"I'll probably never forget that look. The more you're around him, he's just a very serious guy who handles his business on and off the field. To see what he did in that game in overtime, in that environment, it just -- I had him stand up in front of the team [after the game]. To say that I really knew him a year and a half ago, I did not. Now I do."
The season J.T. Barrett is having for Ohio State is pretty unheard of for redshirt freshmen. Every now and then you'll see a true freshman player have a large impact on a team and even the past few seasons we've seen players like Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston take their teams to new heights.
But for Barrett to be this impressive right away, having to replace a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year in Braxton Miller, has been nothing short of remarkable. So it's special to see someone grow in front of your eyes and take the next step into becoming more of a leader for a team. We were treated to that last Saturday, when Barrett took it upon himself to will Ohio State to victory over Penn State in double overtime (on a bum knee, no less). As you see above, coach Meyer knows that Barrett has the drive to win and that fire to lead the team, and that is something to be excited about.
"Reason for optimism: The Buckeyes have steadily improved since a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech, and quarterback J.T. Barrett has developed into a reliable playmaker. If the Buckeyes win in East Lansing in two weeks, they should have relatively smooth sailing to the Big Ten championship game. The selection committee will respect Urban Meyer's track record and Ohio State's talent. "
Brian Bennett over at ESPN took a look at the playoff tracker in the Big Ten conference and ranked the three teams that are still in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Ranked first, of course, was Michigan State. Nebraska followed the Spartans, with Ohio State rounding out the final spot.
Each team was given a reason for optimism (as you can see above) and a cause for concern, as well as a list of schools each team should be rooting for this week to help their chances of getting into the playoff. Ohio State's cause for concern was something every Buckeye fan should be well aware of by now:
"That loss to Virginia Tech -- by two touchdowns, at home -- could be hard to overcome, especially because the Hokies are just 4-4. Other than Michigan State, there's no real opportunity for a statement win. And the Buckeyes barely survived the past week at Penn State, which suggests their offensive improvement might have been built on the back of a weak schedule."
"Practice on Thursday is an amazing thing because we ask him to drop that ball on the 8‑yard line, and I cannot tell you how many times that ball hits the 8‑yard line when he's working that drill. It's like telling a guy to take his pitching wedge out there and put it in a hole, and he just keeps doing it."
Ohio State's energetic special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs compared Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston to a great golfer because of the way the sophomore punter kicks the ball with such accuracy. Johnston has been a standout at punter for Ohio State the past two seasons, with just this year having put 12 out of 19 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, 11 of those inside the opponent's 11-yard line.
While he doesn't get the same amount of opportunities compared to other great punters in the country, due to Ohio State having the fewest punt attempts so far this season, Johnston has done just about everything the Buckeyes could have asked for and then some. So it's no surprise that coach Coombs himself thinks Johnston is the best at what he does in the country.
"Chick-fil-A Peach/AT&T Cotton/Fiesta/Capital One Orange: Ohio State"
In the latest bowl projections for the Big Ten, Adam Rittenberg has both Michigan State and Ohio State listed for the same potential bowls of Chick-fil-A Peach, AT&T Cotton, Fiesta, and Capital One Orange. Rittenberg is hesitant to fully project a team into the playoff and wants to wait until the Buckeyes and Spartans go head-to-head next weekend before solidifying any projections.
As for the rest of the Big Ten, Nebraska is projected to make the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus bowl, Wisconsin goes to the Outback, Minnesota makes the National University Holiday bowl, Maryland is slated to play in the TaxSlayer/Franklin American Mortage Music City bowl, Rutgers lands in the San Francisco bowl, Penn State gets the New Era Pinstripe, Iowa is paired with the Quick Lane bowl, and Northwestern finishes off the Big Ten with the Heart of Dallas bowl.