Sunday Morning QB: Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?

One more all-too-tight victory leaves one man wondering if next loss is imminent. Or can Ohio State win 18 more in a row just like this? We try to answer that pressing question, plus we look at the week that was in the Big Ten and across college football in this weekly feature.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a column I intend to stand each week as a quick read of news, notes and opinion on Ohio State's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.

Here are a number of thoughts I have stored up after Saturday‘s game with Bowling Green:

* There are two sides to every story, so let's try and provide both angles today.

Ohio State's 24-17 win over Bowling Green was not a work of art, far from it in fact.

But the Buckeyes essentially dominated that game for about 52 minutes until BGSU's furious late comeback. The Falcons' late comeback brought back memories of just one week earlier when OSU, also leading 24-7 midway through the fourth quarter, allowed N.C. State to come all the way back and force overtime before the Buckeyes prevailed.

This game also brought back memories of OSU's win at Michigan two years ago. There, facing a fourth-and-short situation, Jonathan Wells burst through a big hole in the line and roared for about a 30-yard touchdown run. Yesterday, OSU was facing fourth-and-1 at the BGSU 33 late in the first half. This time it was Lydell Ross who found nothing but green. They needed 1 and he got 33 and a nice touchdown.

And, of course, the game brought back memories of last year's Michigan game, where Will Allen intercepted a John Navarre pass on the final play to preserve the win. There was Allen again making the pick to seal another OSU victory.

I guess that is the key thing: OSU victory, another one, as in 18 in a row.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: There are some pretty big names across college football that will be looking to start a new victory streak over at one next week. Some of those schools include Michigan (heard of them?), Florida and Georgia. And I haven't even gotten to the four-pack of big names that were slayed by MAC opponents on Saturday. That group includes Kansas State, Colorado State, Alabama and Pittsburgh.

Ohio State continues to win, and they sidestepped danger in what may be the best MAC team of the bunch in Bowling Green.

Yet, like many of you, I'm left with the feeling that Ohio State's next loss is closer than we may think. Failing to put teams away is not a good sign. The turnovers and missed assignments loom larger and larger as teams have shown they can rally against the Buckeyes and make the latter stages of games interesting.

I want to give a game ball to Scott McMullen. His "stewardship" of the OSU offense was also reminiscent of the job Craig Krenzel turned in at Michigan two years ago. In fact, as I recall Krenzel barely threw for 100 yards in that game. (Yesterday, McMullen was 10 of 16 for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception.)

Ah, he threw an interception, didn't he?

Yep, it came on OSU's first possession of the second half. Did you know that after that pick, McMullen only threw three more passes over the rest of the game? The run/pass ratio the rest of the game after that pick was 25/3. It is a wonder OSU held on and won the game with such diversity like that.

I guess the one moment that stood out for me came late in the third quarter with the Buckeyes clinging to a 17-7 lead. OSU had driven nearly 60 yards to a third-and-4 at the BGSU 25. The Buckeyes sent Maurice Hall (nice 100-yard game) up the middle for a 2-yard gain. Then, they did it again on fourth-and-2, and Hall only got 1 yard. I suppose that Jim Tressel believed that was four-down territory and two running plays would probably be enough to make it work.

But I think McMullen deserved a chance to complete a high percentage pass for the first down on third-and-4. I'm not saying OSU goes on blows BGSU out if they get that first down. That didn't happen even though OSU later scored a touchdown -- set up by a 46-yard McMullen to Michael Jenkins play -- to go up 24-7. But I guess I would have liked to have seen a pass in that situation.

And, really, the counterpoint to my initial point that "everything is rosy" is that it's fine to keep playing five- and seven-point games as long as you keep winning them. But your margin for error is so slim that a defeat could jump up and bite you at any time.

Take yesterday for example: Ross fumbled a pitch from McMullen with 1:30 left. BGSU's Jason Morton appeared to fall on the ball with Ross reaching in. Yet, the Big Ten crew gave OSU possession of the ball, much to the dismay of several of the Falcons. If BGSU had been granted possession at the OSU 50 with 1:30 left, maybe Josh Harris would have been able to forge the game-tying score and send the game to overtime.

That would have been almost the exact same scenario as two weeks earlier when San Diego State needed just another 20 yards or so for a game-tying field goal and another overtime.

I know this defense plays lights out and OSU has reasonably decent special teams units. The Buckeyes can rely on them to beat most teams. And, granted, the offense is missing probably two of its top four or five players in Krenzel and center Alex Stepanovich.

But the fact OSU has not and seemingly can not put these teams away any better than this is certainly troubling.

"Sometimes the fans are on the edge of their seats," remarked OSU flanker Drew Carter. "We want to come out and win big. I'm sure we'll go back to the classroom and talk about that."

* Troubling? You want to talk about troubling?

We will get into the Big Ten down below. But based on what I've seen in the preconference, I think the Big Ten is a five-team race between OSU, Michigan, Iowa, Purdue and Wisconsin. I will discount Minnesota, just as we had to last year, because the Gophers haven't played anybody. Michigan State's dramatic win over Notre Dame could help the Spartans over the long haul. Penn State simply has not distinguished itself yet this year. Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern are clearly at the bottom right now.

I know most OSU fans are dialed in on the two big road games, Oct. 11 at Wisconsin and Nov. 22 at Michigan as the two biggest tests on the horizon. But based on what I've seen, Purdue and possibly Iowa could certainly come in to Ohio Stadium and defeat this Ohio State team.

It looks like the trend toward tight games will be continuing for at least two more months. Egads.

* One of the big topics after this game was the injury situation. Krenzel was in full pads, but he never threw a warmup toss as he continues to rest his sore elbow. In fact, he appeared to be wearing tennis shoes to go with that snazzy OSU visor. Tressel was asked about Krenzel's status.

"I think the medical people have decided on a daily basis, based upon little gyrations they put him through, if he should throw that day," Tressel said. "So he hasn't thrown since last Saturday. We were hoping he would throw by Thursday, and he didn't. Really, once he didn't throw Thursday, there's no need to go out and throw Friday or Saturday. He will meet with the doctors tomorrow (today), so it will be up to the medical people as to what they think. I think it will be a day-to-day thing."

There was nothing new to report on Stepanovich's ankle sprain, suffered against San Diego State.

OSU also lost standout defensive tackle Darrion Scott to an ankle sprain late in the first quarter.

The good news is the Buckeyes should be able to filibuster their way through next week's game against Northwestern (kind of like they have the last three weeks … egads), even without Krenzel, Stepanovich and Scott if need be. It would be great if those three could rest their injuries, then have the open week the next week for further healing before gearing up for the pivotal game at Wisconsin.

* Several of the players said they could sense Bowling Green had pulled out all the stops to try and win this game. But that's what happens every year, they said, when an Ohio team comes calling.

"It's dangerous and it has been every year I've been here from Ohio University my redshirt year (1999) and up through Cincinnati and Kent State last year," tight end Ben Hartsock said. "I think it is good for the state for us to play those teams. As far as we're concerned, I don't think a lot of guys on the team today looked at this as a MAC team. We looked at it like they were a dangerous team."

* In addition to McMullen, I would give Buckeye leaves to Hall, the offensive line, A.J. Hawk (another pick), Bobby Carpenter (his best game yet, including a key forced fumble), Brandon Mitchell, Nate Salley and Allen.

Now, for around the Big Ten:

* Clearly, the game of the week was in Eugene, Ore., where Oregon jumped on Michigan for a 21-6 halftime lead and hung on for dear life in a dramatic 31-27 win over the third-ranked Wolverines.

Michigan dropped its third game on the West Coast in four years, following losses at UCLA in 2000 and Washington in 2001. The Big Ten dropped to 2-11 in its last 13 trips to Pac-10 stadiums, as well.

There had been Heisman Trophy talk surrounding UM tailback Chris Perry, who averaged 183 rushing yards in lopsided wins over Central Michigan, Houston and Notre Dame. But Perry left Oregon with just 26 yards.

Michigan QB John Navarre threw 55 passes, completing 28 for 360 yards and three touchdowns. But the Ducks excelled on special teams, returning a punt 60 yards for a score and blocking another for a touchdown.

"Oregon was a good team that came out ready to play ... but I thought we beat ourselves, period,'' UM defensive end Larry Stevens said. "It's as simple as that. We can't beat ourselves like that. We just all-around lost.''

Michigan recovered an onside kick and had the ball with a chance to win with a touchdown with two minutes left. But Navarre's fourth-down pass to Braylon Edwards flew high incomplete.

Edwards caught 13 passes for 144 yards. Steve Breaston caught six for 109 yards and two touchdowns and Jason Avant caught six for 98 yards and a touchdown. But Michigan, averaging 307 yards a game on the ground, lost 3 yards on 19 carries overall.

``I thought we waited too long offensively,'' Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. ``We tried to run the football, but give Oregon credit. The completely stopped our running game.''

The Wolverines have lost four straight road openers, while the Ducks are 20-0 in nonconference play at Autzen Stadium under Mike Bellotti. Michigan was the highest ranked nonconference opponent that the Ducks have ever defeated at home. And UM had just matched its highest ranking since winning the 1997 national championship (UM was also No. 3 for brief stretches in 1999 and 2000.)

* Iowa avenged a 1997 Sun Bowl loss to Arizona State with a 21-2 win over the Sun Devils in the first regular season meeting ever between the two schools. Nathan Chandler tossed three TD passes, while Fred Russell led the Hawkeyes' ground game with 154 yards rushing in 27 carries. Iowa is 4-0, its best start since 1997. Arizona State, which had been averaging 404 yards and 30 points a game, was held to 24 yards rushing and just 184 total yards.

* Wisconsin bounced back from a home loss to UNLV by dispatching North Carolina 38-27. Booker Stanley replaced the injured Anthony Davis at tailback and had 119 yards and three touchdowns. Lee Evans had five catches to move past Al Toon as UW's all-time leading receiver. UNC fell to 0-3.

* Michigan State's players joyfully frolicked with first-year head coach John L. Smith and then led the band in a rendition of their fight song after downing Notre Dame 22-16 on the "once-hallowed" grounds of Notre Dame Stadium. It marked MSU's fourth straight win over the Irish in South Bend. Jeff Smoker returned after a rocky showing a week ago in a loss to Louisiana Tech and threw for 119 yards. MSU's Greg Taplin returned a Carlyle Holliday pass 40 yards for the game-capping interception return touchdown.

ND coach Tyrone Willingham then yanked Holliday and replaced him with former Dublin Coffman standout Brady Quinn, who led the Irish to a touchdown with 2:29 left. But MSU recovered the onside kick and the ND defense could not get the ball back, even with two timeouts left.

"Every loss has that jagged edge that just sticks in you," said Willingham, who is 3-5 in his last eight games at ND after winning his first eight a year ago. "We have to find a way to deal with this."

* True freshman Austin Scott ran for 100 yards and three TDs in Penn State's 32-10 win over Kent State.

* Kyle Orton completed 16 of 28 passes for 261 yards and three TDs as Purdue crushed visiting Arizona 59-7. John Mackovic's Wildcats are 1-3 after lopsided losses to LSU, Oregon and Purdue.

* One week after allowing Miami (Ohio) 515 yards in a 44-14 loss, Northwestern held Duke to 151 yards in three quarters of a 28-10 win in Durham, N.C. NU had two 100-yard rushers with Jason Wright (149 yards, two TDs) and Noah Herron (100 yards, one TD).

* Minnesota rolled to an easy 48-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. The Gophers have outscored their four opponents 187-51. Of course, they have played a WAC team (Tulsa), a Division I-AA team (Troy State), a MAC team (Ohio U.) and a Sun Belt team (Louisiana-Lafayette). As I say every year with this joke scheduling, apparently nobody from the ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, Pac-10 or Mountain West was available to fill Minnesota's dance card.

* Speaking of Minnesota's dance card. The Gophers may have to do some fancy footwork since it looks like the Minnesota Twins are a lock to make the American League playoffs as the Central Division champion. The Twins, up 4-½ games with one week left in the season, have priority on scheduling at the Metrodome for the playoffs.

Major League Baseball and its television partners do not seem inclined to work around Minnesota's football schedule, which includes October home games with Michigan Oct. 11 and Michigan State for homecoming Oct. 18. Likewise, Big Ten partners UM and MSU don't want to play on another day (possibly Thursday or Friday). It could become a sticky situation.

Baseball even balked at a plan for the Gophers to play as early as 10 a.m. local time so the dome could be ready for the evening baseball if necessary.

Now, on to the nation at large:

* Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods caught an NCAA Division I-A record seven touchdown passes in a 52-6 pasting of SMU. Woods, who finished with 13 catches for 232 yards, broke the record of six set by San Diego State's Tim Delaney against New Mexico State in 1969.

* Syracuse RB Walter Reyes had 241 yards and four touchdowns as the Orangemen downed Central Florida 38-14.

* Oregon State snapped Boise State's 13-game winning streak with a 26-24 win.

* Top-ranked Oklahoma rolled to a 59-24 win over UCLA. Antonio Perkins became the first player to score on three punt returns in the same game, rolling for returns of 74, 84 and 65 yards for the Sooners. Perkins also broke the mark of 219 yards on punt returns set by BYU's Golden Richards against North Texas in 1971. Perkins finished with 277 on seven punts. Jason White threw for two touchdowns and Renaldo Works ran for two others as the Sooners completed a sweep of its nonconference schedule for the fourth straight season.

* Roscoe Parrish set a school record with a 92-yard punt return and Sean Taylor returned an interception for another score as No. 2 Miami (Fla.) won its final Big East meeting against Boston College 33-14. Miami is departing the conference for the ACC after the season, leaving Boston College still looking for a Big East win against the Hurricanes. Boston College has lost 14 straight to Miami since the ``Hail Flutie'' game in 1984. Miami led 33-0 in the third quarter.

* Marshall absorbed tough losses at the hands of Tennessee and Toledo the last two weeks, but rallied to defeat No. 6 Kansas State 27-20 in Manhattan. (That's what K-State gets for playing McNeese State and UMass)

K-State got as close as the Marshall 3-yard line in the final minute but could not score. Marshall QB Graham Gochneaur was 16-of-24 for 106 yards and two touchdowns in his second start since Stan Hill went down with a sprained left knee. Butchie Wallace ran for 111 yards and defensive end Jonathan Goddard returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown.

The Wildcats missed Ell Roberson, who missed his second straight game with an injured wrist. Jeff Schwinn replaced Roberson and threw for 241 yards but also fumbled twice and had an interception. The loss snapped K-State's 41-game home nonconference winning streak.

* Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore with 43 seconds left as Toledo knocked off No. 9 Pittsburgh 35-31. Gradkowski was 49 of 62 passing for 461 yards and three TDs.

Pitt had one final shot at the end zone, but Rod Rutherford's pass was batted down in the end zone, setting off a wild celebration on the field at the Glass Bowl.

* No. 10 Florida State buried visiting Colorado 47-7 as Chris Rix completed 30 of 39 passes for 394 yards and two TD passes. Craphonso Thorpe had eight catches for 205 yards, including TD grabs of 56 and 37 yards.

* No. 11 LSU dealt No. 7 Georgia a dramatic 17-10 defeat as Matt Mauck hit Skyler Green with a 34-yard TD pass with 1:22 left. Georgia had tied the score on David Greene's 93-yard screen pass to Tyson Browning with 4:25 left.

* In the other big SEC showdown, Tennessee QB Casey Clausen threw for a touchdown and Jabari Davis ran for two others as 12th-ranked Tennessee rolled to a 24-10 win over No. 17 Florida in Gainesville. Clausen found James Banks on a 48-yard Hail Mary as time expired in the first half.

"That's one of those plays you work on all the time," Banks said. "You never think you're going to run it, or that it's going to work."

Florida safety Daryl Dixon added, "Everybody did their job, except for the ball."

Tennessee is 3-0 following its second straight win at The Swamp.

* Northern Illinois stunned No. 21 Alabama 19-16 in Tuscaloosa. Josh Haldi threw two second-half touchdown passes and Michael Turner ran for 156 yards for the Huskies (3-0), who earlier upset Maryland.

* Miami (Ohio) completed that MAC four-play of upsets with an easy 41-21 win over Colorado State in Fort Collins. QB Ben Roethlisberger completed 29 of 39 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns as the RedHawks rolled up 536 yards total offense on CSU.

* My new top 10: Oklahoma, Miami (Fla.), OSU (put them there and leave them there … until they lose or somebody ahead of them loses), Florida State, USC, Virginia Tech, LSU, Tennessee, Michigan (still the best one-loss team around), Texas.

* Here are some key match-ups for next week: Nebraska at Southern Miss (Thursday; memo to Frank Solich this is a trap), Notre Dame at Purdue (this looked so much better before the season than it does now), Wisconsin at Illinois (Badgers have to get this road win to start Big Ten season right way), Arizona State at Oregon State, Pittsburgh at Texas A&M, Minnesota at Penn State, Arkansas at Alabama, South Carolina at Tennessee.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week, followed by the Big Ten standings.

Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game

Aug. 30, Washington (2-1), beat Idaho 45-14, Sept. 20; vs. Stanford, Sept. 27

Sept. 6, San Diego State (3-1), beat Samford 37-17, Sept. 20; at UCLA, Sept. 27

Sept. 13, N.C. State (2-2), beat Texas Tech 49-21; vs. North Carolina, Sept. 27

Sept. 20, Bowling Green (3-1), lost to Ohio State 24-17, Sept. 20; idle, Sept. 27; vs. Central Michigan, Oct. 4

Sept. 27 (noon, ESPN2), Northwestern (2-2), beat Duke 28-10, Sept. 20; vs. Ohio State, Sept. 27

Oct. 11 (9 p.m., ESPN), at Wisconsin (3-1), beat North Carolina 38-27, Sept. 20; at Illinois, Sept. 27

Oct. 18 (3:30 p.m., ABC), Iowa (4-0), beat Arizona State 21-2, Sept. 20; at Michigan State, Sept. 27

Oct. 25 (TBA), at Indiana (1-3), lost to Kentucky 34-17, Sept. 20; at Michigan, Sept. 27

Nov. 1 (TBA), at Penn State (2-2), beat Kent State 32-10, Sept. 20; vs. Minnesota, Sept. 27

Nov. 8 (TBA), Michigan State (3-1), beat Notre Dame 22-16, Sept. 20; vs. Iowa, Sept. 27

Nov. 15 (TBA), Purdue (2-1), beat Arizona 59-7, Sept. 20; vs. Notre Dame, Sept. 27

Nov. 22 (noon, ABC), at Michigan (3-1), lost to Oregon 31-27, Sept. 20; vs. Indiana, Sept. 27

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Iowa (4-0, 0-0)

Minnesota (4-0, 0-0)

Ohio State (4-0, 0-0)

Michigan (3-1, 0-0)

Michigan State (3-1, 0-0)

Wisconsin (3-1, 0-0)

Purdue (2-1, 0-0)

Northwestern (2-2, 0-0)

Penn State (2-2, 0-0)

Illinois (1-3, 0-0)

Indiana (1-3, 0-0)

Sept. 27 Schedule

Minnesota at Penn State, noon (ESPN)

Northwestern at Ohio State, noon (ESPN2)

Indiana at Michigan, 12:10 p.m. (ESPN-Plus)

Iowa at Michigan State, 12:10 p.m. (ESPN-Plus)

Notre Dame at Purdue, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Wisconsin at Illinois, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

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