Ohio State's C.J. Stroud moves to the front of this week's college football quarterback rankings
Since being slowed by Notre Dame in the season opener, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud has thrown for nine touchdowns without an interception as the Buckeyes' offense has built a case for being the nation's best.
And while the Fighting Irish held him in check, relatively speaking, Stroud still completed 70.6% of his throw for 223 yards and two touchdowns in the 21-10 win.
After three games, the second-year starter is playing better than any quarterback in the country. Given the depth of top-level quarterback play in the Bowl Subdivision, Stroud's play should make him the very, very early leader for the Heisman Trophy.
At the very least, he tops this week's list of the top quarterbacks in the country. Across the board, Stroud has improved upon his breakout numbers from last season despite a throwing to a reworked receiver corps decimated by losses to the NFL draft.
Last week's leader, Alabama junior Bryce Young, falls from first to third. New in second place is Southern California sophomore Caleb Williams, who has been even better than expected as the Trojans race to the front of the line in the Pac-12.
Here's which passers make the cut as college football marches through September:
1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Just imagine what numbers Stroud could put up when he starts playing in the fourth quarter. He's been relegated to clipboard-holding duties for much of in the second half in the past two games as OSU has rolled past Arkansas State and Toledo. Stroud has averaged a whopping 14.1 yards per throw against these Group of Five defenses.
2. Caleb Williams, Southern California
Williams is rolling, and so is USC. The Trojans are looking more and more like the team to beat in the Pac-12 entirely due to the play of Lincoln Riley's offense, which has found a dynamic pairing in Williams and Pittsburgh transfer Jordan Addison. The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner has caught five of Williams' eight touchdown passes.
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3. Bryce Young, Alabama
Alabama's passing game was more explosive against Louisiana-Monroe — at a season-best 11.8 yards per pass attempt — but Young did toss a pair of interceptions in the second multiple-turnover game of his career, with the other coming in last year's national championship game against Georgia. What seems clear through three weeks: Young could use some help.
4. Stetson Bennett, Georgia
Bennett is at the center of a reimagined Georgia offense that should scare the daylights out of the rest of the SEC. After playing things close to the vest last season, the Bulldogs have opened things up: Bennett is averaging nine additional pass attempts per game and making each throw count at an SEC-leading 10.8 yards per throw.
5. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
No high-volume passer this side of Stroud is better at protecting the football. Since assuming the job last September, Hooker has made over 350 attempts with just three interceptions. During the same span, the former Virginia Tech transfer has tossed 37 touchdowns, including two in each of the Volunteers' first three games.
6. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
Now that he's moved to the top of Michigan's depth chart, the question is whether McCarthy can ever be unseated from this starting role. Not when he puts up back-to-back weeks like this: 11 of 12 for 229 yards against Hawaii, then 15 of 18 for 214 yards against Connecticut. The numbers will drop against real competition, but McCarthy has been everything he was built up to be and then some.
7. Michael Penix Jr., Washington
The former Indiana transfer has reclaimed his 2020 form as the latest pupil to excel under new Washington coach Kalen DeBoer. Penix had 397 passing yards and four touchdowns in Saturday's win against Michigan State, giving him multiple scores and at least 335 yards in the Huskies' first three games.
8. Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma
With seven touchdowns without an interception through three games, including a 230-yard performance in last weekend's rout of Nebraska, Gabriel has picked up where he left off at Central Florida and kept the Sooners in position to win another Big 12 crown. Overall, he's completing 66.7% of his throws and averaging 9.7 yards per attempt.
9. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Tagovailoa has made a name for himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten. The third-year starter helped Maryland get past SMU 34-27 with two scoring drives in the fourth, including the game-winning touchdown pass midway through the quarter. He's tossed 32 touchdowns and 12 picks since the start of last season, with five of those interceptions coming in one game against Iowa.
10. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
Hartman had two interceptions in Wake Forest's 37-36 escape against Liberty. Up next for the Demon Deacons is an enormous divisional matchup with Clemson, giving Hartman perhaps one last chance to exorcise some demons against the ACC powerhouse. In three games against the Tigers, he's 45 of 84 for 568 yards and one score.