Sunday Morning QB: One For The Ages

In this edition of Sunday Morning Quarterback, we assess where things are at with Ohio State football following the loss at Iowa. We look at the struggling offense and answer the latest edition of Ten Pressing Questions. Plus, we look around the Big Ten as well as the nation at-large in college football.

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.

We start with a look at OSU's resounding loss at Iowa:

* Where do you begin after something as demoralizing as that?

Well, this was Ohio State's worst game in 10 years, dating to the 63-14 loss to Penn State in 1994 at Happy Valley. Let's start there.

Yes, Ohio State has played some clunkers in the 10 years since that all-time clunker. The first Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina, the 24-7 one that caused Andy Geiger to walk around the neighborhood and fire John Cooper, was a bad one. But this one goes on the list of the program's all-time worst defeats – by margin or any way you want to qualify it.

(By the way, that was Iowa's first win over Ohio State since 1991 and just their fourth win over the Buckeyes since 1962.)

This team displayed no heart, no leadership and no coaching acumen.

There is no running game and, on top of that, they've had three years to develop two Elite 11 quarterbacks and this is where they're at.

They were still trying to run the ball, down 30-0 early in the fourth quarter. There was no hurry-up offense, no urgency, no nothing.

Ohio State has forgotten how to compete. Ohio State has forgotten how to win. There is no relief in sight. Not even the vision of Indiana coming to the Horseshoe next Saturday is enough to lift these clouds.

* I have suggested it for several weeks and now it's time to come right out and say it. It's time for Jim Tressel, the head coach, to fire Jim Tressel, the de facto offensive coordinator.

I could quote you statistics chapter and verse. But it's time for Tressel to address how Ohio State will be moving the football over the next four or five years. They bring John Peterson in from Miami (Ohio) by way of Arizona and don't tap into what made the Redhawks an offensive juggernaut over the last several years.

Yes, they're only as good as the players they have. The only problem is these are their players. They recruited almost every one of these offensive players.

Much was made of the "athletic offensive line." But I haven't seen one attempt to run or throw outside yet.

The defense isn't getting it done, either. But when you can't even muster 200 yards total offense, you aren't going to beat anybody. Enough is enough. They need some new ideas.

You won't see any major moves (coaching or personnel, at least in terms of redshirts) in the middle of this season. That would be counterproductive. This season will be what this season turns out to be. You do not mortgage this season to hope that next year will be better. That gets you nowhere.

In regard to that, there must be a compelling reason why we will never see Erik Haw this season. He has the blend of speed and power that the OSU running game is desperately missing. He played great in the open scrimmages. Why he didn't play … well, somebody somewhere knows more than I do.

People want OLs Kyle Mitchum and Ben Person to report for duty immediately. But, I have to say, Ohio State has nothing to gain by suddenly pressing some freshmen into action and blowing their redshirt year just so they can go to the Alamo Bowl.

Ultimately, you do need to look big picture here, folks.

* There is one major move Ohio State does need to take. It's time for Troy Smith to start a game and see what he can do. No doubt about that. He can move the sticks, even when things break down.

* On Saturday morning, I posted Ten Pressing Questions surrounding the OSU-Iowa game. Here's what we learned on Saturday:

1. Will Ohio State, at long last, establish the running game? For the fifth straight game, OSU was unable to reach the 100-yard mark. Granted, Iowa was one of the Big Ten and national leaders against the run. But the Buckeyes were especially feeble in this game, finishing with 27 yards on 29 carries – if you're scoring at home that's an average of 0.9 yards per attempt.

The reasons are many. But the bottom line is the line creates no push and no holes.

2. How will Justin Zwick respond? Zwick's midseason funk continued. He was dinged early, but tried to stay with it. It was not to be, though. His two turnovers were crushing. Had Ohio State scored in the first half, it may have changed the game. Instead, he underthrew Bam Childress in the end zone, got picked and OSU missed (another) golden scoring chance.

Then, he was smacked and fumbled to open the second half … and the rout was on.

It's a real conundrum. Zwick is a sophomore, but he's a third-year sophomore. His opposite number, Iowa's Drew Tate, is a sophomore and he is in a zone. Michigan has a true freshman, Chad Henne, moving them up and down the field and on it goes.

Zwick has some tools and, again, everything that has happened is not his fault. (When you can stop the running game with your four-man front that doesn't leave many receivers open.) But it's time for him to grow up and become a true leader.

3. Will Troy Smith get into this game? Yes, Smith finally got into a game. OSU trailed 17-0 when he finally got the call. It took him a series or two to gain some rhythm, which should have been expected. There were a couple broken plays (the fumbled handoff to Lydell Ross, most notably). And, yes, Iowa had emptied the bench when Smith drove OSU to its shutout-preventing touchdown.

But this kid is a leader. This season is officially in the dumper. It's time for him to get some plays on tape and see where he goes.

Hey, maybe Ohio State is a two-quarterback team. Tressel could do worse than to play them both the rest of the way and go with whoever has the hot hand in the fourth quarter. What do they have to lose?

Practice performance is important, don't get me wrong. But some guys are game players. I think Smith is one of those guys. He deserves a chance to lose the job, just as Zwick did.

4. Can the offense generate some big plays? Nope, not even close. The longest run was Smith's 13-yard scamper (this is still Ohio State, isn't it?) and the longest pass was Smith's 23-yard TD to Rory Nicol. Is Santonio Holmes still on this team?

5. How will Kirk Barton fare in his first start at right tackle? Hard to say how that went. I didn't notice any major breakdowns from Barton.

6. Will the defense get some pressure on the quarterback? Nope, not while the game was in doubt, at least. I watched three quarters of Iowa's game against Michigan and knew right away Tate would kill OSU with rollouts. Why couldn't the defensive coaching staff see that and devise a plan to contain him? This was a game where they should have used an athletic linebacker, say Thomas Matthews, to just get in Tate's (rear) on those rollouts.

Matthews had a great spring and can't get on the field for this defense. What gives?

Instead, Tate had all day to pick Ohio State apart. And the soft coverages, don't get me started.

7. Can the Buckeyes contain Iowa's high octane passing game? Nope, just like Wisconsin's John Stocco they made Tate look like Kyle Orton (well, the pre-Wisconsin game Orton). E.J. Underwood did not distinguish himself, committing a key pass interference penalty and biting on the fake that left Clinton Solomon all alone on his 36-yard TD catch.

Iowa was down to walk-ons and role players at running back, and Ohio State could not get the running game stopped at key moments. And 331 yards passing? Nope, that's not Ohio State football. Of course, there's a lot of that going around right now.

8. What impact will Dustin Fox have upon his return? Not much. OSU certainly didn't lose because of Fox. He did the best he could, providing tackle support against Iowa's passing game.

9. Can OSU return, say, two punts for touchdowns this week? Of course, this was a rhetorical question. Where, when or how Ohio State will score its next touchdown is anybody's guess.

10. Will Ohio State cap this season with a bowl game? No, it seems this Ohio State team will be home for the holidays. (I have to say I did enjoy December 1999, when I didn't have to jet off to Tampa or some other secondary bowl destination when I'd rather be home.)

Let's face the cold hard facts. Everybody thought Ohio State was still one year away. After all, they did lose 14 players to the NFL. But the talent level is not where it needs to be on either the offensive or defensive lines to contend for a Big Ten championship, let alone a national championship.

And there is no quick fix. There is no free agency in college football. The guys they have in the fold need to keep working. Maybe some impact players will surface at some point in the next year or two to make a difference.

As for this year, just go one game at a time. Beat Indiana to get to 4-3 and see where you are after that.

Now for a look around the Big Ten:

* The Game of the Week was at Purdue, where No. 10 Wisconsin rallied to shock No. 5 Wisconsin 20-17.

The Badgers won when Scott Starks returned Kyle Orton's fourth-quarter fumble 40 yards for a touchdown. Orton fumbled while trying to pick up a first down as the Boilers, leading 17-14, were tying to run out the clock.

Purdue was in the top 10 for the first time since 1980 and top five for the first time since 1979. Wisconsin has started the season with seven straight wins for just the second time since 1912.

What We Learned: Wisconsin may now go unbeaten with remaining games against Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan State and Iowa … Wisconsin's defense is truly for real and we think the Badgers could give USC or Oklahoma a game (a la Ohio State in 2002).

* No. 14 Michigan avoided an upset at Illinois. The Wolverines trailed 17-10 at halftime before rolling to a 30-19 win. Freshman RB Mike Hart was the star with 235 yards rushing on 40 carries with a touchdown. Freshman QB Chad Henne completed 14 of 27 passes for 113 yards with a score and two interceptions. Jon Beutjer's three interceptions hurt the Illini.

What We Learned: Hart is a keeper. He's going to be a star for the Wolverines … Henne is not infallible, but is quite a competitor … Illinois may just upset somebody at home one of these days.

* Michigan State obliterated No. 19 Minnesota 51-17, outgaining Minnesota 633-282 in total offense. QB Drew Stanton completed 19 of 30 passes for 300 yards with three TDs and two interceptions. Two of the touchdowns went to TE Eric Knott. Stanton also rushed 13 times for 102 yards.

Minnesota came into the game ranked third nationally in rushing offense at 301 yards per game. In this game, the Gophers managed just 109 yards rushing. Ernie Wheelwright had two TD grabs for the Gophers.

What We Learned: Michigan State has reloaded and John L. Smith is going to be someone to reckon with in this league … Minnesota did not respond well to its loss to Michigan … Anybody who thought OSU's game at MSU in early November would be a sure thing needs to get a clue.

And a glance at headlines nationally

* In the Game of the Week (nationally), No. 3 Miami (Fla.) avoided a stunning upset at the hands of No. 18 Louisville by rallying for a dramatic 41-38 win in a battle of unbeatens at the Orange Bowl.

Louisville led 24-7 at halftime before Miami's second-half rally. Miami took a 34-31 lead on Devin Hester's 78-yard punt return with 8:11 left. Then, after UL had regained a 38-34 advantage, Miami's Frank Gore provided the game-winning TD on a 1-yard run with 49 seconds left.

Miami QB Brock Berlin was 25 of 37 for 308 yards with three TDs and one interception. UL's Stefan LeFors was 17 of 22 passing for 242 yards and three TDs before leaving the game with a concussion.

What We Learned: The Orange Bowl has been the seen of some all-time classics and this one fits that category … Louisville is ready for the Big East … er, ready to dominate the Big East … Miami kept its national title dreams alive.

* Pittsburgh pulled out a 20-17 win over Boston College in overtime. Josh Cummins hit a 27-yard field goal. Pitt then held BC on downs, recovering a BC fumble on fourth down on the final play to win it.

The win was critical for Pitt coach Walt Harris, whose team improved to 4-2. Local newspaper columnists had been clamoring for his firing of late.

* No. 2 Oklahoma avoided an upset at Kansas State, rallying for a 31-21 win and avenging last year's loss in the Big XII championship game. QB Jason White was 20 of 31 passing for 257 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Freshman RB Adrian Peterson followed his big game against Texas with 129 yards on 36 carries.

Kansas State's Darren Sproles was held to 34 on 13 carries. K-State fell to 2-4 overall with its third straight loss.

* USC freshman Dwayne Jarrett, the one-time OSU (silent) verbal, caught five passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns in the top-ranked Trojans' 45-7 rout of No. 15 Arizona State. Jarrett, a freshman, was filling in for the injured Steve Smith.

* Cal's J.J. Arrington ran for a career-best 205 yards and two touchdowns for the Golden Bears, who rebounded from last week's heartbreaking loss to top-ranked Southern California with a 45-28 win over UCLA.

* Texas A& M's Reggie McNeal threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more scores to help No. 23 Texas A&M upset No. 16 Oklahoma State 36-20.

* Nebraska rebounded from its 70-10 loss to Texas Tech by defeating Baylor 59-27. Amazingly, Joe Dailey became the first Nebraska quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes in the Cornhuskers' 59-27 win over Baylor. Dailey was 13-for-20 for 342 yards, breaking the previous record of 297 yards set by Dave Humm in 1973.

Baylor is 0-34 all-time in Big 12 road games after losing at Nebraska 59-27.

* Auburn is for real in the SEC West. Jason Campbell completed 17 of 19 passes to set an Auburn record for completion percentage in a game in the fourth-ranked Tigers' 38-20 rout of Arkansas. Campbell finished with a career-high 297 yards and three touchdowns.

* Boise State's Tyler Jones kicked a 46-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in a 45-42 win over Tulsa. Boise State has won 17 straight games -- the longest winning streak in the nation.

* In the ACC, No. 7 Florida State held No. 6 Virginia to 20 yards rushing in a 36-3 rout.

* Heisman Watch: This is now a 2-1/2 man race. The two who appear to be in it for the long haul are Oklahoma's Jason White (Archie, beware) and USC's Matt Leinhart. The half-man still in it is Purdue's Kyle Orton. It really hurts that he was the one that fumbled to cost Purdue the game – and he had the first down, that's the bad part. Others hanging around are Cal's Aaron Rodgers, Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson (will the Sooners vote go to White or Peterson?) and the nation's top defensive player, Miami's Antrel Rolle.

* My new top 15: USC, Oklahoma, Miami (Fla.), Auburn, Wisconsin, Florida State, Georgia, California, Michigan, Texas, West Virginia, Utah, Tennessee, Purdue, Virginia.

* Games to watch next week: Syracuse-West Virginia (Thursday), Michigan-Purdue, Florida State-Wake Forest, UCLA-Arizona State, Georgia-Arkansas, Oklahoma State-Missouri, Miami (Fla.)-N.C. State, Fresno State-Boise State.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week.

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

Sept. 4, Cincinnati (2-4), idle, Oct. 16; vs. Memphis, Oct. 23.

Sept. 11, Marshall (3-3), beat Kent State 27-17, Oct. 16; vs. Buffalo, Oct. 23.

Sept. 18, at N.C. State (4-2), beat Maryland 13-3, Oct. 16; vs. Miami (Fla.), Oct. 23.

Sept. 25, idle

Oct. 2, at Northwestern (3-3), idle, Oct. 16; at Wisconsin, Oct. 23.

Oct. 9, Wisconsin (7-0), beat Purdue 20-17, Oct. 16; vs. Northwestern, Oct. 23.

Oct. 16, at Iowa (4-2), beat Ohio State 33-7, Oct. 16; at Penn State, Oct. 23.

Oct. 23 (noon, ESPN-Plus), Indiana (2-4), idle, Oct. 16; at Ohio State, Oct. 23.

Oct. 30 (TBA), Penn State (2-4), idle, Oct. 16; vs. Iowa, Oct. 23.

Nov. 6 (TBA), at Michigan State (4-3), beat Minnesota 51-17, Oct. 16; idle, Oct. 23; at Michigan, Oct. 30.

Nov. 13 (TBA), Purdue (5-1), lost to Wisconsin 20-17, Oct. 16; vs. Michigan, Oct. 23.

Nov. 20 (1 p.m., ABC), Michigan (6-1), beat Illinois 30-19, Oct. 16; at Purdue, Oct. 23.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Wisconsin (7-0, 4-0)

Michigan (6-1, 4-0)

Michigan State (4-3, 3-1)

Purdue (5-1, 2-1)

Iowa (4-2, 2-1)

Northwestern (3-3, 2-1)

Minnesota (5-2, 2-2)

Ohio State (3-3, 0-3)

Indiana (2-4, 0-3)

Penn State (2-4, 0-3)

Illinois (2-5, 0-4)

Oct. 16 Schedule

Michigan State 51, Minnesota 17

Michigan 30, Illinois 19

Iowa 33, Ohio State 7

Wisconsin 20, Purdue 17

Oct. 23 Schedule

Northwestern at Wisconsin, noon (ESPN)

Iowa at Penn State, noon (ESPN2)

Indiana at Ohio State, noon (ESPN-Plus)

Illinois at Minnesota, 2 p.m.

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

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