A Season for All Seasons: Quarterback

By Chris Lauderback on May 7, 2013 at 2:00p

On the way to seven national titles, 34 B1G championships, and the sixth-most wins in college football history (837), Ohio State fans have seen literally dozens of truly special single-season offensive performances turned in by Buckeye greats.

Reflecting on some of those special performances during a hops-fueled debate a few weeks back, myself and a couple buddies were trying to determine exactly which Buckeye of the modern era (loosely defined as 1970 to today) indeed had the most dominant offensive season.

As you're no doubt aware from your own friendly debates, comparing players across different eras, and even worse, trying to compare a quarterback's single-season greatness to a running back's domination to a receiver's majestic season is an exercise in futility.

Over the last two weeks I took a look at the most dominant single-season performances turned in by Buckeye running backs and receivers and while arguments can still be made, I feel pretty comfortable with my selections. At running back, I had Eddie's 1995 Heisman Trophy campaign at the top, edging Keith Byars' often underappreciated 1984 season. At wide receiver, the battle was just as difficult to evaluate though I finally landed on David Boston's 1998 season, again just by a nose, over Terry Glenn's spectacular 1995 performance. 

Today, I examine the quarterbacks and after a week of trips down memory lane, numerous passes at game recaps, general research, and long walks in the park with the OSU record book, selecting the most dominant single season by a Buckeye signal-caller proved the most difficult of the three position groups. 

No fewer than five quarterbacks (in order by year) made my initial list for evaluation: Terrelle Pryor ('10), Troy Smith ('06), Craig Krenzel ('02), Joe Germaine ('98) and Bobby Hoying ('95). 

I did dig into older guys like Cornelius Greene ('74) but he just didn't produce enough for me to think he should truly be in "most dominant" discussion even knowing the style of football, especially at Ohio State, was much different back then. Art Schlichter's 1981 season was interesting to evaluate as he did put up some serious stats in a pro-style offense, but the team fared no better than virtually every other Earle Bruce-coached squad, finishing with a predictable 9-3 record, which forced me to think about how much weight should be placed on the quarterback's win-loss record. 

While it is a team game, there's no question quarterback play often goes a long way toward determining a game's winner and loser. At the same time, it can be argued signal-callers get far too much of the credit for wins and too much blame for losses. In the end, I put great emphasis on stats, even more emphasis on stats in big games, and looked at wins and losses as a tiebreaker of sorts. 

Needing to trim the group down to two finalists, the first victim was Krenzel's 2002 season. I know, I know, blasphemy to some of you but that's how it shook out. While Krenzel made his fair share of clutch plays, when you talk about most dominant – as long as you don't fall in the "QB gets too much credit/blame" trap – his stats simply don't add up and quite frankly, I think it's fair to wonder how that same roster, sans Krenzel, would've fared with a Troy Smith or Terrelle Pryor, or even Joe Germaine or Bobby Hoying under center.

In no way am I trying to knock the guy that was under center for the one and only national championship of my lifetime, but I'm also not going to blindly give him too much credit, especially when the stated goal here is to determine the most dominant single-season performance.

Hoying 29 TDs in '95 are still 2nd all-time at OSU

In what might surprise some of you younger pups, Hoying put up some Nintendo numbers during a 1995 season that saw the offense rack up a school-record 6,222 yards of total offense. In fact, Hoying still holds the single-season school records for yards of total offense (3,290) and passing efficiency (163.4), and he ranks second in passing yards (3,269) and touchdown passes (29). Despite his outstanding numbers, he finishes no higher than third on my list thanks to back-to-back losses to end the season including a two-interception performance in a 31-23 loss to Michigan and a one-touchdown, one-interception effort in the Citrus Bowl loss to Tennessee. 

Now, it really starts to get controversial. What do you do with Pryor's 2010 season? Despite not being able to find these stats in the OSU record book, Pryor posted what would've been a school record of 271.2 yards of total offense per game and a 65% completion percentage in addition to 31 touchdowns responsible for, a mark that would've tied him with Troy and Hoying for the most all-time. He did throw 11 picks on the year and had his worst performance in Ohio State's lone loss, on the road to Wisconsin, but otherwise, the kid was sensational. 

It probably should be pointed out Pryor put up those numbers against a pretty weak schedule as Ohio State played only one Top 10 team (win over #8 Arkansas) while going 2-1 in games against 12th-ranked Miami (W), 21st-ranked Iowa (W), and 18th-ranked Wisconsin (L). 

Overall, there's no question Pryor's 2010 season is a top-three performance in Ohio State history but I can't overlook the fact he was ruled ineligible, regardless of anyone's opinion on his transgressions, and therefore his stats don't exist in school history. 

With Pryor erased from the picture, that leaves just two seasons standing. Joe Germaine's aerial assault in 1998 and Troy Smith's Heisman Trophy performance of 2006. 

Coming off a 2005 season in which he accounted for 27 total touchdowns (16 pass, 11 rush), good for third-most in school history, and 2,893 yards of total offense (also third-most all-time), big things were expected of both Smith and the 2006 Buckeyes. 

Smith started the season on fire, torching Northern Illinois with an 18/25 passing performance (72%) good for 272 yards and three scores including a 58-yard strike to Ted Ginn Jr. Having spent the offseason working on keeping his eyes downfield and scrambling with the intent of buying time to locate receivers instead of tucking and running, Troy carried it just one time in the 35-12 win in the season opener. Putting winning above all else, Troy spent the offseason working to become a slightly more traditional quarterback to not only reduce the chances of injury but also to take full advantage of having both Antonio Pittman and Beanie Wells in the backfield. 

In week two, Ohio State traveled to Austin with revenge on their minds and Troy easily outdueled Colt McCoy as the Buckeyes knocked off the defending national champions. Smith connected on 65% of his throws (17/26) and hooked up with Anthony Gonzalez and Ginn Jr. for touchdown strikes in a methodical 24-7 win. 

Smith ran only when necessary in 2006

The Buckeyes cruised past Cincinnati the following Saturday, 37-7, behind another 70% completion day (21/30) and two touchdown passes from Smith, setting up a date with against the 24th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. Ohio State led just 7-3 early in the 4th quarter with Smith in the midst of playing what would be his second-worst game statistically of the regular season but facing a 2nd and 9 from the Penn State 38-yard line, he unleashed what would become a signature play in Heisman campaign. 

Out of the shotgun, Smith was forced to immediately scramble right after Pittman couldn't seal the end rusher. Having already drifted about 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and still feeling pressure, Smith then spun back to his left, now standing at his own 47-yard line and unleashed a laser, hitting Brian Robiskie in stride on what had become the slowest developing post-pattern in the history of modern football. 

The play gave OSU a 14-3 lead, deflating Penn State in the process, and the Bullets added two pick-sixes pushing the final margin to 28-6 and entrenching Smith as a legit Heisman hopeful. 

The following week, at #13 Iowa, Smith put even more space between himself and the rest of the Heisman field as he tossed four touchdown passes and completed 64% of his passes in the 38-17 laugher. With Bowling Green serving as a strangely placed out-of-conference matchup the following Saturday, Troy used it as a warm-up for Michigan State, connecting on a ridiculous 17 of 20 passes (85%) including a 57-yard strike to Ginn Jr. to cap the scoring in a 35-7 beatdown. 

Facing a string of unranked B1G squads in Sparty, Indiana and Minnesota, Smith totaled seven touchdown passes and added his first rushing touchdown of the season. Ohio State outscored the three opponents by a combined 126-10 as Troy hit on 67% of his throws with those eight total touchdowns. 

Out of nowhere, Smith stumbled the following Saturday at Illinois. Ohio State managed to build a 17-0 halftime lead but needed an onside kick recovery to escape with a 17-10 win. Smith connected on four of five throws on Ohio State's opening touchdown march but hit on just 9/18 the rest of the way to finish with a 13/23 passing day that included a 4th quarter interception and saw him held without a touchdown pass for the one and only time during the regular season. 

Motivated by the lackluster performance, Smith caught fire to finish the regular season. He burned Northwestern with four touchdown passes, on just 12 completions, in a 54-10 rout, hitting three different Buckeyes for scores including a 34-yarder to Ginn Jr. just before the halftime gun. Troy sat out the final quarter with the game out of hound and Michigan set to invade Columbus the following weekend. 

Troy threw 4 TD passes in The Game of the Century

On Senior Day in the 'Shoe with Michigan in the house for The Game of the Century, #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan played one of the all-time great college football games. Again destroying the Wolverines, Smith blew up for 316 yards through the air on 29/41 passing with four touchdowns against one interception. 

Smith hit Roy Hall on a one-yard out route to open the scoring, hit Ginn Jr. on a 39-yard post off a perfectly executed trick play / quick count, found Gonzo for an eight-yard score to cap an 80-yard drive and for a final act, Troy hit Robiskie on a comeback route for a 13-yard score, capping an 83-yard drive that put OSU in front for good, 42-31, with just over five minutes to play. 

The win locked up the Heisman and earned Ohio State a spot in the BCS title game but as eye-popping as Smith's performance was against Michigan, his outing versus Florida in the BCS championship was just as amazing but not in the way everyone outside of Gainesville expected. 

Smith looked like he had enjoyed the awards/banquet circuit a little too much and his teammates were of little help. The offensive line was completely overwhelmed and Troy's sluggish movement and decision-making combined to produce Buckeye Armageddon in a 41-14 Gator rout. Smith completed just four of 14 passes, for a meager 35 yards and with the line leaking like a sieve, he was sacked five times and lost a fumble just before the half that Florida turned into a touchdown and a commanding 34-14 lead at the break. 

Despite the dismal finish, Troy still set single-season OSU records by completing 65% of his throws and passing for 30 touchdowns. He also posted the fifth-most prolific season of total offense (2,746 yards) and the third-best passing efficiency (161.9). Most impressive of all, he won the Stiff Arm by the second-largest margin in the history of the Heisman. 

Even though Smith captured the sport's most prestigious individual honor and put up some amazing stats while owning Michigan, I still give the nod to the most dominating season by an OSU quarterback to none other than Joe Germaine and his special 1998 season. Let's check out their stats, head-to-head:

JOE '98 3,330 277.5 60% 25 7 3,247 270.6 150.5 54%
TROY '06 2,542 195.5 65% 30 6 2,746 211.2 161.9 55%
JOE NET 788 82 (5%) (5) (1) 501 59.4 (11.4) (1%)

Finally free from Stan Jackson and John Cooper's decision to employ a two quarterback system, Joe Germaine was finally handed the keys to Ohio State's high-octane offense in 1998 and he responded with the most dominant single-season performance by a quarterback in OSU history. 

A pure passer who wasn't afraid to stand in the pocket and deliver strikes under pressure, Germaine set 11 school records as he led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record and a #2 ranking in the final national polls. Sure, the well-chronicled loss to unranked Sparty killed what should've been a championship season, but Germaine did his part leading Ohio State to five wins over teams ranked 11th or better. 

One such game occurred in the season opener with the Buckeyes traveling down to Morgantown to face 11th ranked West Virginia in a primetime affair. In one of the more hostile environments in the country, Germaine quieted the crowd with a 14-yard touchdown strike to Dee Miller giving the Buckeyes a 17-3 lead and later he would hook up with David Boston on a couch-igniting 39-yard laser for six sending 'Neers fans streaming for the exits. Germaine connected on 18 of 32 throws for 301 yards and the two scores, helping both Boston and Miller eclipse 100 yards receiving. 

Germaine would feast on Toledo the following Saturday, racking up three touchdown passes in the first half. Leading 42-0 at the break, Germaine wouldn't see the field in the 2nd half, setting for a 13/21, 150 yard performance. 

Ohio State would face another ranked team, 11th ranked Missouri, the next week and while Germaine was held without a touchdown pass and lost a fumble leading to a Tiger score, he did hit on 19/25 passes for 211 yards, helping the Buckeyes erase a 14-13 halftime deficit, leading the Buckeyes on scoring drives of 70, 75 and 70 yards to open the 2nd half in a 35-14 win. 

Germaine set 11 school records in 1998

With a bye week to prepare for 7th-ranked Penn State, Germaine was far from perfect going 16/30 through the air with a 20-yard touchdown on a rain soaked Saturday. Germaine also tossed his first interception in 97 attempts but with the Bullets clicking, Ohio State prevailed 28-9. 

Facing a badly overmatched Illinois the following week, Germaine blew up for 253 yards and three touchdowns – in the 1st half – and despite sitting out the 4th quarter in a 41-0 win, Joe still completed 17 of 28 passes for 307 yards.

Germaine would continue his offensive explosion over the next three weeks as Ohio State feasted on cupcakes Minnesota, Northwestern and Indiana. The Buckeyes outscored the three teams by a combined 119-32 with Germaine on an incredible run. Against the Gophers, Joe completed 27 passes for 339 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The next week, Germaine needed only 19 completions to rack up 342 yards and three touchdowns and finally, in a 38-7 demolition of the Hoosiers, Germaine completed 31 of 45 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns. The three game tally for Germaine: a ridiculous 1,032 passing yards with eight touchdowns. For the sake of meaningless comparisons, the 2011 Buckeyes passed for 1,651 yards and 13 touchdowns in 12 games.  

Of course, Ohio State would host unranked Michigan State the following week and though Germaine threw for 239 yards including a 41-yard touchdown strike to John Lumpkin, and drove Ohio State to inside the five-yard line in the final seconds, he couldn't get OSU in the end zone in a crushing 28-24 loss. Germaine had a costly fumble and also threw a pick but in his worst performance of the season, unlike Troy against Florida, Germaine still gave Ohio State a chance to win. 

Fired up following the upset against Sparty, Germaine led the Buckeyes to a 45-14 blowout of Iowa. Germaine completed 18/30 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns setting up a showdown with 11th-ranked Michigan in Columbus. 

Capping a remarkable regular season, Germaine lit up the Tom Brady and the Wolverines for for 330 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-16 romp. Germaine found Miller for a 16-yard score and Boston for two touchdowns, one a 30-yarder and another on a 43-yard bomb midway through the 3rd quarter.

Though the loss to Sparty crushed the team's national title hopes, Germaine still paced the Buckeyes in a 24-14 victory over #8 Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl with 222 yards passing and a touchdown, giving Ohio State an 11-1 record and a #2 national ranking in the final polls. 

Germaine's astonishing season saw him set the OSU standard for passing yards (3,330), passing yards per game (277.5), total offense per game (270.6) and his seven 300-yard passing games are five more than his next closest peer (Smith, 2). In fact, Germaine's '98 season saw him tally four of the top 10 passing games in school history. 

His exploits weren't good enough to win a Heisman but the B1G MVP and Offensive Player of the Year did set the standard for the most dominant single season for an OSU quarterback by virtue of his statistical brilliance and clutch performances that helped his team win both the The Game and a BCS bowl game in the same season. 


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AJW_16's picture

This is fair. I remember wishing Coop would have gone solely with Germaine instead of him and Jackson.

"Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you." 

whobdis's picture

Troy was much more exciting to watch..but Joe made it look so easy. I remember sitting under C deck for the Minny game..Joe was just playing pitch and catch up and down the field. He looked so relaxed and was surgical with his precision. I remember talking to the woman beside me about how spoiled we were with his performance. It was odd to see him flat out miss an open receiver. But if I was to sit and watch a full season again..it would be hard to beat the Troy/Ginn/Gonzo show.

Hovenaut's picture

Joe Cool.....still get goosebumps thinking about that last minute drive to win the '97 Rose Bowl.

Hard to believe Schlichter still has the single game pass yardage record (458 in an '81 loss against Florida State). Thought Germaine could have had that, still turned in a helluva year in '98.

Bobby Hoying was at the helm of a great offense - he had an awesome o-line, receivers and tight end and a pretty good running back if I remember correctly.

Krenzel was a great game manager, never flashy, but got the job done. Holy Buckeye, his 81 yards rushing against Miami....smart heady player.

I think we never got to see Terrelle Pryor unleashed - as far as a passer. Too much reliance on his mobility just kept him under wraps imo. Don't believe he ever threw for more than 250 yards in a game.

Troy was electric yes, but not in the pure passing sense Germaine was. I thought he grew tremendously in focusing on throwing first and scrambling second, and became a very efficient passer on his way to a much deserved landslide Heisman win.

Joe just had a knack for getting in rhythm, and moving the offense down field with ease - the second half against Sparty in '98 notwithstanding.

Totally different offense, totally different athletic makeup, but I'd love to see Brax have command of the passing game similar to the way Germaine had.

Ashtabula's picture

You must be related to Germaine, because this one is not even close. Smith wins hands down...and I am old enough to remember the 1998 season.

Chris Lauderback's picture

It's all opinion but "not even close"? Care to offer some support of that argument or share the criteria that led you to conclude it's not even close?

(And no, I definitely did not downvote you. I'm honestly interested in your criteria/argument. I mean, I did have Troy 2nd, after all.)

luckynutz's picture

You may be old enough to remember the 1998 season...but I'm not sure if you were paying attention. Joe germaine was about as surgical as it gets in the pocket. May not have had the flash and flair troy brought to the table. But he was far more productive through the air.troy entire body of work speaks for itself...but this isn't about that. Its about choosing who had the most prolific season statistically as a qb. And Joe Germaine did just that...he was prolific. And despite the MSU debacle, he was one of the what, 3 qbs cooper had that actually beat michigan? That in itself is a pretty impressive feat during the cooper era. Not trying to be a jerk, just pointing out that this is a spot on assessment of who had the most prolific season in a meaningful year. Troy was excellent throughout his career. Joe was the best statistically in 1998.

nickma71's picture

You are old enough to remember, you just didn't watch. And I just love Troy Smith, the Wolverine killer.

Michael Citro's picture

Gonna show my age here and say how awesome it was to watch Art Schlichter sling it back in the day. He was a total Brett Favre type of gunslinger -- fearless to a fault at times. My first game in the Shoe was the day he and Dave Wilson of Illinois set the scoreboard on fire with their aerial pyrotechnics. It was great to watch him play in college and equally awful to see how his life turned out after Ohio State.

Joe G. was a joy to watch as well, and I thought Stanley Jackson ate far too much of his playing time for no apparent reason.

Troy was the man in command in 2006 and that may have been the first year I never was nervous about a game. (Including the NCG, which I was surprisingly confident about until midway through the second quarter.)

jhart's picture

That 2010 lone loss on Pryor's record...my bachelor party...awesome to be there in person for that...guh.

BUCKfutter's picture

whenever i am disappointed about how 1998/99 ended, i remember that 2002/03 probably doesn't happen if we would have closed the deal in '98

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

45has2's picture

Good article. A trip down memory lane with a couple of what ifs. What if Joe Germaine never had to split time with S. Jackson? Coop was the only person on the planet that thought this was a good idea. What if TP had a real QB coach instead of a video coordinator? That kid won on raw talent alone. Corny Greene should be mandatory film study for any Buckeye dual threat QB. No one ran the option better than Cornelius. The dude was so smooth and he knew when to pitch and when to keep the rock. Brax and TP both miss/missed pitch opportunities quite regularly.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

SaltyD0gg's picture

"Germaine lit up Tom Brady and the Wolverines"
I wonder how much of his immense fortune Brady would give to flip that sentence around.

Pain of Discipline

Pain of Regret

Take Your Pick

Doc's picture

As I said in the poll today.  Germaine was cooler than a cucumber.  He never made me nervous and he was a laser guided missile when throwing the ball.  If Coop would have played him three years straight it would have been Nintendo-like ridic how many throwing yards he would have had.  He owned that position like nobody else I have ever seen.  Complete command of the huddle and the situation.  Joe was a Boss. 

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

bodast67's picture

I too am showing my age by remembering back fondly on the Art Schlichter days. He was the first real great pocket passer the Buckeyes had seen in a decade. After all the great rushers (including Corny as a rusher as well), Art brought legitimacy back to the air attack at OSU. Art could tuck it and run as well, but did most of his damage in the air, often times to Doug Donley and others.  




     " I hope when I die, I die laughing"...                

buckeyepastor's picture

In my adult life, I still think the 1998 OSU team was the best one, overall, that I've ever seen. Even though they didn't win or even play for the title that year, they were the most complete from top to bottom.    
That said, I would have gone with Smith just barely over Germaine.   Smith just did it against better competition, I think.   And in terms of dominance, I just felt like we would never be out of a game as long as he was back there.   Of course, Florida proved that opinion wrong.  But I just think his poise, his leadership, and his decision making in 2006 was something I haven't seen from any other, including Pryor.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

Buckeye Chuck's picture

Schlicter was awfully good in 1981. The team did lose 3 games, true, but the problem during the Earle Bruce years was more often defense than offense, and that was definitely the case in '81. And that team did not have overwhelming talent anywhere else on offense.
I've discussed before my opinion that Germaine wasn't as good as Bob Hoying, so I'm obviously not going to concur that he was better than Troy Smith. The case for Germaine over Smith amounts to "he threw the ball more often," and my personal belief is that there's more to being an effective QB than amassing the counting stats. 

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Two pretty good choices.  I like them both.  However, I think Braxton has a chance this season and next season, of course if he stays at OSU, to put up the best QB numbers we've ever seen.  Granted he may not have the passing numbers that Joe and Troy do, but his combined running ability and passing give him the shot to do it. 

nvbuckeye's picture

If Joe G had been 6' 3" or taller he would have had a super pro career the way he could pass.  My favorite Buckeye QB is still Rex Kern, the master of slight of hand with the ball and could run as good if not better than any Buckeye QB since.
Thanks for these articles and letting us remember the great years past.  Now, lets get ready for what could probably be the best year ever in the Ohio State University football.  Go Buckeyes!!

HighBallAce's picture

Joe Germaine will always be my favorite because that was the year my dad passed away on December 1st. 1998. The last Ohio State game I got to watch with my dad was one of the best and in fact, it was the only time in the Cooper era that Ohio State beat the team up north!  Obviously thats not counting the tie that Ohio State managed in Herbies years.
I loved Troy and in truth he was probably more fun for me to watch but nothing compares to that last game I got to watch with my dad.

jhart's picture

If I could figure out how to vote on comments (it's probably right in front of me and I'm just missing it) I'd give you another +1.
My old man was a Kansas State alum, and he and I were able to go to the 2007 Kansas State/Kansas game before he passed in April 2008.  I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.

Miami of Brohio's picture

Win over #8 Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl? I forgot about that....does it count towards our SEC record now?