Stroud is frontrunner as freshmen battle for Buckeyes QB job

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — None of the three freshmen competing to start at quarterback for No. 4 Ohio State has thrown a pass in a college football game.

That’s unfamiliar and unsettling for third-year Ohio State coach Ryan Day, who had the luxury of the record-shattering Justin Fields running the offense the past two seasons.

Day revealed Monday that the frontrunner to start is C.J. Stroud, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound redshirt freshman from Rancho Cucamonga, California, who played sparingly last year in mop-up duty. Stroud has moved in front of Jack Miller, a member of that same 2020 recruiting class, and freshman Kyle McCord.

“I don’t know how much separation there is. I’m not sure,” Day said. “But I’ll say that every day (Stroud’s) been competing, he’s been taking care of the football, making good decisions, he’s been a leader. And those are all some of the traits we’re looking for.”

The wildcard is Quinn Ewers from Southlake, Texas, the No. 2 high school prospect in the 2022 class who decided to forgo his senior season and come to Ohio State to take advantage of endorsement offers via new NIL rules. Ewers is enrolled and is going through the process to be eligible to play this season.

Day is trying to impress upon the freshmen the sometimes crushing responsibility that comes with the top QB position at Ohio State.

“I try to tell them all the time if you can survive practice with me kind of getting after you, the games will be easy,” he said. “That’s sometimes hard on those guys. I try to help them understand how hard it is to win a game and to play quarterback at this level.

“Our expectation here is Heisman Trophy, national championship,” he said. “The pressure has never been higher for those guys, and they understand.”

KEYS TO THE CAR

Whichever freshman wins the job will have an outstanding supporting cast, including receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, possibly the best wideout tandem in college football. Master Teague III returns as the top incumbent running back, but he’s being pushed by others, including freshmen Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson.

“They got a nice little vehicle to drive,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said of the QB candidates. “We’ll see who can put their hands on and steer it the best.”

O-LINE RICHES

Ohio State’s offensive line is massive and talented. There is experience in Thayer Munford, who is being switched from tackle to guard, Harry Miller at center and Nicholas Petit-Frere at left tackle. Camp has been buzzing about 6-foot-8, 360-pound Dawand Jones, a junior who could win the starting job at right tackle.

“I got 10 guys (who can play),” offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said. “I think the backups would start at a lot of places.”

ON THE OTHER SIDE

The Buckeyes’ defensive line will be anchored by tackle Haskell Garrett, who took advantage of an extra year of eligibility offered due to the pandemic. He emerged as a star and leader last season after being shot in the face on the street last summer. Safety Josh Proctor and cornerback Sevyn Banks, both seniors, lead the secondary. The Buckeyes will have three new starters at linebacker.

SCHEDULE

No tune-up games to start the season this time for the Buckeyes. They open on Thursday night, Sept. 2, at Minnesota and come back home to face No. 11 Oregon in Week 2. Other key games will be at No. 17 Indiana on Oct. 23, at home against No. 19 Penn State on Oct. 30, at Michigan on Nov. 27 in the annual rivalry game. Prediction: 11-1.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.