Bucknotes 1/11

Does Jim Tressel still not get the national respect he deserves? Is Troy Smith the best quarterback in Ohio State history? Will Vince Young or Reggie Bush be the No. 1 pick of the NFL Draft? How will the basketball Buckeyes fare this season? Those questions and more are tackled in this edition of Bucknotes.

Fifty wins in five years. It just has a nice ring to it.

In his first five seasons at Ohio State, head coach Jim Tressel has compiled a 50-13 record, which equates to a 79 percent winning percentage. He's won a national championship and captured two Big Ten championships. He's 4-1 against Michigan and 4-1 in bowl games, including 3-0 in BCS bowls.

And while one might think that it can go nowhere but down from here, I beg to differ. Tressel's five-year record at OSU is skewed by his first season, the 7-5 campaign in 2001. It might be a long time before a Tressel-coached team loses five games in a season again. The 2004 Buckeyes were just 8-4, but that was the season after setting the record for the most NFL draft picks to come out of a school in one year with 14.

Going forward, we are likely to see a lot of 10 win seasons, especially considering the fact that the Buckeyes will play 13 games per season starting in 2006 (including the bowl game).

WEIS: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Tressel's career record brings us up to the next point. In the weeks leading up to Ohio State's 34-20 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, all we heard about was that you cannot give ND coach Charlie Weis five, six weeks to prepare for an opponent. He won three Super Bowls while offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots and he was billed as a brilliant game planner.

OK, fair enough. But people conveniently forgot two things:

Weis is a rookie head coach.

Jim Tressel is a proven big-game college head coach.

And what happened in Tempe? Tressel out-coached Weis. It was the seasoned veteran taking the rookie to school. It was a 14-point game, but felt like a blowout. The Buckeyes racked up over 600 yards of total offense, proving that it's Tressel that you can't give six weeks to prepare.

You have to give Weis some credit for the job he did this year. He took an average team and turned it into a 9-3, BCS bowl team. But national coach of the year? Please. Maybe rookie coach of the year, nothing more.

I think one of the reasons that Tressel is still a bit underrated on the national scale is that some people discredit the four national championships he won while at Youngstown State. I had this very argument with my buddy James. He's a sports savant, but blew off Tressel's four titles at YSU because they happened on the I-AA level. I think a lot of people feel the same way.

My point is that not only did Tressel win those four titles, he did it at a school that did not have a great deal of football tradition before he arrived. It would be like Terry Hoeppner turning Indiana into a D-I power. Those four titles at YSU are impressive to me and they are further proof of why Tressel is one of the best big-game college coaches in the country.

WHERE DOES SMITH STACK UP?

There was an interesting debate on our premium message board recently: "Is Troy Smith the best quarterback in OSU history?"

It sounds a little ridiculous on the surface, but let's take a look at the numbers and examine this topic.

In 2005, Smith threw for 2,282 yards (62.9 completion percentage) with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. His passing efficiency rating of 162.65 was the second-best in OSU history, edged out by Bobby Hoying's outstanding 1995 campaign (163.43).

Joe Germaine is third and fourth on the list (151.88 in 1997; 150.58 in 1998) and Art Schlichter is fifth (145.87 in 1979).

And while you might think "passing efficiency rating" is a relatively new statistic, it goes all the way back to 1952 at OSU. John Borton had a 144.45 rating that year, good for seventh-place on OSU's all-time list.

Yes, there are many other ways to measure a quarterback. Schlichter's 7,547 career passing yards is a record that might stand for years at OSU.

Hoying's 57 career touchdown passes is another impressive number.

Germaine owns the highest career completion percentage at 59.2. But that just illustrates how impressive Smith's 62.9 completion percentage was this past season.

Smith also rushed for 611 yards (4.5 per carry) and 11 touchdowns in 2005. Among the other top OSU quarterbacks already listed, Schlichter is the only other one that could beat you with his legs.

OK, but what about some of the old-time quarterbacks? What about guys like Rex Kern who didn't put up big stats, but were clearly among the best quarterbacks to play at OSU? It's a good question and it's difficult to measure. Can you honestly say Smith is a better QB than Kern simply by looking at the numbers? Probably not. Kern was the leader of OSU's outstanding teams from 1968-70 and guided the "Super Sophs" to the '68 national title.

Quarterback Les Horvath won the Heisman Trophy in 1944 at Ohio State. He had just 344 passing yards (14 of 32), but led the Big Ten in rushing yards with 669 and total offense with 953 yards.

Again, it's hard to compare eras. Horvath actually split time at quarterback and halfback, and also played safety on defense. He did not throw the ball very much, but he was obviously an outstanding QB in his day. Is Smith better than him? I'm not sure I could go that far just yet.

Younger Buckeyes might like to throw Craig Krenzel into the mix. He led the 2002 team to the national title with a 14-0 record. But I compare Krenzel to OSU's 1954 quarterback, Dave Leggett, who also led the Buckeyes to a national title. Krenzel and Leggett are OSU icons, but not among the best quarterbacks to ever play at the school.

One more signal-caller that deserves mention is Cornelius Greene, the starting QB from 1973-75. He didn't put up big passing numbers playing for Woody Hayes, but Greene was an excellent player that could win games with his arm or legs. But he did throw for 1,066 yards in 1975 and is just one of only seven quarterbacks to throw for 1,000 yards during Hayes' 27-year tenure. Borton's 1,555 yards in 1952 was by far the most a Hayes quarterback ever threw for. Schlichter's 1,250 in Hayes' final season of 1978 comes in second.

So, to answer the original question, no, Smith is not OSU's best quarterback of all time. But he is definitely on track to get there. He still needs to pass the likes of Horvath, Borton, Kern, Schlichter, Hoying and Germaine. But after his senior year, I think Smith will be considered the best. If he has a 2006 year that mirrors his junior season, there won't be any doubt, unless you choose to ignore the numbers.

TRULY OFFENSIVE

Ohio State's offense finished ranked No. 32 in the country in 2005 (out of 117 teams) with an average of 422.3 yards per game.

It was by far the best offense of the Tressel era at OSU. The Buckeyes had not finished any higher than 65th in the previous four years (65th in 2001, 70th in 2002, 93rd in 2003, 98th in 2004).

BUSH OR YOUNG?

Most football fans believe that is a foregone conclusion that USC running back Reggie Bush will be the No.1 overall selection in the 2006 NFL draft by the Houston Texans, over Texas quarterback Vince Young.

But in the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend."

One major issue to consider is the HHF, the Houston Hometown Factor. Young is originally from Houston and there is already a public outcry from Texans fans to make him the top pick.

Will that be enough to sell general manager Charlie Casserly? Maybe not. But here is something else to consider: Which backfield would you rather have: Vince Young/Dominick Davis, or David Carr/Reggie Bush? Give me the former.

Carr is never going to be a good NFL quarterback in my opinion. The Texans could still trade him for maybe a third round pick. If you think that's a bad deal, try and recall what the Cleveland Browns got for Tim Couch. Or what the Cincinnati Bengals got for Akili Smith. They got nothing and liked it. Carr has some value right now. Give him another year or two, and he will have similar value as Couch.

Davis is not a premier NFL back, but he's decent. When healthy, he is a very solid player. The Texans have an awful offensive line, which everyone brings up to defend Carr, but no one brings up to defend Davis.

Bush is an excellent player and will be hard to pass up. If it was any other city, I think he would be the No. 1 pick. But do not discredit the HHF. Professional teams have proven time and time again that they will take the hometown kid when in doubt. The Texans have already publicly stated they will definitely take Bush, which makes me believe even more that they will take Young.

Huh?

Yeah, that's right. They said one thing, but will do another. Why would they tip their hand this early? I'm betting they will pull a "Bizarro Seinfeld" and do the opposite.

PETE CARROLL

OK, that's the Pete Carroll we remember seeing in the NFL. He had a myriad of mistakes during the national championship game. I actually didn't mind the fourth-and-two call late in the game. If the Trojans pick it up, game over.

But going for it on fourth-and-one early in the game was a mistake (Matt Leinart failed QB sneak). And the biggest gaff of all was not putting a spy on Young the entire game. It was like USC's defense morphed into Michigan's fourth quarter defense. Carroll is a defensive coach at heart and probably missed offensive coordinator Norm Chow more than he imagined this year. Chow is now with the Tennessee Titans, the team that will likely draft Leinart with the No. 3 pick in the draft.

TWDBITL

(Since we're kicking the Trojans while they're down…) OK, we know who has The Best Damn Band in the Land.

But what about the other end of the spectrum? Which Division I school has the worst band? Well, after watching the halftime performance of the national title game, USC has to be up there. I am not one to usually critique bands, but they were so bad that they stood out. Not sure if anyone else noticed, but had to throw that in there. I think I would rather spend a night at the Neverland Ranch than to hear USC's version of "Beat It," one more time.

HARLAN/RAFTERY

Another random thought: If there is a better college basketball announcing team than CBS' Kevin Harlan and Bill Raftery, I would like to hear them.

BASKETBALL BUCKS

Ohio State is 11-1 and ranked No. 19 by the Associated Press. If Thad Matta wasn't such a lazy recruiter, this program might have a bright future.

OK, nevermind.

My radar still says the Buckeyes are headed for the Sweet 16 this year, with a real good shot at the Elite Eight.

Je'Kel Foster has emerged as one of the top guards in college basketball, Terence Dials is one of the top post players in the Big Ten, Ron Lewis is among the best sixth-men in the nation, and Matta is an excellent coach. That could be a recipe for a deep tournament run.

Looking at the Big Ten race, Michigan State and Illinois are the early favorites, and Wisconsin is also up there. But the Buckeyes will likely finish no worse than fourth and I think they will make a push for the conference title. The 81-79 loss last Saturday to Indiana hurts, but the Hoosiers are now without forward D.J. White for possibly the rest of the season (he injured his foot in the OSU game).

A topic for a different day is just how long OSU will be able to hold on to Matta. I think he'll be here for the foreseeable future. He's not going anywhere with the nation's best recruiting class coming aboard next year. But I still think he's destined to end up at a traditional basketball school (the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world), or the NBA.

But for at least the next five years, just enjoy having one of the best coaches in America on the Buckeyes' bench. And who knows. If he continues to build up OSU's program, maybe this is his final destination.


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