The Rivals, Part III: Answers and Questions

It was the most-asked question of the off-season: Who will start at quarterback for Ohio State? The decision was discussed, dissected, and debated on a daily basis, and every conclusion sounded reasonable: Braxton is so explosive, J.T. is so surgical, Cardale is so strong. No one could ever come up with a good reason for any of them to not win the job. Braxton Miller took himself out of the running with his decision to move to H-back.

Although not scrutinized nearly as much, Jim Harbaugh had a quarterback battle of his own to settle. Junior Shane Morris had only played in eight games in two years, completing just under half of his passes and never throwing for a touchdown. Jake Rudock, a fifth-year senior transfer from Iowa, was being passed over by the Hawkeyes in favor of C.J. Beathard, but at least he had a couple of years of starting experience and a decent—if not earth-shaking—stat line.

On Monday, Urban Meyer finally gave the world an answer: Cardale Jones is the starter, but Barrett will also play, and the situation remains fluid: Both QBs are listed as possible starters for today’s game against Hawai’i. Against Virginia Tech, four different players took snaps, and Meyer has never been afraid to defy conventional wisdom if he thinks it will help his team win. It’s still possible that we don’t—and won’t—have an answer to the OSU QB question, and it could easily turn out that it never mattered at all.

Harbaugh opted to go with Rudock against Utah, but a disappointing result has observers wondering if he’s a viable long-term solution. Overall, Rudock didn’t have a terrible outing in the 24-17 loss to the Utes. He completed about 63% of his passes for 279 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also threw three picks, one of which was returned for what would be the winning score.

The biggest question for Ohio State’s offense now is where is the ceiling? The performance against Virginia Tech was thrilling, and that was without three significant contributors and against the best defense the team will face until November. The Buckeyes showed that they are exactly what we thought they’d be: an offensive machine capable of scoring at any time from anywhere on the field.

Today, the Wolverines are playing Oregon State in the less interesting half of a battle between the states of Michigan and Oregon. Interestingly, Oregon State coach Gary Andersen used to head up Wisconsin, but this will be his first game against Michigan. Can the Wolverines handle athletic QB Seth Collins, who is just as likely to run as he is to throw? Will Rudock turn in another multiple turnover performance? And where does Harbaugh turn if he does?

Sometimes the answers are really just more questions.

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