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You’re Nuts: Who should be Ohio State’s Heisman candidate?

The Buckeyes have the top offense in the country, and there are a number of players who could potentially work their way to New York this season.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

This week’s topic:

Josh’s Take: TreVeyon Henderson

For the record, I think Ohio State sends a quartet of players to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation: C.J. Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson, Chris Olave, and Noah Ruggles (perfect season recognition?). The offense is humming and there are weapons galore, so I believe all these guys continue to get bites at the apple, if you will.

The Ruggles prediction is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but I would not be the least bit surprised if any or all (homer!) of the afore mentioned players receive an invite to NYC – and don’t count out Garrett Wilson. Since it takes a truly transcendent season for a defensive player to even be included in the discussion, and the Buckeyes don’t have one, hopes for an eighth OSU Heisman rest on the shoulders of these offensive stars.

After careful consideration (five minutes while watching NFL Sunday), I am eliminating wide receivers from my list of candidates. Olave, Wilson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are, without a doubt, the best receiving trio in America — and that is a problem for their potential Heisman candidacy. While it is a great problem for OSU coaches, players, and fans to have, the three talented wideouts will continue eating into each other’s playmaking opportunities. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for all of them to finish with 1,000 yards and 10 TD, but it will likely take at least 1,500 and 15 to get a sniff of the trophy.

That leaves Stroud and Henderson, and I’m going rogue here. The Heisman is a quarterback award. If the Buckeyes are going to have a special season, it seems pretty clear that Stroud will follow suit. He might approach 4,000 yards and 40 TD by the time it’s all said and done… BUT, I think Henderson unlocks the entire offense, and I see Stroud slowing down later in the season. The T-Train slows down for nobody, which would make it a terrible passenger train, but I’ll work on the nickname.

Stroud has shown me and the Buckeye faithful a lot during these last few weeks, so he deserves a ton of recognition. He looks like an entirely different quarterback. That being said, Ohio State is not going to play Rutgers and Maryland every week. As the season nears November, the defenses will get better and the weather colder. Henderson seems defense-proof, due to his ability to both run and catch the ball. Furthermore, if you’ve ever watched a Big Ten game in late November, you know that weather can sometimes play a factor. I’m not sure we’ll see Midwest snow in 2021, but if it gets ugly, you can put Henderson down for 30-35 carries in a game without much passing.

Of course, weather doesn’t mean squat in the grand scheme of things. Talent matters, and Henderson has copious amounts of it. OSU fans had high expectations for the number one running back recruit in the country, and he has not disappointed. The rest of the county was put on notice when the freshman housed a 70-yard reception against Minnesota. Since then, his reps have increased, and so has the national attention being paid to him.

After a pedestrian game against Oregon, Henderson took a firm hold of the starting running back job. He has not looked back since. 277 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Tulsa was officially the start of his Heisman campaign. He nearly set an OSU record in his third game! The games since have been pretty good too. In weeks four through six, Henderson totaled six touchdowns — all in blowouts. He has done his damage in three quarters or less and averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. Talk about a freak, respectfully, of course.

What I believe makes Henderson so special, and a legitimate Heisman candidate, is his all-around game. He’s no Reggie Bush, but his ability to catch the ball is rare. The former high school wide receiver and defensive back has clearly not lost that skillset. Even if teams stack the box against Ohio State, like Maryland did early, Ryan Day can dial up a few screens and swing passes to get Henderson in space. Once that happens, good luck to the opposing defense. Henderson is an electric athlete, up there with the Braxton Miller and Ted Ginn as the most prolific examples that come to mind recently.

On the season, Henderson has 77 touches for 766 yards and 11 touchdowns. Are you kidding me!? Stroud has been impressive. Same for Bryce Young and a few other guys, but quarterbacks get the rock on every play. Henderson is making a house call every seven touches! And averaging nearly nine yards per carry (on 70 of them). The stats, the eye test, you name it — this kid checks all the boxes.

I certainly wouldn’t be upset if Ohio State Buckeyes “sweep the podium” at the Heisman presentation, but Henderson gets the edge for me. After a few early stumbles and lessons learned, the offense has been unstoppable, and I think they continue to rack up points for the duration of the season. That being said, there are going to be rock fights in the Big Ten. Penn State, Michigan State, and TTUN are going to present real challenges during the regular season. Who knows what happens in the postseason? What I do know, is that I believe in the consistent threat of TreVeyon Henderson. He’s that good, and the Heisman hype is real.

Gene’s Take: C.J. Stroud

If you’ve been a consistent listener of Hangout in the Holy Land, you’ll know that neither Josh nor I were not one of those insane people begging for Ohio State to bench C.J. Stroud after some early season struggles. We certainly had some questions after a below-average performance for the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback in the team’s 41-20 win against Tulsa, but after finally being given a week off to rest his shoulder that was very obviously ailing him, Stroud has come back to the field as an entirely different player.

Now, it is worth mentioning that even during Stroud’s “struggles,” his stats don't look all that bad on paper. He had his fair share of ugly throws in Ohio State’s first two games against Minnesota and Oregon, but he would go on to finish with 294 yards with four touchdowns and one interception against the Gophers and 484 yards with three TDs and one INT in the loss to the Ducks. His worst game of the season thus far was actually against Tulsa, where he finished with just 185 yards passing with one TD and one INT in a game that was dominated by TreVeyon Henderson and the Buckeyes’ rushing attack.

Ryan Day made the correct decision to give Stroud the game off in a lopsided affair against Akron. Especially in that Tulsa game, Stroud’s shoulder injury was super apparent. He was missing on some easy throws, he looked hesitant at times making decisions, and overall just lacked the confidence that a quarterback playing in an offense surrounding by the country’s best playmakers should be exuding. Stroud took the entire week off of practice and sat in favor of Kyle McCord and Jack Miller against the Zips, and that decision has paid off immensely already.

In the two games since against Rutgers and Maryland, Stroud has completed 41 of his 56 pass attempts for a combined 736 yards with 10 touchdowns and no picks — and that is all without playing almost the entirety of the second half in either contest. Ohio State’s offense is firing on all cylinders right now, and the play of Stroud has been a big reason why. The Buckeyes have done a tremendous job of simplifying the offense and playing to Stroud’s strengths, and it has allowed him to really open things up and look like the quarterback we expected him to be coming into the 2021 campaign.

What further helps Stroud in his Heisman hunt is just the sheer embarrassment of riches around him in terms of skill talent. TreVeyon Henderson has quickly become one of the best running backs in the country and is now even showcasing his abilities as a pass-catcher as well as a home run threat out of the backfield, while Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are arguably the greatest wide receiver trio Ohio State has ever had and certainly the best group in college football. Stroud has made more than his fair share of spectacular throws in these last two weeks, but having these guys around him makes a really good quarterback look even better.

As things currently stand, Stroud has the third-highest Vegas odds to win the Heisman Trophy, per Vegas Insider. His odds have gone from 50/1 to 16/1 all the way down to 10/1 in these last few weeks, and he now trails only Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ole Miss’ Matt Corral (Henderson is 7th on the list at 350/1). Considering this was a guy that a small sect of Ohio State fans wanted benched a few short weeks ago, this meteoric a rise up the board is incredibly impressive — and he will only get a chance to drastically improve that resumé in the coming weeks.

Like Josh alluded to, Ohio State’s schedule only gets harder from here on out. However, that only aids in the Heisman candidacy of Stroud if he can get the job done and play the Buckeyes into the Big Ten title game and beyond. The schedule still features marquee matchups against No. 7 Penn State, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 8 Michigan, and that’s not even including a potential matchup against No. 2 Iowa in Indy. Ohio State would have one of the most impressive schedules in the country if they are able to win out in the regular season and win the conference title game, and it would be nearly impossible to deny Stroud a legitimate spot in New York if he impresses in that quartet of Top 10 matchups.

I love TreVeyon Henderson, and I do think a lot of Ohio State’s success this season will depend upon him continuing to look like every bit of the five-star stud we expected him to be since stepping foot on campus. He has done all of that and more to this point, but I think the play of C.J. Stroud will be super important down the stretch for this team — especially against those ranked opponents. The Buckeyes currently have the No. 1 offense in all of college football, and if Stroud can continue to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, I see now reason why he shouldn’t be hoisting that Heisman Trophy at season’s end.