Sunday Morning QB: One Very Happy Valley

In our weekly column, we reflect on OSU's loss at Penn State. We answer the Ten Pressing Questions raised earlier on Saturday. Plus, we take a look at the Big Ten and college football world 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 loss to Penn State:

On Friday, we posted our Ten Pressing Questions for the OSU-Penn State game. Now we can provide some answers. Here we go:

1. Which Troy Smith is going to show up? -- This will become a standing question, I guess, after Smith reverted to the form he showed against San Diego State, and that may be a kind assessment.

OSU had two weeks to devise a plan for this stellar Penn State defense. What did the Buckeyes muster after a 500-yard game against Iowa? Just 230 yards total offense – 50 of that came on the final desperation possession before Smith's critical fumble.

He threw a bad interception down the middle that some, ultimately, would say was the difference in the game. You have receivers the alleged caliber – we say alleged caliber because we really don't know for sure – of Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez, Roy Hall and Albert Dukes and, once again, they get no touches.

Dukes, of course, has hardly played. The other four combined for nine touches out of 65 plays. No, no, no.

The offense was too much Troy Smith. He had 19 carries, although five of those were sacks. No, no, no. He was indecisive in the pocket most of the night, until the last drive. But then he held the ball too long – and paid the price on the Tamba Hali hit that caused the fumble.

2. Can Antonio Pittman build on his career day against Iowa? -- Pittman only got 15 carries, compared to 28 in the win over Iowa. The running game was built around Smith. Pittman never really got a chance to get into the flow and there is no discernible change-up back – other than Smith.

3. Will Ohio State get Ted Ginn Jr. involved in the game? -- Ginn's numbers remained about the same: Three catches for 40 yards and two carries for 5 yards. At times, they tried to feed him and at others he was wide open and just flat out missed.

He threw a terrible fit at one point early in the third quarter when he was wide open down the left sideline and Smith never looked his way. This was not how it was supposed to go for Ginn.

4. Can the Ohio State offense produce against Penn State? -- Again, two weeks to prepare and the offense took a 300-yard step backwards.

5. Will the Buckeyes contain do-it-all quarterback Michael Robinson? -- This was, by and large, a passing grade in my book. Robinson only had 52 yards rushing and 78 yards passing. If you had said the Buckeyes would hold PSU to 17 points – and seven of those came on a 2-yard touchdown drive – you would think that OSU would win this game.

He was good at converting some third downs early, but OSU shut off the Lions after the field goal drive early in the second half. PSU's last five possessions of the game went three plays. OSU pressured Robinson at times, but never sacked him. He was turnover prone with 10 turnovers in five games coming in, but was spotless against OSU.

6. What will give, the OSU run defense or the PSU run offense? -- This was essentially a wash. PSU was averaging 220 yards rushing per game, while OSU was allowing a nation's best 41 yards per game. They met in the middle as PSU netted 117 yards.

7. Can PSU's youthful receiving corps get loose against Ohio State? -- They converted a few nice third downs, but PSU's longest pass play was for 13 yards. Let's face it: Penn State and Joe Paterno beat Ohio State with Tressel ball in the second half. They buttoned it up, punted it away, played defense and won ugly.

8. What impact will the predicted rain have on the game? -- Not all that much. It rained hard early, but tapered off. I think there were some footing issues on each side.

9. Can the Buckeyes get the road Big Ten night game bugaboo off their back? -- That's a big negatory. This one will carry over to next year or whenever the Big Ten and ESPN conspire to put OSU behind the 8-ball again. This was an electric atmosphere at Beaver Stadium tonight. The crowd definitely played a big factor in this game.

OSU players said there was not a big enough sample to say they had road problems or problems after a bye week. Memo to Ohio State: You have road problems (one win in last six Big Ten road games) and problems off a bye week (1-4 under Tressel).

10. Is Ohio State a Big Ten championship caliber team? -- We will not bring the jury back in on that one yet. Defensively, yes, we'd say they are. And I question if any of the remaining defenses on OSU's schedule will contain the offense like Penn State did.

OSU is in the vulnerable position of needing a team to defeat Penn State. Well, the Nittany Lions travel to Michigan, which is smarting after a loss to Minnesota. Maybe the Wolverines can help the Buckeyes out. PSU then visits Illinois (win), hosts Purdue (probably a win) and Wisconsin (dicey) and visits Michigan State (tossup). There is a chance.

But Ohio State needs to figure out a way to win in its white jerseys. Tough road games remain at Indiana (hey, they're 4-1), Minnesota and Michigan.

And, with a late night traveling back tonight – trust me, they are still sitting in traffic outside this stadium – their preparation for Michigan State is already off kilter.

Around the Big Ten:

* Fresh off a 44-14 loss at Penn State, Minnesota dutifully trudged on to Michigan for a date with the 21st-ranked Wolverines.

Michigan had won 16 consecutive games in the Little Brown Jug series, dating to a Minnesota win on a late field goal in 1986 at Michigan.

Lightning struck twice for the Gophers. Gary Russell ripped off a 61-yard run, setting up Jason Giannini's 30-yard field goal with one second left as Minnesota upset Michigan 23-20.

"Now I get to see what that damn thing looks like," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said of the Jug after the win.

Michigan, at 3-3 overall, is off to its worst start since also having a 3-3 record in 1990. Garrett Rivas had two chances to break the 20-20 tie for the Wolverines, but he missed a 42-yard field goal late in the third quarter and a 34-yard kick early in the fourth.

* Northwestern piled up 674 yards total offense and held off a late Wisconsin charge to defeat the 14th-ranked and previously unbeaten Badgers 51-48 in Evanston.

Tyrell Sutton, the reigning Ohio Mr. Football award winner from Akron Hoban, rushed for 244 yards and three touchdowns to help lead Northwestern, which scored on seven straight possessions at one point.

QB Brett Basanez completed 26 of 36 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns for the Wildcats. Sutton's 1-yard run in the third quarter put Northwestern ahead for good, 23-17, and his 62-yarder late in the fourth made it 51-34. But he also had a late fumble that paved the way for UW to make it interesting.

Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun became the first Badger with more than 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game, carrying 23 times for 122 and catching 11 passes for 128. John Stocco was 24-of-31 for 326 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions for Wisconsin.

* Iowa went to West Lafayette and dealt struggling Purdue a third straight loss, 34-17. QB Drew Tate threw for a career-high 357 yards and four touchdowns for the Hawkeyes.

Purdue QB Brandon Kirsch had 353 yards passing, himself. But he threw a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone that killed PU's comeback hopes. The Boilers, at 2-3 overall, are off to the worst start in Joe Tiller's nine seasons as the PU coach.

* Indiana's Blake Powers threw for 196 yards and four touchdowns in a 36-13 win over Illinois. The loss was the fourth in a row for Illinois. Indiana, 4-1 under first-year head coach Terry Hoeppner, is two wins from being bowl eligible for the first time since 1993.

And a glance at headlines nationally:

* No. 2 Texas snapped a five-game losing streak to rival Oklahoma with a decisive 45-12 win in the Red River Shootout in Dallas.

QB Vince Young threw three touchdown passes in the win. Young finished 14-of-17 for 241 yards with no interceptions and ran for 45 yards.

* No. 5 Georgia took control of the SEC East race with a 27-14 win over No. 8 Tennessee, notching its third straight win at Neyland Stadium.

Thomas Flowers had a 54-yard punt return for a score and QB D.J. Shockley threw for 207 yards and rushed for 51 more for the Bulldogs.

* Top-ranked USC may have been guilty of looking ahead to next week's showdown at Notre Dame. The Trojans needed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to finally put away Arizona in a 42-21 win.

LenDale White had a career-high four touchdowns and 179 yards rushing as the Trojans won their 27th straight game.

* No. 23 Louisville continued to flex its offensive muscles in a 69-14 win over North Carolina. Brian Brohm threw for 304 yards and four TDs for the host Cardinals.

* Florida State QB Drew Weatherford threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-24 triumph for the fourth-ranked Seminoles over Wake Forest.

* Florida QB Chris Leak finished 18-of-33 for 244 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions as the 13th-ranked Gators rebounded from a loss to Alabama with a 35-9 win over Mississippi State.

* No. 15 Texas Tech took a wild 34-31 win at previously unbeaten Nebraska. Cody Hodges tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Joel Filani with 12 seconds left for the win. Tech had squandered a three-touchdown lead, but got a bit of luck to pull out the victory.

Nebraska's LeKevin Smith appeared to secure the Huskers' win with an interception of Hodges with 1:11 left. But he fumbled on the return and Tech recovered at the NU 18, setting up the game-winning touchdown.

* No. 20 UCLA took another big step with a 47-40 win over No. 10 Cal at the Rose Bowl. The win snapped Cal's 12-game regular season winning streak. Maurice Drew had five touchdowns – three rushing, one receiving and a punt return – to power the Bruins.

* Heisman Watch: My order is USC's Reggie Bush and Matt Leinhart and Texas' Vince Young.

* My new top 15: USC, Texas, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Florida State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Miami (Fla.), Penn State, UCLA, LSU, Arizona State, Florida, Texas Tech, Ohio State.

* Games To Watch: Clemson-N.C. State (Thursday), Michigan State-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Minnesota, Penn State-Michigan, Colorado-Texas, Florida State-Virginia, Florida-LSU, Louisville-West Virginia, USC-Notre Dame.

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) (2-3), lost to Northern Illinois 38-27, Oct. 5; vs. Akron, Oct. 15.

Sept. 10, Texas (5-0), beat Oklahoma 45-12, Oct. 8; vs. Colorado, Oct. 15.

Sept. 17, San Diego State (2-4), lost to UNLV 13-10, Oct. 8; at Utah, Oct. 15.

Sept. 24, Iowa (4-2), beat Purdue 34-17, Oct. 8; vs. Indiana, Oct. 15.

Oct. 1, idle.

Oct. 8, Penn State (6-0), beat Ohio State 17-10, Oct. 8; at Michigan, Oct. 15.

Oct. 15, (noon, ABC) Michigan State (4-1), idle, Oct. 8; at Ohio State, Oct. 15.

Oct. 22, at Indiana (4-1), beat Illinois 36-13, Oct. 8; at Iowa, Oct. 15.

Oct. 29, at Minnesota (5-1), beat Michigan 23-20, Oct. 8; vs. Wisconsin, Oct. 15.

Nov. 5, Illinois (2-4), lost to Indiana 36-13, Oct. 8; idle, Oct. 15.

Nov. 12, Northwestern (3-2), beat Wisconsin 51-48, Oct. 8; at Purdue, Oct. 15.

Nov. 19, Michigan (3-3), lost to Minnesota 23-20, Oct. 8; vs. Penn State, Oct. 15.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Penn State (6-0, 3-0)

Wisconsin (5-1, 2-1)

Minnesota (5-1, 2-1)

Iowa (4-2, 2-1)

Michigan State (4-1, 1-1)

Indiana (4-1, 1-1)

Ohio State (3-2, 1-1)

Northwestern (3-2, 1-1)

Michigan (3-3, 1-2)

Purdue (2-3, 0-2)

Illinois (2-4, 0-3)

Oct. 8 Results

Northwestern 51, Wisconsin 48

Minnesota 23, Michigan 20

Indiana 36, Illinois 13

Iowa 34, Purdue 17

Penn State 17, Ohio State 10

Oct. 15 Games

Michigan State at Ohio State, noon (ABC)

Wisconsin at Minnesota, noon (ESPN)

Indiana at Iowa, noon (ESPN-Plus)

Northwestern at Purdue, noon (ESPN2)

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

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