With three Heisman Trophy contenders, Ohio State has no plans to stop smelling the roses again in 2022.

This is the smell that got to CJ Stroud. Well, among other things in that multi-sensory assault that was his first Rose Bowl.

Say all you will about the rose and its many variations—a sunset over the San Gabriel Mountains, a parade that nearly overtakes the game, Keith Jackson’s voice floating above it all in some ethereal cloud—there’s always that moment for newcomers.

For Ohio State’s junior quarterback, it was everything.

“I say rose, that’s what it is,” Stroud said. “It’s weird. It smells good. It looks good. It feels good. The best grass I’ve ever played on in my life. It’s everything I hoped it would be. That’s why the Rose Bowl is special.”

That’s from a kid who grew up within an hour of Pasadena, California. Watching Grandaddy of ‘Em All on TV is one thing; This is another to experience the uniqueness of the game.

In addition to the sights, colors and smells, for the No. 2 Buckeyes, it’s where the 2021 season ends and the 2022 season begins.

Anyone who watched that game on Jan. 1 might be reeling from Ohio State’s 48-45 win over Utah. Stroud threw for a school-record 573 yards and a school-record-tying six touchdowns. Wide receiver Jackson Smith-Njigba announced himself with 15 catches for an FBS Bowl-record 347 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

“It was a combination of great minds and great players,” Stroud said. “… That was the most fun I had [had playing] in my life.”

“Maybe a few spots, 11-2 and a Rose Bowl win is a good year. It’s not at Ohio State,” coach Ryan Day said.

The results proved both to be true. Combined, the aroma, feel and look of the Rose Bowl for a long time were the defining point of what was ultimately a sub-par season at Ohio State. However, it also served as a jumping off point for Stroud and Smith-Njigba.

“It was going to the goal,” Day said of that springboard for his star offensive players. “We talked about it going in.”

Now, the two biggest Buckeye weapons are the Rat Pack of 2022, inseparable friends who play off each other. Stroud is the Heisman Trophy favorite entering the season at 2-1 odds, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Outside the top 10 on that list are Smith-Njigba; Arguably the game’s best receiver sits at 40-1. Among them is another rising superstar as OSU running back TreVeyon Henderson enters the year at 20-1.

“I don’t want to think about it, but I do,” said Stroud, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting as a 2021 finalist. “I’d be lying if I didn’t.”

Stroud threw for the second-most yards (4,435) and touchdowns (44) in school history. Henderson averaged 6.8 yards per carry, nearly 1,600 combined yards and 19 touchdowns along with some exceptional single-game performances.

Playing in the shadow of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, Smith-Njigba set school records for catches (95) and receiving yards (1,606). Wilson and Olave only combined for 25 touchdown catches while in the NFL. In the Rose Bowl, what could be better with Smith-Njigba month For another player.

“I think I’m the best, so I have to act like that,” he said.

The Buckeyes can dream everywhere because this is Ohio State’s best team since 2019. It may not seem like much, but at Ohio State, it’s remarkable. That team was good enough to win it all three years ago but was derailed by Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

It took a long time for Buckeye Nation to feel this good about itself again. The 2020 Covid-19-affected team played just eight games and lost to Alabama, 52–24, in the Orange Bowl semifinals. Last season, Oregon’s loss to a Power Five non-conference opponent at home was Ohio State’s first since Oklahoma in 2017.

The latest nonconference challenge awaits. No. 5 Notre Dame comes into Week 1’s tastiest game as a 14.5-point underdog.

Last November’s loss at Michigan marked another first – Day’s first loss in its 24th conference game in the Big Ten. That Ohio State team led the nation in total offense. The problem was easily identifiable: The defense—especially the run defense—was inflexible. The 3.68 yards per rush allowed by the defense was Ohio State’s second-highest average in a decade. In that Rose Bowl, Utah tied the program bowl-game record by scoring 45 points.

In the second half, Ohio State made a run from Michigan Stadium to relinquish the Big Ten East crown. in fact, Most of the time It was the first time since 1891 that the defense had lost at least 40 points in back-to-back games.

Almost everything in the state of Ohio must be viewed through a relative lens. Recently Stroud Advocated for revenue sharing In this age of name, image and likeness. This is from a rising junior who is driving a Bentley as part of his NIL deal.

While on vacation in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, he expressed surprise at being recognized.

“It’s good, but it’s scary at the same time,” he said. “I’m not used to people looking at me.”

Don’t worry there’s a lot of watching going on. Stroud regularly played in front of 100,000 people. Ohio State is among the top 10 universities in the nation with more than 500,000 living alumni.

“I just want the days to stack up,” Stroud added. “If I think about the Heisman, I’ll overrun myself and put too much pressure on myself.”

If the defense doesn’t improve, Stroud, Smith-Njigba and Henderson may have to outscore everyone else and carry the Buckeyes. And it makes almost perfect sense in this day and age. Regardless, Alabama claimed the playoffs in 2020 Third worst total defense Never won a national championship (at least since 1936).

Smell like another title run?

“We don’t have to prove anyone wrong,” Stroud concluded. “We have to prove ourselves right.”

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