Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, C.J. Stroud wouldn’t have been let out of the state of California. He wouldn’t have been allowed to take the first plane out of Los Angeles International Airport.
That was the kind of pull that USC and to a lesser extent, UCLA, had on top high school football prospects coming out of California. The kind of pull that enabled Pete Carroll to put together an all-time USC team in 2004, spearheaded by California kids Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.
But this ain’t 2004 and it’s not the same program in Southern California. Stroud, the Rancho Cucamonga High School product, fled east to Ohio State. Ahead of Ohio State’s (10-2) Rose Bowl matchup with Utah (10-3) on New Year’s Day, Stroud gave the reason for fleeing from California.
"You go to USC and UCLA games, and quite honestly, it’s just kind of boring. Without all the people," Stroud said Wednesday, via Joe Reedy of the Associated Press. "They kind of just are there on vacation. You go to the other schools out of state and their fans are kind of like fanatics."
Stroud talks about atmosphere–something that was almost nonexistent at the LA Memorial Coliseum in 2021.
Stroud, meanwhile, played routinely in front of over 100,000 strong at The Horseshoe and shined on the biggest stage. Stroud threw for 3,862 yards, 38 touchdowns and five interceptions on 70.9% passing. He was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, won by Alabama’s Bryce Young, another top California prospect that found success elsewhere.