By Johnny Ginter on November 18, 2010 at 1:00p

The game against the Iowa Hawkeyes is pretty easily the most important game of the year thus far, and I doubt that there are many who think that it is likely to be a blowout in either direction. OSU has historically owned Iowa, but the recent success of that team coupled with a lot of established stars means you can pretty much just throw past win/loss records out the window. In other words, this is looking more and more like a game that will go right down to the wire, and because of that I think it's a valuable exercise to take a closer look at the leaders of each team, and how they've performed in the past few seasons in the clutch when their teams have needed them the most.

This is a tale of two quarterbacks who are a lot more similar than you might think.

It's hard to hate Ricky Stanzi. This is a relatively unheralded guy from Mentor, Ohio who has emerged from being a serviceable Big Ten QB to being an internet meme and a pretty darn good QB who can carry an offense by himself. In the previous two seasons, Stanzi had nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns, and was mostly known for A) being both very good and very bad, oftentimes in the same quarter, B) looking a lot like Beck, and C) being a proud American. This season though, Stanzi has been the model of consistency, and for a while was mentioned as having an outside shot at the Heisman. In only one game has he thrown for less than 200 yards, and that was mostly because he only attempted 15 passes in a 37-6 rout of Michigan State. Bottles and cans, Iowa fans just clap their hands, just clap their hands.

It's easy to hate Terrelle Pryor. 5 star, #1 ranked QB in the country, and his recruitment got so much attention that it sent Kanye West went into rehab. Huge expectations were placed on his shoulders, and in his first three years (yes, it has literally been that long) as a starter, he has been both brilliant and incredibly disappointing. In his first full season as a starter he only completed 56.5% of his passes and threw for less than 100 yards in a game 4 different times, but was also incredible in the Rose Bowl, passing all over the Ducks for 266 yards. This season has seen TP increase his completion percentage and yardage dramatically, but against Wisconsin and Penn State he was again disappointing, leaving some to sleep with visions of Braxton dancing in their brains, with the hope that Saint Tressel would soon hand him the reins.

So, this begs the question: in 2009, in the 4th quarter, or on 3rd and long, or when tied or losing, which of these two QBs would you want directing your offense?

Well, as it turns out, the answer may surprise you.

It's Stanzi.

Well, okay. That probably didn't surprise you. Most of you are well aware, I'm sure, of TP's struggles this season in big games passing the ball, especially in what we would consider to be "clutch" situations. Let's check out some stats.

Situation Attempts Completions Completion % TD/INT
4th Quarter 22 11 50% 2/2
Red Zone 43 31 72.1% 15/2
3rd Down 55 34 61.8% 5/3
Tied or Losing 81 45 55.5% 5/2

A few notes on these stats. Pryor's completion percentage when tied or losing, though not great, is probably not quite as bad as some might think. 4th quarter completion percentage, however, is not what anyone would call even remotely average, but it should be noted that in only one of the six games where he has played in the 4th quarter has his participation as a playmaker been all that important. His red zone stats are off the charts, especially in light of OSU's struggles in the red zone in past season.

Overall though, his positive stats are somewhat skewed by being against weak competition, and his detractors will be quick to point out his failings in games against top defenses. So, then, would it be fair to call Pryor a "clutch" performer? Probably not, as that Tied or Losing stat line is probably not quite what most of us are hoping for. But his running skills that allow him to create 1st downs and ability to extend plays make him a lot closer to being "clutch" than you might think.

Stanzi, on the other hand, has a reputation for already being there. Last season he raised his game in the 4th quarter and completed 63% of his passes, 6 touchdowns and only one interception in that frame compared to roughly 55%, 11 TDs, and 14 INTs the rest of the time. With that in mind, let's take a look at his clutch stats for this year:

Situation Attempts Completions Completion % TD/INT
4th Quarter 59 34 57.6% 5/1
Red Zone 39 24 61.5% 13/0
3rd Down 78 49 62.8% 6/0
Tied or Losing 165 108 65.4% 12/2

A couple of things pop out here. First of all, Stanzi's Tied or Losing stat line is absurd, in that holy crap Iowa has played from behind a ton this year, and also holy crap Stanzi has been great in those situations. He has also been incredible in the red zone, and I'm pretty sure if Tressel ever had a QB who threw zero red zone INTs in the course of the season he would never, ever, ever stop talking about it. The 4th quarter stat line is an odd duck though, and seems to be indicative of Stanzi wearing down a bit as the game goes on. This might be supported by has last two games; in them, Stanzi has a completion percentage of 60.8% and only 3 TDs against 2 INTs. Also, in those two games Iowa only scored 18 and 17 points.

Overall it's pretty clear that Stanzi is indeed the better clutch performer, but truthfully I think Pryor is better than some think, and that Stanzi will wear down as the game goes on. I personally think it will be a very close game on Saturday, and I think both of these quarterbacks have the ability to step up and make a game of things in crunch time.


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Bucksfan's picture

This game is not going to be close.  35-17 Bucks.  Northwestern's O-line handled Clayborn and company down the stretch as they ran out of gas and Indiana had no problems slowing down Iowa's offense.  If they think Northwestern's O-line is tough, they ain't seen nothing yet.  Ohio State just wears you out, then punches you in the face, gut and groin, and suddenly the game is out of hand.  Iowa has receivers and a QB, but they're running into a Buckeye secondary at the worst possible time this season if they want to have success in the air.

It took basically a perfect, practically penalty free game on Wisconsin's part, coupled with a deplorable 1st quarter gameplan by our coordinators (shocker), to beat Ohio State the way they did.  Iowa won't have that luxury.  We own Iowa and Kirk Ferentz.  He's not getting a win off Tressel in November, not with a team that just lost to Northwestern a week after getting lucky against Indiana.

tomcollins's picture

It depends what Ohio State team shows up.  If the one that showed up in the 2nd half against Penn State shows up, I feel you are right.  If the team that showed up in the first half, probably 35-17 Hawkeyes.  It's anyones guess which one shows up.  Being the week before Meatchicken scares the hell out of me, though.

ToledoBuckeye's picture

I just read on Yahoo Sports that Moeller was granted his 6th year of eligibility!

"Anything easy ain't worth a damn." - Woody Hayes

Buckinnc's picture


BuckeyeSki's picture


Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

btalbert25's picture

I have to agree that I don't think this one will be close.  Iowa is a sinking ship, and once again they have a team with high expectations that just couldn't meet them.  I think Buckeyes 42, Hawkeyes 10.  I do look forward to Iowa playing and beating an SEC team in their bowl game though.

Buckeye Black's picture

It will be close if the non-aggressive Buckeyes come out.  If they are firing on all cylinders they can play with anyone, if not, watch out.  I'm ready for Pryor to have another 200+ 100+ game.  Rittenberg had a good point, Pryor actually rushed for 94 yards against Wiscy but lost 38 on sacks.  We need that rushing performance minus the sacks.

Ultrabuckeyehomer's picture

I bet this game is close.  First, we are on the road.  Second, my gut says our O-line will hardly dominate the IA D-line.   We win, but it is right down to the end and is somewhere in the 7-10 point range. 

Pryor is gonna need to rush for first downs.  Personally, I'm through with  him working on becoming a pure pocket guy.

I say we use him the way every other team would if they had him ... as a dangerous running QB who will hit big plays downfield as well.  Right now, it seems as though we try and see how accurate he is, and if he is not very accurate, we turn it over to Boom.  I say Run him and run him some more on third downs.  Unlike Denard, he is a huge guy and he has proven to be durable. He has never missed a game since taking over.  Also, the one injury he sustained at Ill had nothing to do with being hit. 

He has made strides passing, but not enough to say that his real threat as a runner ought to be a distant second consideration the way the staff, and TP, want it to.  Quick reads and then take off if nothing there for him immediately.  Screw trying to go through all the reads.  At this point, I want to win out and I think we need him running a lot to do so (well at least at IA and against a bowl team).  We can probably run it down Michigan's throat and win. 

Kurt's picture

Even if Tressel would come to the same realization you've come to it's only half the battle.  Pryor is stubbornly convinced he can become Peyton Manning.  I'm convinced this is why he - at least at times - is so reluctant to tuck it and go after a play has broken down.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I think you go too far in making some of your points in re: TP.

First, they're not trying to make TP a "pure pocket guy," except for maybe when they're playing the likes of C Mich or Indy, when they can run a nice, breezy passing clinic. Against Miami, ILL, Wisc, PSU there were a good number of designed TP runs.

Second, Keith made the excellent point that TP is not a tailback. He's a physical freak, but he doesn't always take good advantage of his blocking, tends to try to stretch every run outside, etc. The reverse/backwards? veer they ran against PSU was a god way to offset his non-TB tendencies.  

Third, because of what TP brings, he is most dangerous running when the defense is in the process of respecting the passing game.