Ohio State football quarterback C.J. Stroud falls short in Heisman Trophy race, finishes fourth

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

NEW YORK — C.J. Stroud fell short of taking college football’s most preeminent player of the year award.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide on Saturday night.

Young received 684 of 875 first-place votes and was named on 90% of all ballots, the seventh-highest percentage in the award’s history. He swept all six regions, totaling 2,311 points.

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett finished second and third with 954 and 631 points, respectively.

Heisman Trophy finalists, from left, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young

Stroud, the redshirt freshman quarterback for Ohio State who put up prolific passing numbers in his debut season as a starter, ended in fourth place in the final voting with 399.

The four of them made up the finalists who were in attendance at the ceremony held at the Jazz at Lincoln Center facility.

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Stroud fell outside the top-three in every region but the Midwest, where he was third.

Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Stroud was widely seen as the favorite to win the Heisman, pitted against Young, the Crimson Tide's dynamic signal caller and a childhood friend growing up in Southern California.

In Heisman voting, Ohio C.J. Stroud fell outside the top three in every region but the Midwest, where he was third.

But the Buckeyes were upset by Michigan in a loss that kept them from reaching the Big Ten championship game and College Football Playoff, damaging Stroud's position in the race. He was the only one of three finalists to be idle when conference championship games were held over the first weekend in December. 

Despite his once-frontrunner status, Stroud totaled only 12 first-place votes, surpassed by Alabama linebacker Will Anderson (31) and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III (18) who were not among the finalists.

He still finished with one of the more statistically impressive seasons in the nation.

Making 11 starts for the Buckeyes during the regular season, Stroud threw for 3,862 yards, 38 touchdowns and five interceptions, completing 70.9% of his passes. His passer rating of 182.24 ranked second in the Football Bowl Subdivision. 

Ahead of the ceremony, Stroud said he felt in "awe" to be a finalist and share the stage with the others. 

"I remember those days where I didn’t think working out was really necessary, or I didn’t think it would pay off," Stroud said. "Now it is. I know a lot of people back home are surprised. But honestly, I’m not surprised. I put in the work, and I kept God first. If you do those two things, I think you can accomplish anything in life.

Stroud was the latest in a recent line of Ohio State starting quarterbacks to be a finalist, following Justin Fields and Dwayne Haskins.

Fields and Haskins each finished third in the final voting in 2019 and 2018, while Fields was also seventh last year, playing a reduced number of games after the Big Ten's season was delayed until late October due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Former quarterback Troy Smith was the last Ohio State player to win the Heisman, doing so in 2006 when he led the Buckeyes to the BCS national championship game. 

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at jkaufman@dispatch.com or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.

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