"The Game" of the year looms large on the final Saturday of the 2022 regular season, as the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-0) take on the #3 Michigan Wolverines (11-0) in the greatest rivalry in all of sport.
The last time these two Big Ten rivals met when both were undefeated, Ohio State QB Troy Smith would go on to seal the Heisman Trophy in "The Game of the Century," by beating the Wolverines 42-39 in Columbus in a #1 vs #2 matchup.
History in sports has a funny way of repeating itself.
Fast forward 16 years, and Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud finds himself in a similar situation, coming into the rivalry game with Michigan with a chance to seal the Heisman Trophy with a win over his arch-rival. With the unfortunate injury to Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker, an injury to Michigan RB Blake Corum that could potentially limit him or keep him from playing Saturday, and North Carolina QB Drake Maye losing to Georgia Tech (and looking poor in the process), Heisman moment for Stroud against Michigan would all but seal the most prestigious trophy in collegiate sports for the redshirt sophomore.
Last year, Stroud was publicly disrespected on the Heisman stage by Desmond Howard after finishing fourth in the voting. He's been called soft. And there are legions of fans who seem all to eager to call him out at every turn. He has all the ammunition he needs to beat his arch-rival and not only cement his legacy in the rivalry, but in Heisman lore.
Obviously, if Corum does play, a win and a big performance from him could also seal the trophy. USC QB Caleb Williams has a great argument as well on the back of a big performance against UCLA, but still needs to beat Notre Dame and win the Pac-12 title game (most likely against Oregon) to stay in consideration.
In last year's contest, Stroud went 34 for 49 through the air for 394 yards and two touchdowns. But he also spent a lot of time trying to avoid Michigan pass rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. Ohio State's defense was also historically bad, giving up the most points in a game to Michigan since a 58-6 loss in 1946. That didn't help matters as the Buckeyes tried to catch up during the second half.
For Stroud, this game is the best chance to prove he belongs in the conversation with Troy Smith and the other great Buckeyes quarterbacks, right the wrongs of 2021, and claim his spot in Ohio State and college football immortality. It is a legacy defining game if there ever was one.