The B1G 10: Why (TBD) will throw 40 TD passes for Ohio State in 2023
Every Tuesday, Matt Hayes tackles the 10 hottest topics in the Big Ten …
1. The B1G Story
Everyone settle down. We’re dealing with a track record.
Before Ohio State fans heave themselves into a post-CJ Stroud funk, there are 2 key factors in the chase to run down Michigan and win another national title.
— Stroud, Ohio State’s star quarterback, was never turning down the NFL and returning for another season. That was a financial pipe dream, drummed up by the growing disturbing state of NIL propaganda (more on that later).
— Ryan Day is the still the coach at Ohio State, and from the moment he arrived in 2017 to coach the quarterbacks, it has been the most productive position in all of college football.
No matter who is under center.
So you’ve lost 41 touchdown passes from a quarterback who was true blue Ohio State, and was the perfect blend of physical ability and mental processing. Let me show you the previous 5 seasons of touchdowns thrown by Ohio State quarterbacks under Day:
44, 22 (COVID), 41, 50, 35.
The only outlier of the aforementioned run of seasons is Justin Fields throwing 22 TDs passes in the COVID season of 2020. Fields played 8 games in 2020, and had he played the typical 15 by teams that win their conference championship game and advance to the Playoff National Championship Game, the number projected to — I know this is going to shock you — 41 touchdown passes.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict sophomore Kyle McCord — or whoever wins the Ohio State quarterback job — will throw 35-40 touchdown passes in 2023.
Day got a glimpse in 2021 of what could be with McCord, who started for an injured Stroud during his freshman season against Akron and completed 13-of-18 passes for 319 yards, with 2 TDs and 1 INT. This season in mop-up time, McCord completed 16-of-20 passes for 190 yards and 1 TD.
A former 5-star recruit, McCord is built like Stroud — and like Stroud, is more of a pocket passer. He’ll have a new offensive coordinator (wide receivers coach Brian Hartline), and Day will still be heavily involved in the day-to-day position coaching and developing.
“Just being a competitor, you want to be on the field and be the guy,” McCord said during the Peach Bowl Media Day. “But at same time, if you’re not playing on the field, you’re developing, getting better and crafting. You never get complacent.”
2. Rearranging the QB room
The only difference made by Stroud’s departure is numbers in the quarterback room. There’s McCord, sophomore Devin Brown and freshman signee Lincoln Kienholz.
Day could sign a quarterback from the transfer portal and increase the numbers. Or more to the point, bring experience to the room.
McCord, Brown and Kienholz have a combined 1 start in college football and have thrown a combined 58 passes. While that’s not exactly the type of room you want at Ohio State while trying to get back on top of the Big Ten, remember that Stroud hadn’t thrown a pass before stepping on the field in 2021.
He then won 21 of 25 starts and threw 85 TDs against 12 INTs.
But make no mistake, if an experienced and talented quarterback suddenly enters the transfer portal, don’t be shocked if Day is interested. When Caleb Williams announced after 2021 that he was leaving Oklahoma, it didn’t take long before Georgia began recruiting him — despite the fact that Stetson Bennett had just won a national title and had a season of eligibility remaining.
If you’re not always looking to get better, you’re falling behind. Current starting quarterbacks are always looking at the landscape of the position, and the only constant is turnover.
Would it really be shocking if Michael Pratt, who has already said he’s staying at Tulane, decides to see what he could fetch on the open market? Or Riley Leonard (Duke) or Kurtis Rourke (Ohio)?
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3. The QB factory, The Epilogue
There’s 1 valuable lesson from Stroud leaving Ohio State: Don’t believe the nonsense circulating about extravagant NIL deals.
There was a narrative that multiple Ohio State collectives would pool together and generate revenue to keep Stroud in Columbus. For the last time: Collectives can’t outpay NFL teams.
Moreover, collectives aren’t doling out multimillion-dollar deals — even to superstars.
The Foundation collective supporting Ohio State student-athletes said last July that it had inked deals with Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Denzel Burke that totaled $550,000.
Stroud, if he is selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft, would earn a contract worth $41 million. If he were selected last in the first round, he would earn a contract worth $10 million.
Collectives can’t compete with the NFL, and more important, the ridiculous NIL deals reported on social media are manufactured by “advisors” trying to increase a market that has no ceiling.
Stroud wasn’t offered millions to stay, and former Ohio State 2024 QB commit Dylan Raiola wasn’t offered millions to eventually sign with the Buckeyes.
Nor was McCord, who could be the next quarterback throwing 40 touchdown passes for Ryan Day.
4. Next-level questions
There’s a reason NFL scouts are skeptical of Ohio State quarterbacks. It’s near identical success no matter the season, no matter the quarterback.
Stroud could be the most talented thrower of the Ohio State quarterbacks under Day — including JT Barrett, Dwayne Haskins and Fields — but there will still be NFL teams that avoid him.
“How can you not factor that into your assessment?” an NFL scout told me. “Every player is different, every situation is different. They might have similar production, but they won’t have similar interviews. The (game) tape is indisputable. Haskins and Fields had fantastic tape. But the interview is where teams will make their decisions.”
Another NFL scout told me the history of Ohio State quarterbacks was enough to push both Haskins (No. 15 overall) and Fields (No. 11 overall) out of the top 10 of the draft. Depending on whom you speak to, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Stroud are the top 2 quarterbacks in the 2023 draft, and some scouts have Stroud rated higher than Young.
5. The Weekly 5
Top 5 Heisman Trophy odds for Big Ten players, from our friends at FanDuel.
- 1. QB Drew Allar, Penn State (+2000)
- 2. QB Kyle McCord, Ohio State (+2000)
- 3. QB JJ McCarthy, Michigan (+3000)
- 4. RB Blake Corum, Michigan (+3000)
- 5. RB Nick Singelton, Penn State (+5000)
6. Your tape is your resume
An NFL scout analyzes a draft-eligible Big Ten player. This week: Michigan DT Mazi Smith.
“A big, compact explosion of energy. He’s carrying 330 (pounds), and he can move. It’s shocking to see the range of his physical ability. He’s a 500-pound bench guy, and he’s going to run shuttle and cone drill times at the Combine that will blow away everyone. Despite all of that physical ability, he lacks that elite suddenness that you want from the interior. He plays a little stiff, but that will change. He’s a powerful guy who can locate, and disrupt — but can he do it consistently?”
7. Powered Up
This week’s Power Poll, and 1 big thing: telling statistic of the 2022 season.
1. Michigan: Gave up 3.26 yards per carry, the 7th time in 8 years under 4.0.
2. Ohio State: Gave up 9 plays of 20 yards or more in Peach Bowl loss to Georgia.
3. Penn State: Led the nation with 99 passes defended (14 INTs, 85 PBUs).
4. Purdue: Led Big Ten with 17 INTs thrown, which tied for 125th in the nation.
5. Illinois: Shaved nearly 100 yards off total defense from 2021 (367) to 2022 (273.5).
6. Minnesota: Had 12 TD passes, to increase its total to 31 over the past 3 years.
7. Maryland: Finished 13th in the Big Ten with 90 tackles for loss allowed.
8. Iowa: Averaged 4.24 yards per play (129th in the nation), more than 3 yards off the nation’s leader at 7.28 ypp.
9. Wisconsin: For the 2nd time in the past 3 years, average rushing yards per game were less than 200 (179.77).
10. Michigan State: Last in the Big Ten in opponent plays of 10+ yards (192).
11. Nebraska: Forced 16 turnovers, and have forced 36 over the past 3 seasons (36 games).
12. Rutgers: Completed 50.6 percent of its passes (125th in the nation).
13. Indiana: Finished 128th in the nation at 5.4 yards per pass attempt. The nation’s leader (Air Force) nearly doubled the number (10.5).
14. Northwestern: 130th in the nation in turnovers (30), a year after finishing 104th in the nation (22).
8. Ask and you shall receive
Matt: Wisconsin has always had a reputation of not spending what it takes to win big in football. Is that changing now? — Pierre Sherman, Milwaukee.
Let’s look at this from a coaching change standpoint. The university owed fired coach Paul Chryst $20 million but settled for a lower number (one source it was $11-12 million). They owe interim coach Jim Leonhard $1.5 million to terminate his deal that was through January of 2024.
Luke Fickell signed a 7-year, $57 million contract to leave Cincinnati and accept the Wisconsin job, and he has since hired 2 experienced coordinators (OC Phil Longo, DC Mike Tressel) who will each make more than $1 million a year.
That alone — not including the remainder of the assistant coach hires — is a commitment of more than $70 million. AD Chris McIntosh, a former UW offensive lineman, also says a new $300 million indoor practice facility is “awaiting approval.”
9. New Nebraska coach Matt Rhule is building through the transfer portal and continues to get players of impact. Specifically, defensive players from the SEC who can run.
Of the 9 current additions, former Georgia edge MJ Sherman, former Florida LB Chief Borders and former Florida CB Corey Collier all will be significant upgrades to a defense that struggled with speed at all levels.
All 3 players were 4-star high school recruits, and have at least 3 years of eligibility. The Huskers also added stout DT Elijah Jeudy from Texas A&M, filling a need for an interior run stuffer.
10. Quote to note
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz: “The single best part of coaching is being with the guys. When you have guys like we’ve got, that’s the best part of the day.”