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C.J. Stroud Leads Ohio State Football Into New Season

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud runs through a drill during a practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio, in this Monday, April 5, 2021 photo.
Paul Vernon
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud runs through a drill during a practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio, in this Monday, April 5, 2021 photo.

The Ohio State football team once again enters a new season with high expectations following a loss in the national championship game in January. This time they have a new starting quarterback.

It will be C.J. Stroud under center Thursday night when the Buckeyes, ranked fourth in the nation in the preseason Associated Press poll, take the field in Minneapolis to play the University of Minnesota in the season opener.

Stroud, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound redshirt freshman from Rancho Cucamonga, California, played sparingly in mop-up duty last year behind Justin Fields in the pandemic-shortened season. He has yet to throw a pass in a college game.

While he’s still green in the college game, Stroud was a highly-touted five-star recruit coming out of high school and expectations are high for him at Ohio State. So could he be pulled if he struggles?

“I don’t think so,” said Patrick Murphy, who covers the Ohio State football team for 247 Sports. “It’s always a possibility, but he certainly won this job. (Head coach) Ryan Day has kept the door, but I think that’s more to continue competition behind Stroud.”

Stroud beat out several other top recruits for the starting job, including Jack Miller, Kyle McCord and Quinn Ewers, who was the top overall recruit in the nation for the 2022 recruiting class before reclassifying himself and entering college a year early.

Stroud will have the benefit of passing the ball to what’s considered the best group of wide receivers in the country, which includes potential top draft picks Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.

He’ll also play behind what could be the nation’s top offensive line with the likes of Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere.

On the defensive side of the ball, things appear a little less certain. The Buckeyes are replacing most of their front seven, including the starting nose tackle and all three starting linebackers from last season.

Even with the uncertainly of a new quarterback and a freshly assembled defense, Murphy said Ohio State is the runaway favorite to win the Big Ten for a fifth consecutive season.

“Ohio State should be the winner of the Big Ten, assuming things don’t go devastatingly wrong for the Buckeyes,” Murphy said. He said teams that could conceivably challenge Ohio State for a conference title include Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Buckeyes’ opponent in Thursday night’s season opener.

For fans visiting Ohio Stadium this year, masks will be required in all indoor public parts of the stadium, including restrooms, the Huntington Club, elevators, press box and first aid rooms. Masks will also be required at the marching band's pregame Skull Session concert. Masks will not be required in outdoor parts of the stadium, which includes entry gates, concourses, concession stands and the main seating area.

The stadium will also be cashless, with fans ordering food and drinks from concession stands on a mobile app.

When it comes to tickets, fans will no longer receive physical copies in the mail and will instead display their tickets on a mobile device. Fans can access their tickets online, transfer to family and friends, utilize Buckeyes TicketExchange or donate tickets to charity. Mobile tickets will be available for fans to access as soon as they have selected their seats for the 2021 season and are paid in full.

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.