Scott McMullen played so well at Penn State that Jim Tressel has decided that he will likely see action this week against Michigan State. Craig Krenzel will start, but McMullen will be in there at some point.
To the fans and media, this might seem like a quarterback controversy. But McMullen did his best to downplay that on Tuesday.
"Oh, I don't think there's a controversy," McMullen said. "Craig's the starter. Unless something like that changes, I don't really view it as a quarterback controversy and I don't think he does either. You really can't worry about that stuff. If I do get the opportunity to play, I've just got to be ready."
McMullen will not soon forget the winning touchdown drive against PSU last week.
"That was big for my confidence," he said. "Getting in there, being down by 10 points and kind of leading the offense back and getting that late touchdown drive, that was huge. If I do get in another game, I'll be carrying that confidence with me."
McMullen says he wasn't anxious or nervous on the drive.
"Really I just remember being calm," he said. "A lot of the guys in the huddle were calm and I think everyone was confident that we were doing to go down and get the job done."
Earlier this season, McMullen led the Buckeyes to wins over Bowling Green and Northwestern. Without that experience, it might have been a different story in Happy Valley.
"Oh, I think that would have been a lot different," McMullen said. "Getting those two full games earlier in the season really did a lot for my confidence. In case I did have to step in, I think that was huge and I think it paid off Saturday."
We asked McMullen if it feels like he's getting a payback of sorts for all the long hours he has put in over the years.
"Oh yeah, it's nice to be able to contribute," he said. "Everyone wants to play in the game and knowing that you are probably going to get in the game makes you want to prepare that much harder."
Although Tressel basically said at Tuesday's press luncheon that McMullen will get some playing time, McMullen hasn't be told that he will play for sure.
"The only thing I've heard is that Craig is going to start and I'll probably get in the game," he said. "So, that's pretty much all I've heard and if I do get in, I've just got to do my best. I'm planning on playing, but I plan on playing every week. I've just got to be ready."
Right tackle Shane Olivea said that having two quarterbacks can be a problem, but he doesn't think it will be a problem in this case since McMullen and Krenzel are friends.
"Oh yeah, I agree with that," McMullen said. "Everyone here is competing and I think Craig and I do have a good relationship. We've been here together for five years and we've been through a lot of tough times. I think we have a good relationship and there's not going to be a problem between Craig and I."
In fact, the two of them are such good friends that they joke around about the pending QB controversy.
"Yeah, we joke around about it because between us, we really don't feel like there is a quarterback controversy like everyone else might think there is," McMullen said. "So, we just joke around about that and have some fun with it."
If the Bucks do go with a two-QB system the rest of the season, could that give them an advantage? Could it make them harder to prepare for?
"Yeah, I think it could be an advantage," McMullen said. "The defense is going to have to prepare for two quarterbacks. They really don't know who's going to be in the game and I think that's going to be even tougher for them to prepare this week. When you switch guys up, it's kind of like switching running backs. You have to prepare for the different styles."
McMullen says he doesn't prepare any different knowing that he's going to probably play.
"I've always prepared like I was going to get in the game," he said. "These past couple years, if something did happen to (Krenzel), I always prepared like I would get in the game. And especially now, knowing that there's a good chance I'll get some snaps, that's going to make me even more mentally focused."
McMullen reiterated that he doesn't know how much he is going to play against Michigan State.
"To tell you the truth, I'm really not sure," he said. "I don't really have a certain amount of playing time in my head or anything. I'm just thinking if I do get in, I need to do the job. It could be first quarter, it could be fourth quarter, maybe even overtime. I never know. You just have to be prepared."
But wouldn't it be better for McMullen to know ahead of time when he might get in? Like the third series of the game, for example?
"I really don't even look at it like that," he said. "I'm just preparing for any time during the game. If they say, ‘You can go in the third series,' then I've got to be ready the third series to go in."
McMullen is never going to win games with his feet, but he showed some decent running skills against Penn State.
"I played basketball in high school and I'm a little agile," he said. "I think Saturday, I got a chance to get out there and get a few yards rushing. Every once in a while, it's OK (to run). It depends if there's a 300-pound guy ready to clobber me, I guess. But other than that, I don't have a problem with it."
For McMullen, leading the comeback over Penn State meant more to him personally than the wins over Bowling Green and Northwestern.
"Probably last Saturday was bigger for me," he said. "I think there was a lot of pressure, especially being down 10 points and playing in a big game in Happy Valley against a great coach like Joe Paterno. Leading the team back, that was just really big for my confidence."
So, what was the big difference in the PSU game? Krenzel had trouble moving the ball, but McMullen was able to bring a spark to the offense.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know," McMullen said. "I don't know if it was a new look for their defense to prepare for. I don't know if they were really expecting us to throw the ball like that. But, we just wanted to get in there and spread them out and complete some passes."
Just how different are McMullen and Krenzel as quarterbacks?
"I don't think we're really that different," McMullen said. "He's shown a lot more that he can run with the ball. But other than that, I really don't think we're that different."
The "Granville Gunslinger" is just happy to know that the Bucks control their own destiny in the Big Ten race. He wants a trip to Pasadena, at worst.
"Oh yeah, we definitely control our own destiny," he said. "We're playing three of the top teams in the Big Ten and there really isn't a better way to finish out the month of November. We're playing the best, so it will be interesting to see what happens."
ANDERSON TALKS DEFENSE
Nose guard Tim Anderson doesn't think the defense played well against Penn State and he says they're ready to get after Michigan State.
"They're a pretty good team," Anderson said of the Spartans. "Obviously Jeff Smoker has been having a heck of a year. They do a good job with their schemes, and he has some good skilled guys to throw the ball to, and up front they look pretty good."
The return of Smoker has arguably been the biggest story in the Big Ten this season. He has turned a cellar-dweller into a contender.
"It's huge," Anderson said. "He's come back and he's had a great year. I think I heard somewhere today that he's leading the conference in passing, or really up there, so he's having a great year. He's a great leader and you can see that."
While Anderson might worry about Smoker, he isn't worried about the BCS. The Bucks are ranked fifth (and should be no worse than third), but Anderson thinks everything will take care of itself if OSU wins.
"We're not too worried about what the polls say," he said. "We're not too worried about what's going to happen these next couple of weeks. Right now, we've just got to focus on Michigan State and do our best with that. If we win, we will have a chance to achieve all of our goals."
In the narrow win over Penn State, the Buckeye defense had a lot of trouble on third downs. Time and time again, the Nittany Lions picked up first downs. Anderson thinks it was because the defensive line didn't get enough pressure on Zack Mills.
"Myself and the rest of the guys up front, we've kind of taken it upon ourselves because we feel like we didn't get the pressure on them that we should have, or that we need to, in those situations," he said. "We didn't get the job done for whatever reason and I'm not sure what that was. You know, little structural things. Just not doing our jobs is what it came down to. The guys on the D-line have taken it personally and we aren't happy about it. We know we have to get more pressure than that."
Against a passing team like Michigan State that likes to get rid of the ball quickly, pressure will once again be a big key to the game.
"Definitely. I think that's a key for any defensive front on any Saturday," Anderson said. "Getting pressure on the quarterback is always important, especially against a throwing team like this. It's just huge. Any quarterback can do a good job if the D-line isn't getting pressure on him. We have to get pressure on the quarterback. We feel like it starts with us. If we can get pressure on him, that makes the jobs of the guys on the back end easier, and if they do a great job and cover up the receivers, it gives us more time to get there. It's one of those things where everybody has to do their job."
Anderson was asked about the play of defensive end Will Smith, who leads the team with 9 ½ sacks.
"He plays hard every down and it's obviously hard to block him," he said. "He's in a great position. He puts himself in a great spot to make plays. Will's been playing great. You can definitely see the impact he's had on our defense."
The Buckeyes' rushing defense is unmatched, but there have been some holes in their pass defense. With three "passing teams" on the horizon, Anderson knows it's time for the defense to prove it can be a great pass defense as well.
"I think we're good against the pass," he said. "I think if everybody does their job - up front, linebackers and DBs - if we all do our job, we'll be fine. We know we have three very good passing teams coming up and Michigan State is a really good passing team."
Anderson likes the way the schedule has set up. Some might prefer a cake schedule down the stretch (like Michigan's), but not Anderson.
"I like it like this," he said. "Ourselves, along with Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan, we're in the driver's seat. These next few games are going to decide it and we're looking forward to the challenge. It's right there for us."