With two firmly entrenched camps of Ohio State fans still debating the quarterback for the Buckeyes, there comes a time to examine the performance of the signal callers from a more unbiased perspective.
In the one game where both played, their overall statistics were similar. However, Smith pressured the Texas defense with his legs while Zwick did not – resulting in more points scored with the former in the game than the latter. Smith threw the only touchdown pass of the night for the Buckeyes – though Zwick proponents might reasonably point out Hamby's unfortunate dropped pass. Still, Zwick's fumble likely cost the Buckeyes their last shot to win that night and instead of being a hero he was instantly immortalized for the wrong kind of play.
It looks like an open and shut case, but Smith's errant pass against Penn State led directly to the Lions' margin of victory in Happy Valley. The offense has looked less than stellar under his watch until this past week, and he has fumbled the ball more times than the average couch potato visits the chip aisle at Wal-Mart.
Therefore, the question remains…Smith or Zwick?
About the only fair way to evaluate the two then is to compare what would their numbers be like this season with a comparative number of snaps. Choosing the number 235 snaps for combined rushing and passing attempts in order to simplify the process, Smith's statistics are not altered other than to add two rushing attempts.
Their projected figures at 235 snaps each:
- 1,265 yards passing completing 83 of 139 (59.7%)
- 10 Touchdowns passing
- 380 Yards on 96 rushes netting 4.0 yards per attempt
- 8 Touchdowns rushing
- 3 Interceptions
- 3 Lost fumbles (seven total fumbles)
- 1154 yards completing 140 of 193 (72.5%)
- 4 Touchdowns passing
- 101 Yards on 42 rushes.
- 0 Touchdowns rushing
- 4 Interceptions
- 4 Lost fumbles (4 total fumbles)
Current Efficiency numbers:
- Smith 155.58 Efficiency
- Zwick 125.33 Efficiency
What does all of this prove?
When you get right down to it, it proves nothing, but it does provide an indicator of which player would be more likely to produce points in the Buckeye offense. It eliminates personal feelings and preferences from the equation and asks the critical question, "Who will get the most wins?" This undoubtedly will not be the end of the debate. It's fairly clear both of these young men have their strengths and weaknesses.
Zwick seems to see the field better in a spread attack. He does not focus
only on his primary receiver or throw the football so hard on short passes that
the stadium is greeted with the sound of a sonic boom. He distributes the ball
to all of the weapons in his arsenal – Ted Ginn, Santonio Holmes, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Pittman, and even Hamby. Still, when pressured he has not yet
learned after four years of coaching to avoid throwing off his back foot;
floating a football is permissible in high school but not at the next level. He
also does not have the quickness of Smith to take off and stuff the ball into
the end zone from 10 or 15 yards out.
Smith has difficulties seeing his receivers. He misses easy dump off passes
to tailbacks, tight ends, and his wideouts. He has a tendency to duck and run
under pressure instead of scrambling to buy time and then take off when there
are no open men 40 yards down the field. However, he provides a second credible
rushing threat in the Buckeye backfield; someone who can smell the end zone. For
an offense that struggled and lost the game against Texas because they could not
punch in a single touchdown despite multiple cracks inside the Longhorn 10 –
this can't be overvalued. He also possesses a cannon of an arm that allows him
to burn defenses deep; utilizing the speed of Ginn and Holmes before a defensive
back can close on them.
The kicker here is all of this discussion is moot.
Head coach Jim Tressel has chosen his starter. Yes, Smith can be maddening to
watch. Yes, he looks the ball into the hands of his primary target leading to
interceptions and incompletions with defensive backs and linebackers jumping the
route. Yes, he still fumbles when he takes off with the football. Yes, he is at
times still just an athlete playing quarterback.
However, Smith's upside and performance right now merit his starting over Justin Zwick. Based on production and wins, Smith starts. Zwick will sit the pine and provide much needed depth in the case of an injury. He and Boeckman will lock horns and fight over second string duties in 2006. Smith has won the job not once but twice in the past two seasons; expect to see him behind center for the duration.
Charlie Weis vs. Tyrone Willingham…
With all the talking heads of the college football world busy anointing Charlie Weis as the wizard of Menlo Park, I am bothered by a nagging question – what would the record of Notre Dame be under Willingham right now? Would he also have just two losses? Taking a look at their schedule, I think it highly likely he would.
So far this season Notre Dame has played just three teams with a record above .500 – Michigan, Michigan State, and USC. Of those three, they lost to two of them and their lone victory came in an upset of a decidedly sub par Michigan squad. You could credit Weis' influence with that win, but Willingham didn't exactly fare poorly against Lloyd Carr, taking two out of three.
On November 5, the Irish face yet another disappointing team, the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols will be forced to travel to South Bend without the services of their starting tailback and difference maker Gerald Riggs and finest cornerback Jason Allen. With their disastrous Saturday meeting against Phil Fulmer's old nemesis, Steve Spurrier, Weis' program sees yet another sub .500 opponent. In fact, Tennessee will have to work hard to avoid being eliminated from bowl consideration with both Memphis and Vanderbilt trying for their once a generation wins against a depleted foe.
Am I saying Willingham should have kept his job and Weis is completely overrated? Not really. The Notre Dame administration made the correct (if unethical) call in giving Willingham his pink slip before he had time to mature his own players. The powers that be knew the schedule. They understood Willingham would likely have had an 8-3 type season at worst. It becomes much more difficult to fire a man who hits 8-3 than one who is a mere 6-6.
I'm simply saying don't be fooled. Weis may be the toast of the college football world (like Willingham in 2002), but Notre Dame's top 10 ranking is not deserved. They are a strong team, but they are 1-2 against teams with a winning record. It doesn't take a coaching genius to achieve a 5-2 record when you play the likes of Pittsburgh, Washington, Purdue, and BYU. They have another two guaranteed wins with Navy and Syracuse; a gerbil could have coached them to a winning mark and a bowl in 2005.
Firing a National Championship Coach
With the national media starting to catch onto the fact that Lloyd Carr's teams consistently under whelm compared to the talent level at his disposal (see http://ohiostate.scout.com/2/338973.html for the figures), there have been questions raised about job security.
Is Carr's job in jeopardy? If the Wolverines had lost to Northwestern and lose to Ohio State could he have been fired?
The actual likelihood would have been minute. No national championship coach has been fired in the last 20 years. In fact, the only national championship coaches that have been axed in the last 50 years are Woody Hayes following the incident in the 1978 Gator Bowl and John Robinson in his second stint at USC.
Those who have left schools where they won national championships actually have done so on their own terms even when accompanied by scandal. Lou Holtz, Danny Ford, Barry Switzer, and Vince Dooley are in fact all remembered as heroes at their respective universities. Switzer, despite the criminal (literally) misdeeds of his players, even has a building named after him.
So, while there may be rumblings of Carr's early exit or demise; history is against him being told to hit the road. He might have to offer up a sacrificial lamb from his defensive staff for their performance the last several years, but his job is secure…
At least until 2006.