Ohio State has plenty of other things to focus on, but it’s time to start talking seriously about an individual goal. CJ Stroud has reached November in the thick of the Heisman race, and in the mode of many Heisman winners in wide-open fields, his chance to make a statement starts now. Here’s the rub for Stroud.

Most recent Heisman forecasts from Vegas have Alabama QB Bryce Young as a mild favorite. Stroud, Ole Miss QB Matt Corral and Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III are the top challengers. But there are several reasons that Stroud has perhaps the best chance to end up on top.

First, the CFP.

There’s certainly no hard and fast rule that the Heisman winner has to have his team in the CFP. But the last 4 winners were from CFP teams. The last time a non-CFP team had the Heisman winner was Lamar Jackson from Louisville in 2016. But the point is that all other things being equal, voters will favor a player from one of the CFP teams. That would eliminate Corral, and it gives Stroud an edge over Walker and Young. Young’s chances could be contingent on beating Georgia. Not saying that’s impossible, but it has looked pretty close. Walker’s probably got to beat Ohio State in Columbus on Nov. 20. ESPN’s FPI currently places those odds at 14.2%, which is to say, 1 in 7.

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Second, the timing of big games.

Stroud will finish the regular season against Michigan State and Michigan. Those are marquee games that will be the focus of the sport. Alabama’s best competition left is the Iron Bowl against a good but not great Auburn team. Ole Miss has games against Texas A&M and Mississippi State, which will be good games but aren’t the kind of matchups that will draw major national attention and deliver a stage for a Heisman worthy moment for Corral.

Third, there’s the fact that Stroud HASN’T been the favorite all season.

Young is probably the best bet of the group above to end up as a Heisman finalist. But since about Week 2, he’s been discussed as one of the leaders for the award. Going back to the days of votes like Charles Woodson over Peyton Manning in 1997, voters can sometimes have a bounce-back effect in going against the odds-on Heisman favorite. Stroud is a freshman and has spent much of the season splitting potential Heisman notice with gifted teammates such as TreVeyon Henderson. Oddly, that will help him in the final voting.

Fourth, consider Stroud’s consistency.

Stroud has not had a game with less than 59% completions, and his worst game so far was a somewhat nondescript 15-for-25, 185-yard, 1 TD, 1 interception day against Tulsa. Meanwhile, in the 2 biggest games on his schedule, Stroud has passed for 789 yards and 4 TDs against 1 interception. Meanwhile, Walker has had 3 games with 84 or fewer rushing yards. Corral has 1 touchdown and 1 interception in Ole Miss’s 2 losses on the season. Young has been consistent, but he was fairly ho-hum in an ugly win over Florida, and he completed 58% of his passes and averaged just 7.7 yards per pass in the loss to Texas A&M.

Considered together, Stroud has the clear inside track to the Heisman over the other likely favorites. Yes, OSU needs to win out. Yes, he needs to play well against the Michigan schools. Yes, he needs Young to not steal the race by beating Georgia. But all of those prerequisites feel very likely. So get ahead of the talk. Two weeks from now, the eyes of college football will be on CJ Stroud and the coronation will start.