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Why J.T. Barrett for Heisman isn't such a stretch after all

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Sure, the responsible thing to do here would be to preach caution. But where is the fun in that?

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

You might want to sit down before you read this:

J.T. Barrett has been absolutely awesome this college football season.

Just how good? Outstanding enough to pace a young Ohio State offense to 50 points and 500+ yards in four consecutive games, a school record. On point enough to win Big Ten offensive player of the week twice, and freshman of the week four times. He'll likely beat the conference record of the latter of six. Impressive enough to find himself in some pretty gaudy statistical territory. And now, finally, exceptional enough that some national writers (and even Heisman voters) are starting to put J.T Barrett in their Heisman conversations.

Seem a little fast? Let's take a look at some numbers. All stats below are national rankings:

Completion percentage: 65.2%, or 27th best. Essentially the same as Bo Wallace.

Yards per attempt: 9.8, or fifth best. Better than Dak Prescott, Wallace, Jameis Winston, Bryce Petty and more.

Passing touchdowns: 20, or sixth best. One more than Marcus Mariota and Everett Golson. Also more than Petty and Prescott.

Quarterback rating: 182.1, or third best. Better than everybody in the country except for Mariota and Deshaun Watson

All of this, it is worth noting, in an offense that doesn't chuck the ball all over the field. Barrett, after all, only has 164 attempts, well behind Winston, Mariota, Petty, Golson, et al.

Total touchdowns: 24, or tied for third. Better than everybody in the country except for Mariota and Connor Halliday (tied with Rakeem Cato and Jared Goff).

The only raw statistical profile where Barrett is not in elite company right now is total yards, again, a product of his comparatively low passing attempts (and notably his one bad statistical game). If you're going by pure, raw production, freshman or not, J.T. Barrett's play is among the very best in the country. Full stop.

There's a catch, of course, and if you start talking about J.T. Barrett's Heisman hopes on Twitter, rest assured, somebody will mention this to you in a matter on seconds. Ohio State hasn't exactly faced off against many elite defenses so far. After last week's games, here are the defensive rankings for each squad Barrett has faced, in S&P+:

Navy: 47th

Virginia Tech: 20th

Kent State: 115th

Cincinnati: 84th

Maryland: 46th

Rutgers: 42nd

So the Buckeyes have faced two horrendous defenses, three somewhere in the range of average, and one very good one. That very good one, of course, forced Barrett into a poor statistical game -- and more notable a Buckeye loss. Since that Virginia Tech game, Barrett has thrown for 17 touchdowns and only a single pick, while completing over 69% of his passes. While there are plenty of chances in the future for Barrett to demonstrate he's superior while facing a strong defense (Michigan State is 11th, Penn State 13th and Minnesota 18th), those games haven't happened yet.

But so what? This isn't the playoff selection committee.

Right now, we're just having a conversation about the Heisman Trophy, and a poor strength of schedule hasn't precluded outstanding players from being in that conversation. Last season, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch faced a bevy of defenses even worse than what Barrett saw, but was excellent, and garnered himself a third place finish and a trip to New York City. Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, also somebody who faced some bad defenses, finished eighth. He was certainly in the conversation for much of the season.

In 2012, Braxton Miller, despite facing Big Ten defenses, finished fifth in the voting. Lynch was seventh. 2011 featured players from Houston and Boise State in the top 10. The list goes on and on.

If your team is very successful, and you are very successful, you can be in this conversation even if you aren't playing elite competition. And for all of the faults of the Big Ten this season, those defenses are still a cut above a lot of the Mountain West's.

Now, is this torrid pace likely to continue? I don't know. It would be reasonable to expect some sort of regression over the coming weeks as the quality of the defense the Buckeyes will face steps up significantly. After all, Urban Meyer himself didn't grade Barrett as one of the team's champion's (a weekly award going to the most outstanding evaluated players on tape) against Rutgers, even as the conference named him their player of the week.

However, given Barrett's maturity and football IQ, and the growing depth of the playmakers around him, it's still possible he continues to exceed preseason expectations.

Should critics say he shouldn't win the Heisman Trophy? No. Right now, that would be unreasonable. If I had a vote, I'd give it to Marcus Mariota or Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, and Barrett would likely be a stretch even if the Buckeyes won out and made the playoffs. Where things stand in late November is almost certain to change from where they are now.

But hey, it's Oct. 20, and right now, J.T. Barrett is playing better than almost any other quarterback in the country. If he continues at a similar pace, a trip to New York City is absolutely on the table, and if you're making a list right now, Barrett's accomplishments certainly allow him to be in that conversation with a straight face.

This season, he's already been the best quarterback in the Big Ten. Why can't he be the fourth or fifth guy nationally at the end of the year, especially if Ohio State keeps winning?