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Does Ohio State have a QB controversy?

9/14/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- The big debate at Ohio State this week probably won't just be about Chris Wells' banged-up toe. It's just as likely to be about who's going to lead the offense.

And a quarterback controversy may be more palatable than endlessly reviewing a 35-3 drubbing delivered by top-ranked USC in the Coliseum.

For the third consecutive time, Ohio State got embarrassed on a big stage against an elite foe. There was no redemption to be had in the Coliseum for consecutive bad defeats in BCS title games.

"I don't know that we did the best we could do," Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said, "but we fought hard."

The offensive woes started at the top. The Buckeyes alternated starter Todd Boeckman and touted true freshman Terrelle Pryor throughout the game.

At first, it worked.

Ohio State scored first, getting a 29-yard field goal from Ryan Pretorius after an impressive 17-play, 69-yard drive. And then the offense got sloppy and USC got inspired.

The Buckeyes had 177 yards and 13 first downs at halftime. They had 30 yards and two first downs after the break.

"We just had too many turnovers tonight," Boeckman said. "You can't turn the ball over against a team like USC. You know they'll take advantage of it."

Boeckman completed 14 of 21 passes with two interceptions, one of which was returned 48 yards for a touchdown by USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. He also fumbled once when he was getting sacked by Clay Matthews.

Pryor, completed 7 of 9 for 52 yards and rushed 11 times for 40 yards. He didn't have any turnovers.

Boeckman is the fifth-year senior who's supposed to be poised and well-versed in the offense. But he didn't look any more poised or well-versed than Pryor against the USC defense.

Perhaps that's why Tressel didn't say who his starting quarterback will be against Troy next weekend.

"You always compete for playing time," Tressel said. "I don't know about starting spots. But we will evaluate everything, how we executed and what we should do as we go forward."

It really comes down to what Ohio State is playing for. Pryor, the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit last winter, is an outstanding, Vince Young-type talent.

His ability as a runner is dramatically superior to Boeckman's, a 244-pound pocket passer who is mostly a manager of the offense.

The Trojans sacked Boeckman four times, Pryor once. Pryor is the future. The issue is whether that future arrives now.

"Whatever Tressel says -- whatever Tressel tells us, we'll do," Pryor said.

As to whether both quarterbacks might have played better if Wells had been healthy, Tressel wouldn't go down that road.

"No one was bemoaning the fact in the locker room or on the sideline," Tressel said. "We needed to be playing as good as we could possible play with or without Beanie tonight in USC's house."

When the Buckeyes return to their house, it remains up in the air not only whether Wells will be back in the backfield but also who will be handing him the football.