Sunday Morning QB: OSU Tops BCS Rankings

In this week's edition of Sunday Morning Quarterback, we look at the initial BCS rankings as Ohio State sits on top of the heap. The Buckeyes solidified that spot with their decisive 38-7 win at Michigan State on Saturday. Click here for more details on that win and the weekend that was 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 38-7 win over Michigan State:

* It goes without saying that Ohio State enjoyed, perhaps, its best showing of the season with the win at Michigan State. OSU outgained Michigan State 421 to 198 in total offense.

The Buckeyes took the Spartan Stadium crowd out of the game the moment Ted Ginn Jr. struck for his 60-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead. Many of them headed for higher ground after Troy Smith's 12-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez made it 24-0 with just 39 seconds left in the first half.

"This was a good solid win against a team with a lot of talent," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "It was at their place, which is very difficult. Look at Iowa going on the road in the Big Ten. It's what the team needed for sure. We needed a good decisive win."

Smith, who threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns, was also pleased.

"Any win is very evident and clear in the formula to become a Big Ten champion or a national champion," Smith said. "Every win is just as important as any other win. You don't try to put any more emphasis on one game or the other. You just try to keep every game the same way."

Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock tallied a pair of sacks as the Buckeyes made it an extremely rough day for MSU quarterback Drew Stanton.

"I thought the offense scored a lot of points, the special teams had the touchdown with Teddy and the defense held their offense to seven points," Pitcock said. "I thought it was a tremendous job by the whole team."

* After Auburn's 27-17 win over No. 2 Florida, it was certain that Ohio State, USC and Michigan would be the top three teams in the Bowl Championship Series rankings on Sunday.

The unbeaten Buckeyes are No. 1 with an average of 0.9731 points. Ohio State is the first Big Ten Conference team to sit atop the initial BCS standings. The top two teams will play in the national championship game, set for Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

"We appreciate the recognition of our difficult schedule, but we are fully aware that the final poll is the only one that matters" Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Sunday evening.

USC was second in the initial rankings with a 0.9559 figure, followed by Michigan at 0.9341. Auburn (0.7478) and West Virginia (0.7446) round out the top five.

It is obvious that the top three teams in the standings control their own destiny. If OSU and Michigan win out until their meeting on Nov. 18 in Columbus, the winner of that game would win the Big Ten title outright and would also likely be the No. 1 team in the BCS standings. Likewise, if USC wins out, it figures to earn a spot in the title game.

The Buckeyes enter a stretch of games now against Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois and Northwestern – teams with a combined 10-24 record.

But Pitcock said upsets – like Arkansas' win at then-No. 2 Auburn last week and Indiana's win over Iowa this week – illustrate the importance of getting ready to play each week.

"You have to realize that no matter what day it is, anybody can be beat," Pitcock said. "We have the biggest target on our back and everybody is going to give us their best shot."

Smith was asked how it feels to be considered "the hunted." His answer was fairly revealing.

"None of the guys on the team think we are the hunted," Smith said. "We do the hunting. We don't go into a game thinking that. If you go into a game thinking that, you're already a step behind. Hopefully, that ranking lets everybody else know in the locker room that we set the bar. We play and come out every day with the same kind of mentality – to dominate."

Center Doug Datish added, "It's really a trickle down effect from Coach Tressel and the coaches down to us with the seniors and the captains. It trickles down to the team. At Ohio State, if you're not focused to play in the Big Ten, you're not focused at all."

* If you asked Gonzalez about his take on the BCS, well, he would punt it.

He thinks college football needs an NCAA Tournament style playoff.

"I am so tempted to go on a rant about university presidents and greed," Gonzalez said. "The BCS, to me, is completely worthless. A playoff needs to exist. It does. The BCS doesn't work. It rarely works, I should say. Great teams are robbed of the opportunity to find out who the national champion is on the field.

"The logic behind it is so poor, it's frustrating."

Gonzalez said college administrators added a 12th regular season game on a permanent basis beginning this year. But in so doing, he said they never considered player safety.

"My favorite quote about the (12th) game was they asked if player safety had anything to do with it," Gonzalez said. "The answer was, ‘No, that didn't factor into it all.' Well, thank you for (thinking about) player safety. We appreciate that. It's ridiculous."

* The OSU defense just continues to impress. This was a Michigan State team that was second in the Big Ten in rushing offense (194.0 yards per game) and second in total offense (413.0 ypg).

But the Spartans netted just 63 yards on 30 rushing attempts against OSU.

"I thought our guys did some good things such that they couldn't move the ball," Tressel said. "Our defensive staff did a good job of coming up with some new concepts that maybe they hadn't faced from us. We confused them and got a couple sacks.

"They didn't try to run it as much early. I think it was because our D-line was darn good. The guys who played, obviously, did a good job. We also did a little different scheme. We played a little dime out there. Our guys created some problems with some blitzes they put in."

Tressel was asked if he was surprised about the way his rebuilt defense has performed this year.

"They haven't faced Vince Young, quite honestly, like last year's defense did," he said. "But I think it's coming along. If they can keep getting better, I think it can be a pretty good defense."

Linebacker Marcus Freeman, whose interception late in the first half set up the backbreaking TD pass to Gonzalez, said the only negative was the reserves giving up a late scoring drive to deny OSU its first shutout win in three years.

"Any time you give up any points, it is disappointing," Freeman said. "We just have to go back next week and try to get better."

* The defense found itself in an early predicament, when freshman Chris Wells fumbled on the team's third offensive play and the Spartans got the ball at the OSU 31. But the Buckeyes, keyed by a 16-yard sack by linebacker James Laurinaitis, knocked MSU out of field goal range.

"That was the first time we've done that in a while," Tressel said of the quick change situation. "We put them in a predicament. They didn't blink. They went out and flat stopped them and sacked them to where they couldn't kick a field goal."

On the sack, Laurinaitis got help from end Jay Richardson in flushing Stanton out of the pocket.

"It was a little blitz we had going on," Laurinaitis said. "Jay did a good job of coming back in to the middle of the field. He flushed him out and took him right to me. It was one of those things where it's a big play that pushed them out of field goal range.

"I think that is a huge confidence booster for our defense. Something happened on our first drive and we're like, ‘Shoot, we have to go out there and stop them here.' They're thinking they're going to get some points there. It kind of takes some wind out of their sails when they don't."

* OSU missed starting defensive tackle David Patterson, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week. There was an outside chance Patterson could return for this Saturday's game with Indiana. Senior Joel Penton started in Patterson's place.

The line held up just fine with Pitcock turning in a two-sack performance.

"He's hard to block by yourself," Pittman said. "If you try to block him by yourself, you're in trouble. Quinn is a great player. He and David, between the two of them, I don't know how many people can have a better tandem inside."

* Another defender who drew praise was linebacker Marcus Freeman, who made a nifty interception.

"Marcus is an outstanding athlete," Tressel said. "He is a guy along with Vernon Gholston and Rory Nicol, we lost all three of those guys and they ended up redshirting in their sophomore year. They are all very talented kids. Marcus has great athletic ability. He is very bright and he is a guy who can play a couple of different positions. He can really run. He'll continue to get better and better. He can be a pretty good one."

* Tressel is not known for his gimmick plays. But with OSU ahead 10-0 in the second quarter, he called an end around pass for Ginn to try and throw back across the field deep to Gonzalez. But with Gonzalez covered, Ginn threw short and incomplete to tight end Rory Nicol.

"He was looking to Gonzo and it wasn't open," Tressel said. "Then he started running around and I don't know who he ended up throwing it to, Rory Nicol? He was probably back there blocking. You like getting Teddy out there in the open field.

"The one thing we didn't rehearse ever was if the primary guy wasn't open and Teddy would have to improvise. You have to tell the linemen to not cross the line of scrimmage. If Teddy crosses the line of scrimmage, he doesn't need their help."

Then, to open the second half, Tressel called back-to-back reverse runs for Gonzalez and Ginn. Gonzalez got 29 yards on his and Ginn got 16 yards on his to set up Smith's pass to Brian Robiskie that put OSU ahead 31-0.

When asked when he had previously called two straight reverses, Tressel said, "Probably never."

But, he added, "They were playing heavy in the box. They were dropping safeties into the box and making it difficult for us to get enough helmets in there for us to be consistent running the football. Whenever people are overdoing it in one place, you can hurt them with another.

"We have five to 10 special plays every week, like everyone else does. Sometimes, it's appropriate in your mind to do them and sometimes now. We just thought those were opportunities."

* Gonzalez said it is enjoyable to see OSU's younger players, like Robiskie, come through for the Buckeyes. Robiskie made his third touchdown catch in as many Big Ten games with his play against MSU.

"That's probably one of the most fun parts of the season," he said. "Any time you see the young guys … I have tried to bring them along and give them any kind of knowledge or whatever that I have. To see them just coming into their own, it's really refreshing. You feel like an older brother."

* Gonzalez said Ginn had a premonition he would score on his second quarter punt return – just as his former Glenville teammate Ray Small predicted he would score the previous week against Bowling Green.

"I guess people from Glenville can see the future because Ray (Small) did it last week and Teddy did it this week," Gonzalez said. "Ted was adamant about the fact that we were about to take that thing back. He was running up and down the sidelines, ‘Everybody get up, get up.' He just knew. I don't know how he knew. He knew we were going to score on that play."

Gonzalez, also back with Ginn, provided a key block by plucking off the first man down.

"To be honest, I didn't know what was happening," Gonzalez said. "I just dove and hoped I didn't clip the guy. By the time I turned around, Ted was 5 yards away from me. He got down there pretty quickly."

(There has been no confirmation as to whether OSU radio play-by-play man repeated his famous line from two years ago at MSU when Ginn also had a 60-yard punt return. The line? "And Ted Ginn goes through the Michigan State coverage team like water through a Mexican tourist.")

We will truncate this week's report on the Big Ten and the nation at large with just a few observations.

* No. 4 Michigan is for real. The Wolverines controlled much of their 17-10 win at Penn State with the Lions scoring late to make it respectable. UM knocked PSU quarterbacks Anthony Morelli and Daryll Clark out of the game.

* Purdue's Curtis Painter threw for a career-high 431 yards and two TDs in his team's 31-10 rout of Northwestern.

* James Hardy caught three touchdown passes, and quarterback Kellen Lewis produced his second straight fourth-quarter rally as Indiana upset No. 15 Iowa 31-28 on Saturday. It was the highest-ranked opponent the Hoosiers have beaten in nearly 20 years, dating to a 31-10 victory over No. 9 Ohio State on Oct. 10, 1987.

* No. 6 Texas kept right on rolling. The Longhorns spotted Baylor a 10-0 lead, but QB Colt McCoy set a school record with six touchdown passes in what became a 63-31 victory over Baylor.

* No. 5 West Virginia cruised to a 41-17 win over Syracuse as QB Pat White ran for a career-high 247 yards and four touchdowns.

* Auburn scored on a blocked punt, a last-play fumble and a safety to beat No. 2 Florida 27-17. The win leaves the SEC without an unbeaten team and possibly outside the national title hunt.

* Heisman Trophy hopeful Adrian Peterson broke his collarbone on a dive into the end zone Saturday and the Oklahoma star running back likely will miss the rest of the season. Peterson was injured on his last carry of the game -- a 53-yard scoring run with 6:35 remaining that completed the 23rd-ranked Sooners' 34-9 win over Iowa State. Peterson ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns.

* Vanderbilt got a 33-yard field goal from Bryant Hahnfeldt with two seconds left in a 24-22 win over No. 16 Georgia 24-22. Vanderbilt defeated Georgia for the first time since 1994 and only the fourth time in their last 43 meetings.

* No. 3 USC maintained its lofty ranking with a 28-21 win over Arizona State. Chauncey Washington's 2-yard TD run with 4:29 remaining capped the 14-play drive that ate up nearly seven minutes and gave the Trojans a late lead. USC was coming off six-point victories over Washington State and Washington in games that came down to the final play.

Some are questioning whether USC will withstand its late season run of games at home with Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame and a road game at UCLA.

* No. 7 Louisville got QB Brian Brohm back in action. He threw for 324 yards and a touchdown in his first game in nearly a month after injuring his throwing hand on Sept. 16. The Cardinals hung on for a 23-17 win over Cincinnati.

* It was a disgraceful scene at the Orange Bowl Saturday night as a sideline-clearing brawl erupted during the third quarter of Miami's 35-0 victory over Florida International, prompting the ejection of 13 players in the first meeting between the South Florida rivals. FIU had eight players ejected, Miami had five. The ACC suspended 13 Miami players for one game and the Sun Belt suspended 18.

* Heisman Watch: Troy Smith (234 yards passing, 2 TDs) is still my top pick here. Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson had another big game (179 yards rushing), but suffered the season-ending shoulder injury and will not be there at the end of this race. West Virginia's Steve Slaton (163 yards rushing), Notre Dame's Brady Quinn (bye week) and Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson (10 catches) are also firmly in the running here. Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe was shut down (25 yards rushing) in his team's loss to Western Michigan.

* My new top 15: Ohio State, Michigan, USC, West Virginia, Louisville, Texas, Notre Dame, Florida, Tennessee, Clemson, California, Georgia Tech, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas.

* Games To Watch: North Carolina-Virginia (Friday), West Virginia-Connecticut (Friday), Iowa-Michigan, Texas-Nebraska, Alabama-Tennessee, UCLA-Notre Dame, Washington-Cal, Georgia Tech-Clemson, Rutgers-Pittsburgh, Wisconsin-Purdue, Boston College-Florida 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. 2, Northern Illinois (4-3), lost to Western Michigan 16-14, Oct. 14; vs. Temple, Oct. 21.

Sept. 9, at Texas (6-1), beat Baylor 63-31, Oct. 14; at Nebraska, Oct. 21.

Sept. 16, Cincinnati (3-4), lost to Louisville 23-17, Oct. 14; vs. South Florida, Oct. 22.

Sept. 23, Penn State (4-3), lost to Michigan 17-10, Oct. 14; vs. Illinois, Oct. 21.

Sept. 30, at Iowa (5-2), lost to Indiana 31-28, Oct. 14; at Michigan, Oct. 21.

Oct. 7, Bowling Green (4-3), beat Eastern Michigan 24-21, Oct. 14; at Central Michigan, Oct. 19.

Oct. 14, at Michigan State (3-4), lost to Ohio State 38-7, Oct. 14; at Northwestern, Oct. 21.

Oct. 21, (noon, ESPNU) Indiana (4-3), beat Iowa 31-28, Oct. 14; at Ohio State, Oct. 21.

Oct. 28, (3:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN) Minnesota (2-5), lost to Wisconsin 48-12, Oct. 14; vs. North Dakota State, Oct. 21.

Nov. 4, at Illinois (2-5), lost to Ohio U. 20-17, Oct. 14; at Penn State, Oct. 21.

Nov. 11, at Northwestern (2-5), lost to Purdue 31-10, Oct. 14; vs. Michigan State, Oct. 21.

Nov. 18, (3:30 p.m., ABC) Michigan (7-0), beat Penn State 17-10, Oct. 14; vs. Iowa, Oct. 21.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Michigan (7-0, 4-0)

Ohio State (7-0, 3-0)

Wisconsin (6-1, 3-1)

Purdue (5-2, 2-1)

Indiana (4-3, 2-1)

Iowa (5-2, 2-2)

Penn State (4-3, 2-2)

Illinois (2-5, 1-2)

Michigan State (3-4, 0-3)

Minnesota (2-5, 0-4)

Northwestern (2-5, 0-4)

Oct. 14 Results

Wisconsin 48, Minnesota 12

Indiana 31, Iowa 28

Purdue 31, Northwestern 10

Ohio State 38, Michigan State 7

Ohio U. 20, Illinois 17

Michigan 17, Penn State 10

Oct. 21 Games

Wisconsin at Purdue, noon (ESPN)

Illinois at Penn State, noon (ESPN2)

Indiana at Ohio State, noon (ESPNU)

Michigan State at Northwestern, noon (ESPN-Plus Regional)

North Dakota State at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN-Plus Local)

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


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