All Eyes on Quinn

The Ohio State defense can make opposing teams one-dimensional. This is what happens when you are tops in the nation against the run and allowing only 74 yards per game on the ground. If this stat holds true in the Fiesta Bowl, the game could be in the hands of Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.

The Irish junior has had a remarkable year. Quinn has tossed for over 3,600 yards and 32 touchdowns, which is second in Division I to Hawaii's Colt Brennan (the Rainbow quarterback threw 35 scoring strikes but played in one more game than Quinn). But he has not seen a defense as tough and stingy as the Buckeye group. The best unit Notre Dame has faced this year was Tennessee, who is ranked 12th in the country in total defense. Ohio State is fourth in that same category and Quinn is already throwing heavy praise towards them.

"They don't really have any weaknesses," Quinn said. "When you look at their defense as a whole, they are sound. They're fundamental the way they play. They have special people on that side of the ball. When you look at them on film, there is really nothing that stands out as, ‘Wow, we can take advantage of that.' They are solid all-around."

The most rushing yards allowed by Ohio State was to the nation's second best ground attack, Minnesota. The Golden Gophers ran for 182 yards and also threw for the most yards all year versus the Buckeyes (396). Discount that performance and the most rushing yards given up by Ohio State was 117 by Penn State. It's a top-notch group that could give Notre Dame's Darius Walker and Travis Thomas limited run to move.

If this is the case, should Irish fans be worried? Looking at the season, the answer might be no. The Volunteers run defense is second best in the nation and Notre Dame mustered only 48 yards on 34 carries. But Quinn's 20-of-33 for 295 yards, three touchdown and no interception performance more than overcame the deficient ground attack that afternoon.

Weis has said repeatedly throughout the season that he is comfortable with putting the team's fortunes in the hands of Quinn. The two times Weis has done this, the junior signal caller put up two of his best days ever in an Irish uniform. Against Purdue and facing a group that finished 112th in pass defense, the game plan called for Quinn to air it out. It worked to great success as he threw for five touchdown passes and 440 yards. The almost exact same game plan against a blitzing BYU team saw Quinn do even better with 467 yards through the air and six touchdown strikes, a new school record. The numbers Quinn has put up have caught the eye of the Ohio State defenders.

"He has all of the physical tools," Buckeye linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "He is tall, strong and very quick. He is also very smart. He has done a great job playing in their system. He seems to control the game very well. He is a great quarterback."

"He's very good and very accurate," defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock said. "He sits back and waits for plays to develop. I've only seen a few sacks on him this year. We're just going to keep the pressure on him. If you keep pressuring, he'll make a mistake sooner or later."

Ohio State, though, is not BYU or Purdue. It'll be the toughest test of the year for a Notre Dame offense that has drastically rewrote the Irish record book. The bright lights of an entire nation hoping Notre Dame either completes their successful season with a win or falls flat on their face once again in the bowl season only adds to the pressure of the contest. The Buckeyes stifling run defense could put the ball in the hands of Quinn with the fate of the Irish hanging in the balance. He appears quite calm with this possible situation.

"It's an opportunity every quarterback wants," Quinn said. "All the pressure is on you and everything can be put on their shoulders. That might be selfish in some ways but at the same time, that's why you're in that position and have the ball in your hands every play. Especially with the team we're playing and being the scenario that it is, it makes it that much more intriguing and attractive for me." Top Stories