (Achilles)  
MALIK HARRISON LB RAVENS 5 tackles, 1 FF 5 tackles, 1 FF
JONAH JACKSON OG LIONS Started at LG 2 starts at OG
CAMERON JOHNSTON P TEXANS 5 punts, 43.4 average, 2 inside 20 9 punts, 44.6 average, 5 inside 20
JAKE McQUAIDE LS LIONS Played at LS 2 games played at LS
JOSH MYERS C PACKERS Started at C 2 Starts at C
C.J. STROUD QB TEXANS 19 of 33 passing for 175 yards; 3 carries, 9 yards 32 of 54 passing, 449 yards, 3 TD; 4 carries, 10 yards
CHASE YOUNG DE 49ERS 3 tackles 3 tackles
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