Week 13 Heisman Trophy Watch: C.J. Stroud Passes Bryce Young as Favorite

About four hours after C.J. Stroud won the Heisman Trophy, Bryce Young took it back.

Or so Saturday seemed.

Decisively and unequivocally, Ohio State’s Stroud and Alabama’s Young used the penultimate week of the regular season to turn the Heisman Trophy race into a two-quarterback derby with stunning, back-to-back, anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better showings.

Stroud has become DraftKings’ Heisman favorite for the first time this season at -200, while Young is now +150, the first time all season he has not been the No. 1 choice on all major sites. 

Both California-bred quarterbacks set school records in victories that moved their teams one step closer to the CFP Final Four.

Stroud, up first, was brilliant in the No. 4 Buckeyes’ 56-7 dismantling of No. 7 Michigan State. He passed for 432 yards and six touchdowns in Columbus in a game that started at noon local time. 

He completed a school-record 17 straight passes and threw for 393 yards in the first half, when he had all six scores as the Buckeyes scored on all seven possessions.

The streak could, could, have reached 30 — wide receiver Garrett Wilson admitted to running the wrong route on a ball that sailed away midway through the second quarter. Stroud did not throw another incomplete pass until his last of the game, midway through the third quarter.

Enter Young.

Young was even better — what? — in No. 2 Alabama’s closer-than-expected 42-35 home victory over Arkansas, passing for a school-record 559 yards in a game that kicked off at 2:30 local time.

Stroud barely had time to do his post-game media, take a shower and get back into street clothes before his season total of 3,468 yards was eclipsed by Young’s 3,584.

The voters will remember — and those who do not will be reminded by the Buckeyes’ savvy media relations folks — that Stroud has a leg up in a different area.

Stroud has played one fewer game than Young after sitting out the Week 4 game against Akron to rest a sore shoulder. Stroud is averaging 347 yards per game, sixth in the FBS. Young is next at 326. Stroud is second in the FBS in passing efficiency, ahead of Young by a half-percentage point.

And remember when California kids used to stay home to play college ball, attracted by the passing offenses featured in the Pac-12 and others on the West Coast? Cal’s Aaron Rodgers is from Chico, Calif. Oregon’s Dan Fouts is from San Francisco. USC Heisman winner Matt Leinart is from Santa Ana. USC’s Carson Palmer is from Fresno.   

That no longer holds. 

Stroud and Young were neighbors in the Los Angeles area before going East. Stroud played at Rancho Cucamonga High and Young spent his last two seasons at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High, 46 miles to the southwest.

One will bring the Heisman back to LA.

THE TOP FIVE

1. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State 

Season stats: 246-346, 71.1 percent, 3,468 yards, 36 TD, 5 INT

Last time out: 32-35, 432 yards, 6 TD in a 56-7 victory over Michigan State

This week: No. 4 Ohio State (10-1) plays at Michigan 

Line: Ohio State -7.5

Update: Stroud was impeccable at puncturing a Michigan State pass defense that had proved itself eminently puncturable in previous games against Michigan and Purdue. Stroud had his fourth 400-yard game and his fourth four-touchdown game against the Spartans despite playing one series in the second half. 

Status: Stroud extended his remarkable run since sitting out the Akron game because of a sore shoulder — he has thrown for 2,805 yards and 28 touchdowns against only two interceptions, both in a victory over Nebraska, in the last seven games. Momentum is squarely on his side as the Buckeyes face their biggest and most important test, at rival Michigan in Ann Arbor for a berth in the Big Ten championship game and a certain spot in the CFP Final Four.

DraftKings Odds: -200

2. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Season stats: 264-368, 71.7 percent, 3,584 yards, 38 TD, 3 INT

Last time out: 31-40, 559 yards, 5 TD in a 42-35 victory over Arkansas 

This week: No. 2 Alabama (10-1) plays at Auburn

Line: Alabama -19

Update: Young’s school-record 559 yards passing was a stunner, and the Crimson Tide needed them all — and an out-of-bounds onside kick in the final minutes — to outlast stubborn Arkansas and win the spot opposite Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Status: Maybe Nick Saban sneaked a peek at the Ohio State game, saw Stroud go wild and decided to give Young a chance to respond. Whatever. Young will face slumping Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Tigers gave up 415 passing yards to Mississippi State’s Will Rogers two weeks ago but otherwise have been fairly stingy against the pass. The Tigers’ rush defense, on the other hand, has been suspect.

DraftKings Odds: +150

3. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

Season stats: 234 carries, 1,508 yards, 17 TD; 13 receptions, 69 yards, 1 TD

Last time out: 6 carries, 25 yards in a 56-7 loss to Ohio State

This week: No. 7 Michigan State (9-2) plays host to Penn State

Line: Michigan State -1

Update: Walker never had a chance at Ohio State last week, largely due to the fact that the Buckeyes scored so early and so often that the running game quickly disappeared from the Spartans’ game. Compromising things further, Walker was at less than full strength after rolling his ankle late in the Spartans’ victory over Maryland the previous week. 

Status: Walker’s 195-yard, five-touchdown performance in a 37-33 victory over Michigan at the start of the month pushed him into the top tier of candidates, but college football is a quarterback’s game now, and when quarterbacks shine, others fade. Alabama’s Derrick Henry (2015) will remain the only running back in the last 11 years to win the Heisman.

DraftKings Odds: +2800

4. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt

Season stats: 286-426, 67.1 percent, 3,857 yards, 36 TD, 6 INT

Last time out: 26-41, 340 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT in a 48-38 victory over Virginia 

This week: No. 18 Pitt (9-2) plays at Syracuse

Line: Pitt -11

Update: Pickett had his fifth straight 300-yard game and connected with favorite receiver Jordan Addison for four touchdowns against Virginia to lead the Panthers into the ACC Coastal Division title game and a spot in the league championship game against Wake Forest, provided the Demon Deacons beat Boston College this week. Pickett is third in the FBS in total offense at 370.4 yards per game, ahead of Stroud (fifth) and Young (10th). 

Status: Pickett has had a marvelous career as a four-year starter and has had an even better second senior season, his growth maturity reflected in career highs for passing yards, completion percentage and touchdowns passes. (He had 39 in his first four years.) In another year, it might have been enough. 

DraftKings Odds: +4000

5. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

Season stats: 232-344, 67.4 percent, 3,099 yards, 19 TD, 3 INT; 133 carries, 552 yards, 10 TD

Last time out: 27-36, 326, 2 TD, I INT in a 31-17 victory over Vanderbilt

This week: No. 12 Ole Miss (9-2) plays at Mississippi State

Line: Mississippi State -1

Update: Corral led the FBS in total offense in 2020 at 384.9 yards per game, and he was approaching that average again this season after a 426-yard game  —231 passing, 195 rushing — in a mid-October victory at Tennessee. But an ankle injury suffered late in that game affected his ability to run, and that took away the element that separated him from the other elite contenders. He has had his three most accurate passing outings in the five games since but has rushed for only 102 yards. 

Status: Corral said farewell to Oxford in a Friday night text, posting an expansive message before “my final game at the Vaught” in which he thanked Ole Miss coaches for taking a chance on him and the fans for embracing him after his arrival from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly four years ago. Had he only been fully healthy …

DraftKings Odds: +2200

STILL THROWING

Will Rogers, QB, Mississippi State

Season stats: 435-572, 76.0 percent, 4,113 yards, 34 TD, 8 INT

Last time out: 28-34, 391 yards, 5 TD in a 55-10 victory over Tennessee State

This week: No. 25 Mississippi State (7-4) plays host to Ole Miss

Line: Mississippi State -1

Update: Rogers has passed for 1,951 yards, 20 touchdowns and two interceptions in the last five games since running afoul of the Alabama defense in a 49-9 home loss Oct. 16. He threw three picks in that one, a game that effectively eliminated him for the Heisman conversation despite sterling numbers generated through Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack.

Status: Rogers has thrown for more yards, has more total offense and has completed a higher percentage of passes than any other quarterback in the SEC entering what could be a spectacular Egg Bowl against Ole Miss this weekend, but in a league where Bryce Young and Matt Corral were Heisman contenders from the outset, the climb was too great.

DraftKings Odds: +20000

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