COLUMBUS Make the change. Make it fast.
Make it now, before Ohio State coach Jim Tressel becomes enamored with Justin Zwick as his starting quarterback.
Zwick presented a strong argument on his behalf yesterday. He was 17-of-23 for 155 yards and a touchdown in No. 6 Ohio State s 34-14 walk in the park against the Miami RedHawks at Ohio Stadium.
Zwick was at his absolute best on the Buckeyes opening drive of 2005. His 20-yard laser to Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone, which capped a 12-play, 74-yard march, was a thing of beauty.
Despite Zwick s heroics, I would be shocked if fellow junior Troy Smith wasn t named the starter for Saturday night s game against No. 2 Texas in Columbus.
Generally speaking, a starter shouldn t lose his job to injury. But there s nothing that says a starter can t lose his job to stupidity. Smith did.
Smith was the quarterback of record entering the Alamo Bowl. His two-game suspension for taking cash from a booster knocked him out of last year s bowl game and yesterday s opener. He s eligible to return this week.
Smith is 4-1 as a starter. That adds up to five starts three fewer than Zwick but one of Smith s wins was against Michigan.
In the Michigan game, Smith produced one of the best performances by a quarterback in school history. His 386 total yards were the most ever by an Ohio State player against Michigan.
Zwick is 5-3 as a starter. His biggest win was beating Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl, a performance in which he overcame injury and was asked not to lose the game rather than to win it.
It s easier to put up impressive numbers, to be a playmaker, when teams don t design their game plan to stop you.
Zwick is a target of every defensive coordinator, but teams don t fear Zwick the way they do Smith, who s a threat as a passer and a runner.
Was Smith s performance against Michigan the real deal, or a fluke?
Smith earned the chance for Tressel to find out, don t you think?
Tressel didn t favor either quarterback at his postgame press conference. He was purposely vague with his response.
I want you guys to have a mysterious weekend, so when we get together again, we ll talk about it, Tressel said cryptically. I thought [Zwick] definitely made progress. I thought he did well, and that s great for Ohio State.
A quarterback controversy is risky for a team in the national championship picture.
It splits up the locker room and forces players to take sides.
Football is the ultimate team sport. Everyone has to be on the same page to guarantee success.
The Buckeyes have the pieces in place to contend for the national championship. To help achieve that goal, they need a starting quarterback who can make big plays and win big games.
It s not that Zwick is the wrong choice for the Buckeyes. He s the safe option. But Smith is a better option.