Sunday Morning QB: Answering The Questions

We are back with our popular next day column, Sunday Morning Quarterback. We look at Ohio State's win over Miami (Ohio) and answer the Ten Pressing Questions. Plus, we provide news and notes from around the Big Ten and college football at-large.

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 win over Miami (Ohio):

* On Friday, I posted my Ten Pressing Questions for OSU's opener against Miami. Today, with some time to reflect on what we saw, we have some of the answers.

1. How will Justin Zwick do as the starting quarterback (once again)? -- The Justin Zwick we saw yesterday against Miami was a much different Justin Zwick who opened last season as the starter for the Buckeyes. This Zwick was confident. This Zwick was a team leader – did you see him pick up Nick Mangold when he got hurt? He was, by and large, efficient. He did have the one bad mistake on the interception. Otherwise, his 17 of 23 line has to be among his best as a college quarterback.

Jim Tressel was noncommittal yesterday on who will start against Texas. My educated guess is that Zwick will start. However, at some point, I expect Troy Smith to enter the game. Keep in mind, it will be a 3-1/2 hour football game full of highs and lows. My feeling is Tressel will insert Smith at a prescribed time or at a point when he feels his team and the crowd needs a lift. What happens next will be of utmost importance for both quarterbacks and the Buckeyes this season.

2. How will Todd Boeckman do in his first stint at quarterback? -- Boeckman looked like an old pro. He hit Anthony Gonzalez for a 13-yard gain on his first pass, then threw a pretty post pass to Ted Ginn Jr. for a 42-yard touchdown. That's quite a debut. Boeckman ended up 5 of 7 on the day. Not bad. However, with Smith back in the fold, I doubt you see much of Boeckman – barring injury – the rest of the way.

3. How will Antonio Pittman do in his first start at tailback? -- I was close on Pittman. I said a good day would be better than 100 yards (he had 100), a couple nice runs (he had several) and a couple nice pass catches (he had one, for 5 yards to convert a key third down on the first drive). It was a banner day for OSU's new starter at tailback. I particularly like the use of 240-pound bruiser Brandon Schnittker on the goal line and in short yardage sets. This has the makings of a thunder-and-lightning combo.

4. How will the young wide receivers factor into the spread? -- We didn't really see any of the young receivers get that involved. OSU's favorite formation appears to be Santonio Holmes split wide to one side and trips on the other with Roy Hall on the line, Anthony Gonzalez in the slot and Ginn in the Shot-Ginn position. That's a pretty devastating set. We saw some other guys like Devon Lyons, Albert Dukes and Brian Robiskie get involved as the game wore on, but none of them logged a catch.

5. How is the refurbished offensive line going to fare? -- Wow, let's start with the fact they gave up one sack all day. By and large, when there were short yardage situations that need converted they got them. OSU rushed for 160 yards as a team. And, perhaps, the best sign of all was when Mangold went down, do-it-all Doug Datish slid over to center and Steve Rehring came into the game at left tackle. They hardly missed a beat. This line has the makings of being pretty good. They face a stern test next Saturday. We will see how they hold up then, certainly.

6. Can the defensive line exert some pressure on Miami QB Josh Betts? -- I would say the defense – maybe not so much the defensive line – exerted pressure on Betts. As Tressel had hinted, OSU has tweaked its defense this year. One of the defensive tackles comes out instead of a linebacker in nickel situations. As advertised, new coordinator Jim Heacock brought pressure from every angle. OSU's first four sacks on the new year were tallied by Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Schlegel, Donte Whitner and A.J. Hawk. Finally, end Mike Kudla forced a fumble on the fifth one.

The challenge next week will be different. Betts was, by and large, a sitting target in the pocket. Texas' Vince Young brings the added dimension of being able to run the ball. They will need to work on their containment principles very hard this week. You know Young will try to gash them with the run. They need to keep those gains to a minimum.

7. Will the secondary contain Miami's strong receiving corps? -- The starters – Youboty and Tyler Everett – did a great job. Did you see Youboty make the first two tackles of the year? Yes, Miami's Ryne Robinson and Martin Nance got loose late, but that was against OSU's second- and third-teamers.

I said this earlier in Buckeye Grove and yesterday reinforced it – the Ohio State defense, after playing Miami, is now ready to play Texas. I'm not sure either side of the ball for Texas can make the same claim after its 60-3 win over to Louisiana-Lafayette.

8. What impact will OSU's new kickers have? -- It was good to see Josh Huston bang in field goals of 20 and 27 yards. Good to get his feet wet. A.J. Trapasso averaged 40.5 yards on two punts. Let's call this one incomplete because of a lack of sample, but it was certainly a good first step.

9. What true freshmen will make an impact? -- With the game in hand, the OSU staff took full advantage and shoved a number of youngsters in the game. There were some mistakes made late in the game that will be reinforced in film study this week, certainly. But it was great to look out there and see Alex Boone getting some reps at tackle, Lawrence Wilson get a taste at end and, most definitely, Maurice Wells logging some carries.

10. Is this truly a top-10 team and a Big Ten and national championship contender? -- I wanted to see a "clean" effort. And, for 3-1/2 quarters, I thought that is precisely what the Buckeyes delivered. The comment I made was to the effect of "when mistakes are made, you don't let them compound."

Zwick threw the pick, but the defense promptly picked him up and got Miami off the field without scoring. Donte Whitner roughed the punter, then picked off a Betts pass on the very next play for a touchdown. That is what I'm talking about. The great teams make their share of mistakes, certainly. But they do not allow situations to grow into disasters.

Moreover, OSU had that look on Saturday of a team that intends to stick to its business. I think they lacked that singular focus for most of last year – really until the last three or four games, as you look back on it. They are starting the new year with that look, and I think it can only help them.

Now for a look around the Big Ten:

* Laurence Maroney does not miss Marion Barber III. Barber went pro a year early, leaving Maroney behind as the lead running back at Minnesota. Maroney had 203 yards and two touchdowns in the Gophers' 41-10 rout of host Tulsa. Columbus native Gary Russell added a pair of TD runs for Minnesota.

* Terry Hoeppner's debut at Indiana was a winning one as the Hoosiers took a 20-13 win at Central Michigan. Blake Powers threw for 276 yards and three touchdowns, including a 74-yard TD to Marcus Thigpen in the fourth quarter that put the game away. This was the first game of an eight-game weekend clean sweep of Big Ten teams over MAC opponents.

* Northwestern spoiled the debut of Ohio U. coach Frank Solich as the Wildcats downed the Bobcats 38-14. NU rolled up 550 yards offense with QB Brett Basanez throwing for 353 yards and two touchdowns and freshman RB Tyrell Sutton, Ohio's reigning Mr. Football award winner from Akron Hoban, tallying 104 yards and two TDs in his college debut.

* Wisconsin fell behind visiting Bowling Green 14-0 after quarter. But the Badgers exploded for 35 second quarter points on their way to a 56-42 win over the Falcons. Colorado transfer (and Wisconsin native) RB Brian Calhoun had 258 yards and five touchdowns on 43 carries. BG QB Omar Jacobs could not outscore his team's defense. He was 30 of 51 passing for 458 yards and five touchdowns with one interception.

* Illinois rallied from a 20-point deficit to make coach Ron Zook's debut a winning one, prevailing over visiting Rutgers 33-30 in overtime. The Illini overcame a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime. Rutgers got a field goal in OT before Pierre Thomas scored on a 2-yard run to give the Illini the win.

* Joe Paterno began his 40th year as the Penn State coach as his team turned back South Florida 23-13. Alan Zemaitis returned a USF fumble for a score and TB Tony Hunt nd QB Michael Robinson each had short TD runs for the Lions.

* No. 4 Michigan feasted on five Northern Illinois turnovers in a 33-17 win. Michael Hart had 117 yards and two touchdowns for UM, which allowed NIU to roll up 411 yards total offense (211 rushing, 200 passing).

* Jehuu Caulcrick rushed for 140 yards and three scores as Michigan State blasted Kent State 49-14. Kent State is now 0-7 all-time against Big Ten competition.

* And in a complete M-and-M'er, No. 11 Iowa crushed Ball State 56-0. The Cardinals played without 13 players, including seven starters, who were suspended Friday for their connection in an alleged book sale scam. Drew Tate threw for 99 yards and two TDs in just over one quarter of work.

And a glance at headlines nationally

* Three major conference teams finished the 2004 regular season undefeated – USC, Oklahoma and Auburn. Amazingly, two of those teams tasted defeat on the first Saturday of the new year.

TCU pulled off its biggest upset in 45 years with a 17-10 win at No. 7 Oklahoma. Tye Gunn threw for 226 yards and a touchdown as the Horned Frogs handed the stunned Sooners their first home loss since 2001 and the only loss in September under Bob Stoops. Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson suffered an ankle injury and finished with 63 yards on 22 carries.

"I think that nine times out of 10, Oklahoma wins this game," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "Today was our one. We got to show off on national TV and show America that TCU is not gone."

The Horned Frogs last beat a team so highly ranked on Nov. 18, 1961, when they defeated No. 1 Texas 6-0.

* In Saturday's other big upset, Georgia Tech intercepted new Auburn QB Brandon Cox four times in a 23-14 win at Auburn. Reggie Ball threw for 174 yards and a touchdown for the Yellow Jackets. The loss snapped Auburn's winning streak at 15 games.

* Perhaps the weekend's best finish was at Clemson, where the Tigers got a 42-yard field goal from Jad Dean with two seconds left to take a 25-24 win over Texas A&M. Dean set a Clemson record with six field goals. A&M took a 23-22 lead on a touchdown with 9:22 left. But instead of going for a two-point conversion to try and build a three-point lead, A&M coach Dennis Franchione took the extra point kick, opening the door for Dean's late heroics.

* Charlie Weis' debut as the Notre Dame coach was a resounding success as the QB Brady Quinn threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-21 rout of host Pittsburgh. ND broke open a tight game with a 28-3 second quarter avalanche, spoiling the debut of Pitt alum Dave Wannstedt as the Panthers' new coach.

* There were several more notable coaching debuts this weekend, including Steve Spurrier's return to college football at South Carolina. Spurrier's Gamecocks held off Central Florida 24-15. QB Blake Mitchell threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns. UCF, which was 0-11 last year, dropped its 16th straight game.

* At Florida, Urban Meyer made his debut as his 10th-ranked Gators defeated Wyoming 32-14. Chris Leak made a school-record 17 consecutive completions, passing for 320 yards and three touchdowns.

* Air Force spoiled Tyrone Willingham's debut as coach at Washington and handed the Huskies their seventh straight loss dating back to last season with a 20-17 come-from-behind win. Falcons quarterback Shaun Carney led a 14-play, 83-yard drive and scored on a 1-yard run with 34 seconds left.

* No. 1 USC kept right on rolling with a 63-17 win over host Hawaii. Matt Leinart and passed for 332 yards and five touchdowns. Leinart, who broke Carson Palmer's USC career mark of 72 touchdown passes, hooked up with Dwayne Jarrett for three touchdowns. USC extended its nation-best win streak to 23 games. Utah, which nipped Arizona 27-24, is next with 17 straight wins.

* Georgia QB D.J. Shockley threw for a school record-tying five touchdowns and ran for another score as the No. 13 Bulldogs routed No. 18 Boise State 48-13.

* No. 2 Texas opened its season with a 60-3 rout of visiting Louisiana-Lafayette. RB Jamaal Charles set a Texas freshman debut record with 135 yards rushing and scored a touchdown. QB Vince Young threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. The Longhorns have scored at least 60 points in their last three season openers.

* Ohio State will not be guilty of looking past Texas – its week 3 opponent, San Diego State, fell to UCLA 44-21 in its opener. UCLA now leads the all-time series 20-0-1. Maurice Drew had three touchdowns for the Bruins. Kevin O'Connell threw for 204 yards and one touchdown for SDSU. RB Lynell Hamilton had 82 yards and two 1-yard touchdown runs in his first game for the Aztecs since breaking his lower right leg late in the 2003 season.

* Heisman Watch: USC's Matt Leinhart and Reggie Bush, Texas' Vince Young and OSU's Ted Ginn Jr. – in no particular order yet.

* My new top 15: USC, Tennessee, Ohio State, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Louisville, LSU, Georgia, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Purdue, Georgia Tech, Fresno State.

* Games To Watch: We still have two days worth of games this weekend. Today, you have West Virginia-Syracuse, Louisville-Kentucky and Virginia Tech-N.C. State. Then, on Monday, you have the biggie with Miami (Fla.)-Florida State (remember, Miami has won six straight over FSU).

In terms of next week, you would have Pittsburgh-Ohio U. (Friday), Notre Dame-Michigan, Kansas State-Marshall, Cincinnati-Penn State, Colorado State-Minnesota, Iowa-Iowa State, South Carolina-Georgia, Texas-Ohio State and Arizona State at LSU.

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. 3, Miami (Ohio) (0-1), lost to Ohio State 34-14; vs. Central Florida, Sept. 10.

Sept. 10 (8 p.m., ABC), Texas (1-0), beat Louisiana-Lafayette 60-3; at Ohio State, Sept. 10.

Sept. 17 (3:30 p.m., ABC), San Diego State (0-1), lost to UCLA 44-21; at Air Force, Sept. 10.

Sept. 24, Iowa (1-0), beat Ball State 56-0; at Iowa State, Sept. 10.

Oct. 1, idle.

Oct. 8 (7 or 7:45 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPN), Penn State (1-0), beat South Florida 23-13; vs. Cincinnati, Sept. 10.

Oct. 15, Michigan State (1-0), beat Kent State 49-14; vs. Hawaii, Sept. 10.

Oct. 22, at Indiana (1-0), beat Central Michigan 20-13; vs. Nicholls State, Sept. 10 (ppd.).

Oct. 29, at Minnesota (1-0), beat Tulsa 41-10; vs. Colorado State, Sept. 10.

Nov. 5, Illinois (1-0), beat Rutgers 33-30 (OT); vs. San Jose State, Sept. 10.

Nov. 12, Northwestern (1-0), beat Ohio U. 38-14; vs. Northern Illinois, Sept. 10.

Nov. 19, Michigan (1-0), beat Northern Illinois 33-17; vs. Notre Dame, Sept. 10.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0)

Michigan (1-0, 0-0)

Iowa (1-0, 0-0)

Northwestern (1-0, 0-0)

Ohio State (1-0, 0-0)

Michigan State (1-0, 0-0)

Minnesota (1-0, 0-0)

Indiana (1-0, 0-0)

Illinois (1-0, 0-0)

Penn State (1-0, 0-0)

Purdue (0-0, 0-0)

Sept. 1 Result

Minnesota 41, Tulsa 10

Sept. 2 Result

Indiana 20, Central Michigan 13

Sept. 3 Results

Ohio State 34, Miami (Ohio) 14

Iowa 56, Ball State 0

Michigan State 49, Kent State 14

Wisconsin 56, Bowling Green 42

Northwestern 38, Ohio U. 14

Penn State 23, South Florida 13

Illinois 33, Rutgers 30, OT

Michigan 33, Northern Illinois 17

Sept. 10 Games

Notre Dame at Michigan, noon (ABC)

Cincinnati at Penn State, noon (ESPN-Plus)

Temple at Wisconsin, noon (ESPNU)

Akron at Purdue, 1 p.m.

Colorado State at Minnesota, 2 p.m. (ESPN2)

San Jose State at Illinois, 2 p.m.

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

Hawaii at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN-Plus)

Northern Illinois at Northwestern, 4 p.m. (ESPN Classic)

Nicholls State at Indiana, ppd.

Texas at Ohio State, 8 p.m. (ABC)

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