Pushed to the back burner of the College Football Playoff debate after last month’s loss to Oregon, Ohio State has rebounded with four consecutive wins and climbed to No. 6 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll.
After taking several weeks to find his footing, quarterback C.J. Stroud has thrown for 736 yards and 10 touchdowns in wins against Rutgers and Maryland to open October. Despite the uneven start and a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the Buckeyes’ win against Akron, Stroud may challenge Dwayne Haskins’ school record for passing yards in a season.
The last month has led to a reevaluation of Ohio State and its first-year starting quarterback. With that swing and miss against Oregon fading into the background, the Buckeyes are looking more and more like the team picked in the preseason as the best in the Big Ten and a top playoff contender.
Thanks to his role in leading the Buckeyes back from the loss to the Ducks, Stroud rises up this week’s list of the top quarterbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
1. Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Corral leapfrogs Bryce Young after throwing for 287 yards, running for a season-high 94 yards and scoring four touchdowns in the Rebels’ 52-51 win against Arkansas. One year after struggling with turnovers, Corral is one of two FBS quarterbacks to have made at least 120 attempts without an interception. In the SEC, only four quarterbacks have made more than seven attempts without an interception: Corral, Tennessee’s Joe Milton (43 attempts), Auburn’s T.J. Finley (32) and LSU’s Garrett Nussmeier (14).
2. Bryce Young, Alabama
Young can’t shoulder the blame for Alabama’s 41-38 loss at Texas A&M, which instead falls on a defense that couldn’t solve Zach Calzada and the Aggies’ offense. But he was not perfect: Young threw his third interception in as many games and completed only 58.3% of his throws, making this the worst performance of his young starting career.
3. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
For all the concerns voiced over his role in Ohio State’s sluggish start, Stroud leads all Power Five quarterbacks in averaging 10.8 yards per attempt and ranks third with 18 touchdowns. It’s not coincidence that the Buckeyes’ rebound has been keyed by Stroud’s control of the offense and his growing rapport with a gifted receiver corps. The only Power Five team with more pass plays of 20 or more yards than Ohio State’s 36 is Virginia with 40, though the Cavaliers have done so in 101 more attempts.
4. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Ridder threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns as the Bearcats’ followed up a huge win at Notre Dame by barely breaking a sweat against Temple. The 52-3 win marked Ridder’s 16th consecutive game with at least one touchdown; Cincinnati has gone 15-1 in that span, with the only loss coming to Georgia in last year’s Peach Bowl.
After an off week, Pickett is set to resume his assault on Pittsburgh’s record book. That begins with a key Coastal division game against Virginia Tech, which ranks in the top 40 nationally in yards allowed per attempt and per game, interceptions and efficiency defense. A year ago, Pickett threw for a career-high 404 yards in a 47-14 win against the Hokies.
6. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
McCall’s numbers continue to be absolutely silly. After hitting on all 13 of his attempts for 212 yards and two scores before leaving Coastal Carolina’s 59-6 rout of Louisiana-Monroe with a minor injury, McCall completed 18 of 23 throws for 365 yards and four touchdowns in the Chanticleers’ 52-20 win against Arkansas State. If his current pace holds, McCall will set single-season FBS records for completion percentage, efficiency rating, yards per attempt and touchdown rate.
7. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
Hartman is the engine of a team that keeps winning at a rate unmatched in program history since World War II. The Demon Deacons moved to 6-0 for the first time since 1944 after a 40-37 overtime win against Syracuse capped by Hartman’s 22-yard touchdown pass in the first extra frame. Like Pickett at Pittsburgh, Hartman is marching toward almost every major passing record in program history.
8. Malik Willis, Liberty
Willis tossed three interceptions against Middle Tennessee State, though that didn’t stop Liberty from rolling to a 41-13 win. He balanced out those mistakes with another strong game on the ground, giving him 224 yards and three touchdowns on 7.2 yards per carry in the Flames’ past two games. Overall, Willis has not taken the next step into the Heisman Trophy mix but has played well enough to remain a contender for one of the top slots in next year’s NFL draft.
9. Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
Four of Armstrong’s last five starts rank among the top six single-game passing performances in program history: 554 yards against North Carolina (first), 487 yards against Louisville (second), 407 yards against Wake Forest (fifth) and 405 yards against Illinois (sixth). With an FBS-best 2,460 yards through six games, Armstrong has a shot at becoming the leading passer in program history despite starting only two seasons, one the abbreviated pandemic year.
10. Tanner Mordecai, SMU
Turnovers will eventually cost Mordecai and SMU — but not yet. Despite throwing an interception in the end zone and coughing up a fumble returned for a touchdown, Mordecai led SMU out of a 21-7 hole and past Navy 31-24 to keep the Mustangs unbeaten and in the thick of the New Year’s Six race. The FBS leader in touchdowns with 26, five more than second-place Bailey Zappe of Western Kentucky, Mordecai has still played well enough to wonder if he’d be starting at Oklahoma had he not transferred this winter.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud climbs in college football Week 6 QB rankings