C.J. Stroud never beat Michigan, but there's another chance for the former Ohio State quarterback to get the best of the Wolverines.
Stroud, drafted No. 2 overall in April, makes his NFL debut with the Houston Texans at Baltimore on Sunday with former Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald now calling the shots for the Ravens' defense.
"You've got to bring your 'A' game," said Stroud, who was 0-2 in "The Game" with 743 yards and four TDs in those rivalry games.
Stroud said he will trust the plan in place and not second-guess when he takes the field Sunday.
"Some people get to these moments and try to be Superman, I'm going to trust my teammates, trust myself and trust God," he said.
Recently rebuilt via the draft and still under construction, Houston heads to Baltimore as a decided underdog to a veteran-laden team with an 11-4 record in Week 1 under head coach John Harbaugh.
Stroud and the Texans' defense face the challenge of measuring up to quarterback Lamar Jackson. He's back in the lineup devoid of distractions and healthy. Jackson missed the final six games of the 2022 season and signed a five-year contract in the offseason, working closely with first-year offensive coordinator and play caller Todd Monken to assimilate new playmakers in a fresh scheme.
The Ravens used a first-round pick on slot receiver Zay Flowers, signed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — who sat out last season recovering from a torn ACL but has 531 career catches — and added Nelson Agholor (340 career catches) to a group that includes Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews and 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman.
Harbaugh said Wednesday as Andrews returned to practice that Beckham would have no snap count or physical limitations in his first game since February 2022. Though Jackson didn't play in the preseason, the Ravens had seven TD passes in three games after totaling 19 in 17 regular-season games last season. The throwback coach wasn't sharing strategy when he nodded to confirm the Ravens are planning to air it out in 2023 to show off some of their new personnel.
"But I think that just by virtue of the personality of the team, it's a pretty fair assumption that we're going to throw the ball more. No question about that," he said.
With Harbaugh on the sideline for his 243rd career game as a head coach, Houston follows first-timer DeMeco Ryans into enemy territory. The fourth head coach for the Texans since 2020 (Romeo Crennel, David Culley, Lovie Smith) faces an uphill battle considering the team has only 11 wins the past three seasons. Baltimore won 10 games for the ninth time under Harbaugh last season.
Ryans, formerly a linebacker with the Texans and more recently defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, said he sees building blocks in the locker room and isn't worried about past results.
Discipline was the buzzword from Ryans regarding the trick to keeping Jackson in check. The complicating factor with Jackson is speed, especially when protection fails. He's one rushing touchdown shy of 25 for his career.
"Second level," Ryans said of his linebackers and secondary, "have to be very disciplined."
Among Ryans' Week 1 goals is being the more physical team while protecting Stroud.
"It's going to be tough," Ryans said. "It's always tough playing against that defense. Rookie quarterback, going to be a tough challenge for us, but we're not backing down from the challenge."
The Texans allowed 38 sacks last season and start the 2023 campaign with starting right tackle Tytus Howard (hand surgery) on injured reserve.
Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey is not expected to return until Week 3 following foot surgery in August.
—Field Level Media