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.
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.
|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:
|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.