At some point during the season, about the time that the Heisman became Troy Smith's to lose, a friend of mine asked me if I thought Troy Smith's number would be retired. As I believe I have metioned before, I eventually decided that it would be if he won the Heisman, but it was tough to get used to the idea that I was watching one of the all-time great Buckeyes play.
Now, on the eve of the Heisman Trophy presentation, I've grown a little more accustomed to the idea. It's still hard to believe, but in more of a "wow, isn't this lucky?" sort of way. Look at this highlight video, or this one, or any of the ones you'll see on YouTube. The guy makes plays few others could make. He rarely makes a bad decision, and he regularly does unbelievable things.
In short, Troy Smith is the best quarterback in Ohio State football history.
If you look at statistics, Troy's numbers are great, but generally not amazing, which isn't too surprising. In terms of yardage, Joe Germaine, Bobby Hoying, and Art Schlichter are the only quarterbacks with better yardage than Troy, but he's not being asked to air it out like those guys were (only 41.6% of OSU's plays this season have been passes). In terms of rushing production, he's behind Cornelius Greene, among others, but he's not being asked to run like those guys.
If you're looking for statistics that define Troy Smith's contribution to this team, there are three you need to look at. The first is completion percentage. Troy owns the top two spots in completion percentage for a season, as well as the record for career completion percentage. The second statistic, related to the first, is pass efficiency. Troy is first and third in season pass efficiency, and first in career efficiency. The third statistic is touchdowns. His thirty touchdown passes this season is a record, and he's top five in career touchdown passes.
What's all this mean? Troy Smith gets the job done. Others might rack up more yards through the air or on the ground, but he scores the points and gets the wins. He executes the offense almost to perfection, and that shows up in the efficiency and touchdowns. And, of course, there's that 3-0 record as a starter against Michigan.
Of course, stats don't tell the whole story about Troy's place in Ohio State history (though the record against Michigan can do a pretty good job). You have to watch him to truly appreciate him. He is almost always in absolute command of the offense. Even when he's scrambling madly, it's usually in the service of the overall goal of putting points on the board (Exhibit A). We know he can run; he showed that last season. This season he has preferred to shred defense through the air.
Yet despite all we've seen from him over the past three years, I can't help but believe we seldom saw all he had to offer. Certainly Michigan brought out the best in him, but I think he could have done even more if he needed to. I think he could have thrown for 3000+ yards if Tressel asked him to air it out. I think he could have rushed for a thousand yards if the system had been different. But he was asked to distribute the ball, to execute and spread the field. And he did that with a cold precision. Even if he didn't always find the best option, he almost always found a good option, and hardly ever made a major mistake. He threw downfield when Ted Ginn got behind defense, he found Anthony Gonzalez just across the first down lines on third-and-long, he scrambled until his third or fourth option got open, and when all else failed, he ran better than most quarterbacks in the country.
Of course, he still has one more game to go. He will cement his place in Buckeye history in the national championship game. But regardless of what happens on January 8, I've already made my decision. I don't think the Buckeyes have ever seen such a combination of athletic talent, leadership, and mastery of an offense in a quarterback as Troy Smith has shown. He's the best quarterback the Buckeyes have had, and I think it'll be a long time before we see another like him.