Ohio State Buckeyes: C.J. Stroud focused on Michigan State, not Heisman talk

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Ohio State football quarterback C.J. Stroud credits God with making him a leader not just on the football field

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

COLUMBUS -- C.J. Stroud for Heisman?

Don’t expect the Ohio State quarterback to start the campaign for college football’s highest-profile award.

“Right now I’m just focused on Michigan State,” he said Wednesday night. “We have two, hopefully three more games left, and at the end of the day I just want to win those games as a team. Whatever happens, happens. Of course it’s a blessing to have my name up there, but I don’t even look at that stuff. I try not to. I even tell my family not to send stuff like that to me so I can really focus in on my opponent. This week that’s Michigan State.”

ExploreRyan Day talks seniors, Spartans and more

In a wide-open race, the redshirt freshman’s numbers are as good as anyone’s.

He ranks sixth in the country in passing yards per game (337.3) and fifth in both passing efficiency and touchdown passes (30).

Stroud leads the Big Ten in points responsible for (180), and he has the No. 4 passing grade in the country from Pro Football Focus (minimum 50 percent of a team’s dropbacks).

Pittsburgh’s Kenny Picket is PFF’s top-rated passer at this point in the season followed by Bryce Young of Alabama and Sam Hartman of Wake Forest.

Among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 300 passes, Young is the only player with a higher pass efficiency rating (180.1) than Stroud (179.4).

A straw poll published by The Athletic this week had Young and Pickett among seven players ahead of Stroud. That group also included Mississippi quarterback Matt Coral and three defensive players, but Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker was on top for the third week in a row.

Stroud’s profile has risen throughout the season, as has his responsibility within the Ohio State offense increase.

Head coach Ryan Day confirmed Stroud called an audible on Ohio State’s first touchdown last week — a quick out to Garrett Wilson that took advantage of Purdue’s choice to play single coverage with no free safety and got him free along the sideline for a relatively easy score.

“We have been giving him more and more (ability to change the play),” Day said. “He changed that play based on what he was seeing, and it was really well done. Those are the things people don’t see with all of the hours we put in. He did it and that’s why it worked.”

Stroud himself seemed unimpressed.

“I feel like the coaches have trusted me to be able to be a coach on the field, so I feel like that’s a plus for our offense,” Stroud said. “If I can see what the coaches are seeing and get it done quicker then the defense can’t check out of it and of course we can try to score. So I feel like the coaches are trusting me and doing a great job getting me the right looks and the right film to watch, so it’s really coming together.”

Day said following the win over Purdue he has been impressed with the growth of Stroud as a leader, but the quarterback said that was nothing new, either.

“Thanks to God, I’ve always been a leader since I was 5 years old,” Stroud said. “I feel like God has always called me to be a leader, not just of football but of men in general so it wasn’t a surprise when I came to Ohio State and was a leader. I always felt like one no matter if I was a captain or not. I felt like I need to lead people. So I feel like more off the field it’s showing people or at least trying to lead people to Christ. I’m not perfect, but I try in a sense. And I feel like God respects me for that. I have great teammates like Kamryn Babb, Master Teague, Xavier Johnson — guys who are deep on their faith so I try to rely on them a lot.”

ExploreSpecial teams could be difference-maker this week

As for this week, the Spartans could provide another chance to put up big numbers.

In terms of raw yards, Michigan State has the worst secondary in the country. No one has allowed more than their 329 passing yards per game, though they are better in terms of efficiency (56th) and 35th in yards per completion (6.87).

“We never want to give up a big play,” MSU defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton told reporters in East Lansing this week (per the Detroit Free Press). “I mean, that’s the thing that has been really hurting us. If you go through and you say, ‘Hey, how many yards per attempt and per completion?’ Well, shoot, it’s not as horrible as our total numbers, because we’ve seen so many passes.”

Pro Football Focus has the Spartans 57th in the country in coverage grade while they are 18th against the run and 25th overall.

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