Where does C.J. Stroud stand as a Heisman finalist?
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Where does C.J. Stroud stand as a Heisman finalist?

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day feels like C.J. Stroud's play this season speaks for itself.

It's play, Day feels, that should make him a finalist for the 2021 Heisman Trophy.

"I think he really grew and the way he played midway through the year, towards the end was very, very good," Day said Sunday. "We didn’t win the last game, obviously, but there were some games early where he was only in the first half of some of them. Maybe his numbers would have been even higher if he’d played all those games. I thought he really played well, I think he deserves to be in New York.”

And Stroud got that chance, joining Alabama QB Bryce Young, Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett and Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson as the four finalists for the 2021 Trophy.

But how will Stroud fare?

Currently Young is a -3000 favorite to win the Heisman, while Stroud sits in last among the finalists at +3000.

Here's a look at how Stroud's numbers stack up against his fellow quarterbacks and with Heisman quarterbacks historically.

How does C.J. Stroud compare to the current Heisman finalists? 

Heisman Finalist Quarterbacks 
Total Offense  Completion Percentage Touchdowns  Interceptions

C.J. Stroud

3,832

70.9

38

5

Bryce Young

4,353

68

46

4

Kenny Pickett

4,552

67.2

47

7

This is where Day's comment about the amount of playing time comes unto play.

Stroud played only 11 games compared to Young's AND PICKETT'S 13 games, with each playing a full regular season, along with a conference championship. If Stroud had played a complete season, along with a Big Ten Championship, the redshirt freshman would have been projected to around 4,528 passing yards, 45 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Even with those numbers, Stroud would likely have still trailed Young, who has averaged nearly 370 passing yards per game with 26 touchdowns compared to only one interception in his last seven games.

Against Georgia, Young seemed to have his Heisman moment with 461 total yards and four touchdowns, not getting sacked once. While Stroud played well against the best defense he faced all season — completing 34-of-49 passes for 394 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan — he was still sacked four times, succumbing to the pressure of the Wolverines' defensive line.

Stroud was as accurate a passer as there was in college football this year, as one of eight quarterbacks in FBS to complete more than 70% of throws this season. Stroud had 253 more passing yards and 14 more touchdowns than any other Big Ten quarterback.

But it still was a ways off from Young, who only seemed to get stronger as the year progressed.

How does C.J. Stroud compare to past Heisman quarterbacks? 

Heisman quarterbacks since 2010 — Stats prior to Heisman ceremony
Total Offense  Completion Percentage Touchdowns  Interceptions 

C.J. Stroud

3,832

70.9

38

5

Joe Burrow — LSU 2019

5,004

77.9

51

6

Kyler Murray — Oklahoma 2018

4,945

70.8

51

7

Baker Mayfield — Oklahoma 2017

4,650

71

46

5

Lamar Jackson — Louisville 2016

4,928

57.6

51

9

Marcus Mariota — Oregon 2014

4,852

68.3

55

3

Jameis Winston — Florida State 2013

4,013

67.9

38

10

Johnny Manziel — Texas A&M 2012

4,600

68.3

43

8

Robert Griffin III — Baylor 2011

4,642

72.4

45

6

Cam Newton — Auburn 2010

3,998

67

48

6

Stroud's 11 games for Ohio State in 2021 is very comparable statistically to what won Jameis Winston the Heisman in 2013 with 13 games.

While Stroud was much more accurate and didn't turn the ball over as much as Winston did, Winston had a bit more of a dual-threat quality to him, adding 193 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns compared to Stroud's -30 rushing yards and zero rushing touchdowns. The Florida State redshirt freshman also had success on his side, leading his team to an undefeated season and a BCS National Championship.

Four of the last nine Heisman Trophy quarterbacks have been 1,000-yard rushers too: Oklahoma's Kyler Murray in 2018, Louisville's Lamar Jackson in 2016, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in 2012, and Auburn's Cam Newton in 2010.

USC quarterback Matt Leinart in 2004 was the last quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy while ending the season with negative rushing yards.

In 2013, Winston was the clear winner of the Heisman, beating out Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch for the win. But there was a pretty dramatic drop off between Winston's numbers and the other two.

In 2021, Stroud doesn't have that luxury.

Final take 

Stroud was the best quarterback in the Big Ten, the best offensive player in the Big Ten and the best freshman in the Big Ten. He's one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and...

Stroud had one of the best seasons that Ohio State has really ever seen from a redshirt freshman quarterback.

But the numbers seem clear. While he had the numbers to get to New York, Stroud didn't have the numbers to secure what previously seemed rightfully his after his first half of play against Michigan State.

What a place to start for a quarterback, who hadn't thrown a collegiate pass before heading into his first start against Minnesota. But it's likely not enough to get him the trophy.