NEW YORK — Stetson Bennett and CJ Stroud hadn’t gotten to know each other that well prior to Friday. That’s going to change over the course of the weekend, as the two future foes are both Heisman Trophy finalists.
Bennett led the No. 1 Bulldogs, throwing for 20 touchdowns and running for another seven. Stroud is back in New York for a second-straight season, as he threw 37 touchdown passes on the year.
“You know, I’ve only seen him really in passing,” Bennett said of Stroud. “But he’s very accurate, and I think one of [strengths] is just how he hits them in stride and on time so they make him beat them.”
Stroud is similarly impressed with what Bennett has done to get to this point. He’s aware of Bennett’s journey from walk-on to Heisman Finalist.
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He also knows that Bennett beat Bryce Young in the College Football Playoff last season, as the Bulldogs won the national championship.
“You can tell, every time something tough has come in his life, whatever it may be, he’s stepped up with his chin up and his chest out,” Stroud said. “You can do nothing but respect that.”
As for what the two quarterbacks think of their upcoming opponents, neither has delved too far into prep for the Dec. 31 contest. It doesn’t help that both quarterbacks have been crisscrossing the country going to various award ceremonies this week.
“I think it’s knowing that those boys, they’re down running for another,” Bennett said. “They’ve got a team meeting at 3, and then they’re going to run a little bit and throw a little bit. And I hate that I’m missing it. I’m going to run in here somewhere in New York, try to avoid some people — maybe have to get a treadmill.”
Ohio State enters the game coming off a loss to Michigan in the Buckeyes’ final regular season game. Prior to that though, Ohio State had won every game by double digits. This is an Ohio State team that has recruited every bit as well as Georgia has in recent seasons, meaning the Buckeyes won’t be out-athleted when they meet in Atlanta.
To that point, Stroud was complimentary of two of Georgia’s most athletic defensive backs in Kelee Ringo and Malaki Starks. Stroud attended many of the same seven-on-seven competitions Ringo did, as the two were each elite recruits in the 2020 cycle.
Stroud very nearly went to Georgia, as the Bulldogs were his second choice.
“Yeah, I’ve been watching film for a little while now. I mean, they’re a great, great team. Both offense, defense, special teams,” Stroud said. “They do a lot of good things. They know what they want to do. They know their weaknesses, and they protect those really well. I definitely think they have very little to no weaknesses, so I’m very excited to going ahead and play.”
The Georgia defense will be eager to put forth a better effort than what they did in their last game, as LSU rolled up 502 passing yards in the 50-30 loss in the SEC championship game. With Stroud and 1,000-yard wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State certainly has a passing attack that will make things difficult for Georgia.
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But Stroud won’t be the only Heisman finalist on the field that day. For the first time since the 1993 Citrus Bowl, Georgia will play in a game with a Heisman Trophy finalist in Bennett.
That game also happened to be against the Buckeyes and Georgia came away with a 21-14 win. Bennett hopes to replicate something similar, as the Bulldogs aim for a second national championship.
“We’re still hungry and we’re excited,” Bennett said. “We’re playing Ohio State, and Georgia versus Ohio State doesn’t happen very much — I think maybe once in ‘92 or something. So, it’ll be fun.”
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