Welcome to our new off-season series highlighting the best to wear the Scarlet & Gray from 2000 through 2009. Although LGHL wasn't around during that time, we were all still deeply invested in the Buckeyes' success. There were some great players that came through Columbus during that time period, and we thought it might be fitting to compile a position by position grouping of some of the best from that time period. Accordingly, Land-Grant Holy Land's staff nominated candidates and ultimately voted to bring you what we kickoff today. As the heart of the team, we'll start with the quarterback position.
The candidates are:
Craig Krenzel (2000-2003)
There is a lot of sentimentality towards Krenzel in Buckeye Nation. His stats aren't gaudy, and he wasn't a prototypical quarterback, but he won, and is the only QB from this era to bring home the crystal football.
Troy Smith (2003-2006)
Smith's career started out on pretty shaky ground, as he illegally accepted money from a booster and was suspended in his sophomore season, missing the 2004 Alamo Bowl. But it ended with Smith having one of the greatest years in OSU history in 2006, winning the Heisman trophy and leading the Buckeyes to an undefeated season, an undisputed Big Ten title, and an appearance in the BCS Championship Game. He went 26-4 as a starter, including 3-0 against Michigan. He was dazzling in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, and in 2006 won 86.7% of first place Heisman votes, a record that still stands.
Terrelle Pryor (2008-2010)
If one can separate the off the field transgressions from the on the field results, Pryor has a very strong case to make. Pryor went 31-4 in three seasons as a starter, and at times made it all look so effortless. Like Smith, he was also undefeated against Michigan, going 3-0, but he also won two BCS games, including OSU's first Rose Bowl since the 1996 season, and their first ever bowl win against an SEC opponent in the Sugar Bowl the following year.
And the winner is...
And the voting was unanimous from the staff. In his career, he ran for over 1,100 yards, threw for for over 5,700, and in 2006 threw 30 TD passes to only 6 interceptions. His career TD/INT ratio was a ridiculous 4/1, as Smith only threw 13 interceptions in his entire OSU career. With the exception of one particular game in January of 2007 that we really don't want to talk about, Smith was at his best when the lights were brightest. In the 2006 Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame, Smith was 19-28 for 342 yards and 2 long TD passes. One of those was 85 yards to Santonio Holmes, which is still a Fiesta Bowl record. In that game, he threw no picks while leading an offense that racked up a staggering 617 yards of offense, also a Fiesta Bowl record.
But Smith saved his absolute best for That Team Up North.
Few systematically dissected the Wolvines the way Smith did. In 2004, Smith beat a heavily favored Michigan team by running for 145 yards and passing for over 240. The Wolverines had no answer for the redshirt sophomore, and when it was over, OSU had romped 37-21 in a game that wasn't that close. In 2005, OSU found themselves down by two scores with under 10 minutes, and all Smith did was make play after play with his feet and arm, rallying OSU to a 25-21 win and stunning the Ann Arbor crowd. But his masterpiece was the classic 2006 #1 vs. #2 game, where Smith threw for 316 yards and four TD passes while leading the Buckeyes to a 42-39 win and a spot in the National Championship.
Troy Smith, your quarterback of the aughts.