The drought will continue into the 2022 season. People across B1G country are tired of hearing about it, but the conference’s inability to produce a Heisman winner in nearly two decades has to be mentioned.

How can one of the nation’s premier conferences — widely considered the second-best in the country — not produce a single Heisman Trophy winner since 2006? For those who can’t remember that far back, or maybe weren’t even born yet, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith was the last from the league to claim college football’s highest honor.

There’s no question the B1G has produced plenty of Heisman-worthy candidates. It just … hasn’t been able to close the deal recently. Could that change in 2022?

It’s still way too early for these projections (spring ball hasn’t even started!) but let’s take a look at some of the B1G’s top candidates to end the Heisman drought this fall.

Strongest candidates

QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

What better place to start than with a 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist? CJ Stroud’s career as a starter at Ohio State got off to a bumpy start — based on Buckeye standards only — but after resting an injured shoulder in Week 4 against Akron, Stroud’s production skyrocketed.

Over the next 4 games, Stroud threw for 1,307 yards, 15 touchdowns and a 71.2% completion rate with no interceptions. Unsurprisingly, the Buckeyes defeated all 4 opponents: Rutgers, Maryland, Indiana and Penn State.

Stroud closed out his first year as the full-time starter with 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns while completing passes at a 71.9% clip. He led the B1G in all 3 categories, as well as yards per attempt (10.1).

What can he do with a full year under his belt? Stroud proved he has all the traits to be recognized as the best player in college football last season. Having experience as the starter will only help his cause. Plus, the Buckeyes always have the talent surrounding its quarterback to turn just about anyone into a Heisman contender.

RB Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see what Mohamed Ibrahim could do behind Minnesota’s massive offensive line, which was back to full strength in 2021. The B1G’s reigning Running Back of the Year was injured in the season opener against Ohio State but still managed to gash the Buckeyes for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns in his lone appearance.

Two seasons ago, Ibrahim racked up 1,076 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging more than 5.3 yards per carry. Head coach PJ Fleck referred to his star running back as a “bowling ball going downhill with razorblades on it.” Watching him knife through defenses in 2020 behind an offensive line that struggled makes you appreciate that description.

In each of his last 9 games — dating back to the Outback Bowl following the 2019 season — Ibrahim has rushed for over 100 yards, an impressive streak in the B1G. If he can bounce back from the Achilles injury that sidelined him last fall, Ibrahim will firmly be in the mix of the Heisman discussion at the end of the year.

WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Jaxon Smith-Njigba played his way onto this list after closing out the 2021 season with one of the most impressive 5-game stretches we’ve ever seen from a receiver at the college level. His scorched-earth performance in the Rose Bowl is something that will go down as one of the greatest all-time.

In the final 5 games against Nebraska, Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan and Utah, Smith-Njigba totaled 60 catches for 958 yards and 6 touchdowns. In the Rose Bowl Game alone, the Buckeye receiver had 15 receptions for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns.

That was without Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson on the field. Good luck defending that, B1G secondary units.

Defenses might attempt to focus on Smith-Njigba, opening up opportunities for other receivers at Ohio State. But the bottom line is that we saw what the Buckeyes’ new top receiver can do even without other stars around him. Basically, it comes down to the number of targets he gets in 2022.

RB Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

The 17-year-old freshman (sorry, I couldn’t resist) took full advantage of his opportunity when he emerged as Wisconsin’s primary ball-carrier. Braelon Allen has all the characteristics to join Jonathan Taylor, Melvin Gordon III, Montee Ball, Ron Dayne and others as the next great Badger back.

Allen is certainly worthy of being in the conversation after a phenomenal first season, which really didn’t start until early October. He hit the 100-yard mark 8 times and finished the season with 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns on 186 carries.

As talented as he is, there will be some obstacles Allen has to hurdle in order to win a Heisman Trophy. Despite rushing for 2,000 years in 2 of his 3 seasons, Taylor was never once invited to the ceremony. Plus, Wisconsin often struggles to notch that signature win that might put a running back in the national spotlight.

From a pure talent perspective, Allen has the whole package. He should be in for a strong year ahead.

RB TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State

A lot of credit for Ohio State’s high-powered offense went to Stroud and the receiving corps during the 2021 season, but TreVeyon Henderson had an outstanding freshman season. He ended the year as the conference’s fourth-leading rusher with 1,255 yards and third in touchdowns at 15. His 6.82 yards per carry average also ranked third in the B1G.

Henderson showed off that flash-and-sizzle necessary to be in the Heisman Trophy conversation and his production backed it up. Rushing for over 1,200 yards in an offense that featured a 4,000-yard passer and 3 receivers that hit over 900 yards is incredibly impressive.

The biggest question? Can Henderson emerge as the superstar on his own team? It’s a blessing and a curse to play with so much talent. The rising sophomore is easily one of the top running backs in the B1G but often doesn’t get as much recognition because of Stroud, Smith-Njigba and others.

As much credit as the passing game gets in Columbus — and for good reason — the rushing attack was the fourth-best in the B1G next season. Henderson deserves a ton of credit for his contributions last season. It should put him in Heisman conversations heading into 2022.

Darkhorse candidates

QB Aidan O’Connell, Purdue

Considering the year he had, it’s hard to believe O’Connell wasn’t the Day 1 starter for Purdue in 2021. When he took over for Jack Plummer, he changed the direction of the Boilermaker offense. O’Connell engineered upsets over No. 2 Iowa and No. 3 Michigan State on his way to throwing for 3,708 yards and 28 touchdowns.

In Jeff Brohm’s offense, O’Connell has a great chance to put up Heisman-like numbers in 2022. For him to be in the conversation, though, Purdue is probably going to need to win the B1G West. If that happens, maybe we’ll see a Boilermakers quarterback make it to the ceremony.

QB Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland

Another B1G quarterback with the talent to make a run into Heisman conversations but may not have enough help around him. Taulia Tagovailoa has provided a fresh spark to Maryland’s offense over the past 2 seasons, but it still lacks the offensive line to compete with teams like Michigan, Ohio State and others.

With Dontay Demus Jr., Rakim Jarrett and Jeshaun Jones all returning to Maryland for the 2022 season, Tagovailoa has a chance to build on a 2021 campaign in which he threw for 3,860 yards and 26 touchdowns. But the Terrapins are going to have to knock off at least one of the big boys for the QB to get some attention.

RB Blake Corum, Michigan

Blake Corum might be the strongest candidate in the darkhorse category to break the B1G’s Heisman drought, especially if Michigan can make another B1G title run. He’s incredibly versatile and proved to be a valuable piece of the run game and passing attack.

When the 2021 season ended, Corum amassed 952 yards on the ground, 141 receiving yards and scored 12 total touchdowns. He also added 304 yards on kickoff returns. Now that Hassan Haskins has declared for the NFL Draft, there’s a good chance Corum sees even more touches in 2022, which helps his Heisman hopes.

QB Payton Thorne, Michigan State

One of the pleasant surprises of the 2021 season was the play of Payton Thorne. The Michigan State quarterback had 3,233 yards and 27 touchdowns through the air during an 11-2 season in East Lansing. Not bad for a guy who was thought to get beat out by Anthony Russo for the starting job.

But we’ll find out a lot more about Thorne’s abilities in 2022. There’s no question the Spartans’ pass game was aided by Kenneth Walker III’s ability to eviscerate nearly every defense he faced. Will Thorne see a dip next season with MSU’s rushing attack taking a potential hit? Or does the experience propel the quarterback into the upper echelon of B1G passers?