COLUMBUS — A College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with No. 1 Georgia gives C.J. Stroud a chance to rewrite the ending of his career whether he thinks he needs it or not.
“So I think at the end of the day, my legacy will live on at Ohio State, just what I’ve left here,” the Buckeyes’ quarterback said last week in Columbus. “And if you ask my teammates, they’ll speak highly about me. And I think that’s really with my family all that matters. In the community, I’ve done a lot of things in Columbus to reach out and try to give back to the homeless and give back to less fortunate and kids.”
On the field, the California native has accomplished quite a bit, too.
He is 21-3 as a starter for the Buckeyes, and his 7,775 passing yards and 81 touchdown passes are both second in school history.
Stroud is the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and two-time Quarterback of the Year, but there are at least a couple of things missing from his resume: A Big Ten championship and a win over Michigan.
Stroud seemed to be on the verge of tears multiple times in the postgame interview room following Ohio State’s 45-23 loss to Michigan last month, and he did not dispute the notion he might have played his last game in Scarlet and Gray.
Although he is only a third-year sophomore (who could stay as many as three more years since the 2020 season did not count toward eligibility), Stroud has been viewed as a likely first-round draft pick since the end of last season.
Had Ohio State missed the CFP, he might have followed the trend of players in his situation and skipped the Buckeyes’ bowl game, but that became moot when USC was upset in the Pac-12 Championship Game and the Buckeyes slid into the No. 4 slot in the final rankings.
The chance to counter the Michigan loss with an upset of defending champion Georgia might be an idea appealing to both sports and fairytale writers, but neither Ohio State head coach Ryan Day nor Stroud sounded interested in talking about what it would mean beyond advancing to the CFP National Championship Game (where Michigan could be the opponent).
“I think we need to take a step back, and you just look at things in general, the fact that this will be our third CFP appearance in four years and C.J. was our fifth Heisman Trophy finalist in five years, certainly, there’s a lot to be proud of there,” Day said Dec. 13.
Stroud concurred a day later.
“I think I’ve done a lot of good things here while I’ve been here, and it’s not done,” Stroud said. “Like, that’s the thing that keeps me grounded. I’m not done here. I mean, I don’t know how many games I have more. I don’t know how many seasons I have left. I have, what three years of eligibility? Like, it’s not done.
“At the end of the day, Saturdays are Saturdays. One Saturday doesn’t define who I am as a person and my legacy as a football player. I have a lot of football left ahead of me and my career, so I’m excited for that. And I’m excited for these next games. I’m not going to live in the past of what people maybe think or don’t think and if they think I have the ‘it’ factor or they think I’m not tough.
“All that stuff is funny to me, man, because no one was talking like this before this game, and people don’t know what I was going through through the game so, at the end of the day you’ve got to just accept the good with the bad and that’s okay.”
Saturday, Dec. 31
Ohio State vs. Georgia, 8 p.m., ESPN, 1410
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