Sunday Morning QB: One Standing Ovation, Please

In the wake of OSU's loss at Wisconsin, we search for answers for the Ten Pressing Questions ... as well as for where things may be headed next.

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

Here‘s what we have after last night‘s loss in Madison:

* Before we get into the blame game over who did what to who in Madison, I, again, want to reflect on what I think most OSU fans have enjoyed over the last 21-½ months: A national championship, an 8-0 Big Ten championship and 19 straight wins.

Something tells me that most rank and file OSU fans who attend the homecoming game with Iowa next Saturday will treat this team like they've just beaten (yes, I said, beaten) the nation's No. 1-ranked team on their field this week.

That is what these kids deserve. Anything less than that would be an embarrassment.

* Prior to the game, I asked Ten Pressing Questions we would try and answer in the course of the OSU-Wisconsin game. Here were the questions and here's what we ascertained:

1. Can Ohio State stop Wisconsin's running game? The Badgers were averaging 222.5 yards per game rushing (second in the Big Ten), while OSU was the best nationally in stopping it (43.4 yards per game). UW ended up with a modest 141 yards on 48 rushing attempts. That‘s less than 3 yards a carry. For about 57 minutes, OSU bottled up the UW run. Yes, UW picked up two key first downs in the final three minutes -- each on the ground. But that is not why Ohio State lost. The defense should sue the offense and special teams for non-support. By and large, OSU did the job against the UW running game.

2. Can Ohio State establish the run? Prior to the game, I wrote, "This may be the sole deciding factor in the game." No truer words have ever been written. OSU's 69 yards on 26 carries (a 2.5 yards per attempt average) is the latest indication that the Buckeyes have no discernible running game. Put the blame where you want -- the line, the backs or the play calls. It is time to think outside the box, both with the running game and this "offense." Try Troy Smith or Ira Guilford or anybody at tailback. Lydell Ross just can't stay healthy, it seems, and Maurice Hall does not seem to be an impact back at this level. Offensively, maybe it‘s time to use the pass to set up the run. Just a thought.

3. How will Craig Krenzel play? Krenzel had not played competitively in 28 days. He did not throw the ball several times and ended up sacked, but I think, by the time the night was over, it was clear that Krenzel was at least back to where he had been before the injury. Now, as for what that means …

4. Is Ohio State healthy? Alex Stepanovich could only play about half the time. Ross came back, then got hurt again. Branden Joe and Darrion Scott did not play after much talk that they would. You can say OSU wasn‘t at full strength, which it wasn‘t. But that excuse does not wash when UW wins with a backup QB (Matt Schabert) and third-team TB (Booker Stanley).

5. Will Chris Gamble play on offense? It is kind of a sad joke, but the wags (those are the beat writers) noted that if Gamble isn‘t going to play defense or special teams he could at least play offense. Ba-tat-dum. OK, he fumbled a punt and he let Lee Evans get deep for the winning TD. How many games has he won in the last year or two? He held Evans in check until that last play. Give UW credit for a great play call on that out and up by Evans. And, yes, we still think Gamble‘s very presence might pump some life into the moribund OSU offense.

6. Will B.J. Sander deliver? This was an emphatic yes as Sander averaged 44.3 yards, placing four of his seven punts inside the 20.

7. Can the tight ends come up big? Ben Hartsock made a quiet five grabs -- including the first-ever shovel pass anywhere to a tight end (who said Jim Tressel isn't an offensive innovator?) and Ryan Hamby had one.

8. Will the middle linebackers come to play? Fred Pagac Jr. had six stops and Mike D‘Andrea had four. It wasn‘t exactly Chris Spielman‘s 29-tackle effort against Michigan in 1986, but they were there.

9. What impact will the crowd have? It got real loud a few times, but the poor weather kind of took the crowd down a peg or two.

10. Is Ohio State for real? I said this would be predicated on the final score, and, if that is the barometer, no, OSU is not for real. This is not a top-five team, maybe not even a top-15 team. On one hand, the offensive "effort" gives you plenty of pause. But that defense -- other than the end of the game -- is something to behold. Jury still out for one more week.

One Bonus Question: What impact will rain play in tonight's game? Each team muffed a punt, which may have been weather related. But the cold, hard facts are that Ohio State got dealt. Is it the end of the world? No. This is when the true character of young men should shine through. We shall see, won‘t we?

* If you have any optimism left, you're still churning scenarios where Ohio State goes to the Sugar Bowl. Trust me, that's out the window. Ohio State would have to outscore the rest of its opponents by three touchdowns (that's 3 TDs each, not total for six games) and need some serious help to even think about getting back up to No. 2.

OSU is also a long shot for the Rose Bowl --Wisconsin would have to lose twice. Otherwise, OSU needs to win out (or thereabouts) to get a BCS at-large nod for the Orange or Fiesta bowls. One man's opinion, but Florida appears to be OSU's bowl destination (Orange, Cap One or Outback, likely).

* Because of the late nature of this game, we will truncate the rest of our weekly format. However, we will note that Separation Saturday whittled the number of unbeaten Division I-A teams down from 11 to five. I think they could have called this Bloodletting Saturday.

In addition to Ohio State, Minnesota fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with its loss to Michigan Friday night.

Also tasting defeat for the first time were Arkansas (losing at home to Auburn), Florida State (falling at home to Miami), Nebraska (losing to Missouri) and LSU (falling at home to Florida).

Those still unbeaten include TCU, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech. I‘d say the Miami-Va. Tech winner will play OU in the Sugar Bowl, but things rarely go that smoothly.

* My new Heisman Trophy ballot (subject to change, of course, before I have to send it in): Virginia Tech‘s Kevin Jones and Oklahoma's Jason White (and Miami's Kellen Winslow Jr. -- just kidding.)

* My new top 10: Oklahoma (there are no more questions), Miami (Fla.) ('Canes find a way), Virginia Tech and … (I'll let you know when I find seven more teams ro round out my top 10).

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 (3-3), lost to Nevada 28-17, Oct. 11; at Oregon State, Oct. 18

Sept. 6, San Diego State (3-4), lost to Utah 27-6, Oct. 11; vs. New Mexico, Oct. 18

Sept. 13, N.C. State (4-3), beat Connecticut 31-24, Oct. 11; vs. Clemson, Oct. 18

Sept. 20, Bowling Green (5-1), beat Western Michigan 32-21, Oct. 11; at Eastern Michigan, Oct. 18

Sept. 27, Northwestern (3-4), beat Indiana 37-31 (OT), Oct. 11; idle, Oct. 18; vs. Wisconsin, Oct. 25

Oct. 11 (9 p.m., ESPN), at Wisconsin (6-1), beat Ohio State 17-10, Oct. 11; vs. Purdue, Oct. 18

Oct. 18 (3:30 p.m., ABC), Iowa (5-1), idle, Oct. 11; at Ohio State, Oct. 18

Oct. 25 (TBA), at Indiana (1-6), lost to Northwestern 37-31 (OT), Oct. 11; idle, Oct. 18; vs. Ohio State, Oct. 25

Nov. 1 (TBA), at Penn State (2-5), lost to Purdue 28-14, Oct. 11; idle, Oct. 18; at Iowa, Oct. 25

Nov. 8 (TBA), Michigan State (6-1), beat Illinois 49-14, Oct. 11; at Minnesota, Oct. 18

Nov. 15 (TBA), Purdue (4-1), beat Penn State 28-14, Oct. 11; at Wisconsin, Oct. 18

Nov. 22 (noon, ABC), at Michigan (5-2), beat Minnesota 38-35, Oct. 10; vs. Illinois, Oct. 18

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Michigan State (6-1, 3-0)

Wisconsin (6-1, 3-0)

Purdue (5-1, 2-0)

Minnesota (6-1, 2-1)

Michigan (5-2, 2-1)

Ohio State (5-1, 1-1)

Iowa (5-1, 1-1)

Northwestern (3-4, 1-2)

Penn State (2-5, 0-3)

Illinois (1-6, 0-3)

Indiana (1-6, 0-3)

Oct. 10 Result

Michigan 38, Minnesota 35

Oct. 11 Results

Michigan State 49, Illinois 14

Northwestern 37, Indiana 31, OT

Purdue 28, Penn State 14

Wisconsin 17, Ohio State 10

Oct. 18 Schedule

Purdue at Wisconsin, noon (ESPN)

Michigan State at Minnesota, noon (ESPN2)

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

Iowa at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

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