You heard whispers about this before Barrett even took a snap, right after Braxton Miller's injury was announced that would sideline him for the season. They were all but extinguished after the second week of the season, after Ohio State lost their home opener but they started up again pretty soon after. At some point, probably between the third and fourth touchdown passes against Maryland, those whispers stopped being whispers, and started to become full, declarative statements. Pretty soon, the question is going to leap from the depths of the message boards and comment sections and into actual day-to-day conversation -- if it hasn't already.
What the hell is Ohio State going to do about J.T Barrett and Braxton Miller next year?
After a shaky start to the year, J.T Barrett has been absolutely awesome, throwing 14 TDs to only a single interception, while grabbing an impressive array of awards. Over the course of the season, Barrett is near the nation's elite now in a variety of statistical categories, like TD passes (fifth), QB Rating (fourth) or yards per attempt (seventh).
Given all that, it's not hard to see why people may be inclined to compare Barrett to Braxton. BTN floated this, and then this. At least one Ohio sportswriter has raised the specter of an ugly quarterback controversy in 2015. People all over Twitter now have talked about how Barrett may already be better than Miller, and at least another sportswriter speculated that Miller may even end up using a graduate transfer, an idea that will probably lead to thousands of Tennessee or Kentucky fans tweeting at Miller, begging him to finish his college playing career there.
This debate is probably going to continue all season; I wish it wouldn't. Anybody who is looking that far ahead needs to pump the brakes.
Let's look at the facts here: J.T Barrett has been great this season, but this season has encompassed all of five games. The S&P+ defensive rankings, as of now, for those five teams?
Virginia Tech: 6
Kent State: 101
While Barrett provided a very efficient stat line against Navy, the playcalling was exceptionally conservative, and the offense struggled to move the ball until midway through the third quarter. Against the only really good defense he's faced, Barrett was 9/29 for 219 yards, a touchdown and three picks (yes, the offensive line and playcalling bears a lot of the burden for that). During his current tear, Barrett has faced one good defense, and two of the absolute worst in the sport. That isn't to say that his performances haven't been excellent, just that maybe we aren't working with the largest sample size here.
Comparisons to Miller's tenure, especially his freshman year, are also problematic. Barrett's compatriots are young, but there is no denying the talent, speed, and depth at the skill positions. Barrett also enjoyed a redshirt year to soak up the playbook and Ohio State's system. Miller had no such luxury, and was dropped into a dumpster fire of a transitional year, in an offense bereft of identity or creativity. To go along with a coaching staff that could be best described as leaving something to be desired, it shouldn't shock you that Miller's box scores didn't set the world on fire. If Barrett had been there, he likely would have struggled as well.
This debate may be partly fueled by the fact that based on this limited sample size, Barrett's strengths appear to be things that Miller didn't excel at. Barrett is adept at picking the correct read on the read option, he's very accurate, and reads defenses quite well for his relatively young age. The last few games have been some of the best raw passing performances by a Buckeye since the days of Troy Smith, and it isn't hard to get excited about that as a Buckeye fan.
But it's Oct. 8. Barrett has played one Big Ten game. It's so early to be talking about this in earnest.
For starters, we don't really know that Braxton Miller is coming back at all. We don't know how his shoulder will heal, which could render this entire conversation moot. Miller could decide his NFL fortunes would require him to play a different position. J.T Barrett could get hurt himself, or take a step back in his development once the team goes deeper into Big Ten play. A whole multitude of things could happen from now until the start of fall camp of 2015.
What we do know: If he's healthy, Braxton Miller is an elite college football player. His elusiveness in the open field is nearly unparalleled in the sport. He has the physical capability to make just about any throw necessary, and is one of the best at turning nothing into something. With the depth and speed at the skill positions Ohio State projects to have next season, an offense that includes Miller could be positively terrifying. Any college football team would be improved by having a healthy Braxton Miller on the roster, including Ohio State, and Meyer has shown that he can be creative with his personnel packages to take advantage of special talents before.
I also know that J.T. Barrett has played exceptional football over the last few weeks. He's shown an excellent command of the offense, advance level decision making, great accuracy, and is fun as all get out to watch. I believe Barrett has an excellent future ahead of him at Ohio State. Do I know that he's better than Braxton Miller? No. I don't even know if Braxton Miller is the Braxton Miller of old yet. We all need more data.
We're probably going to have an entire offseason to debate this, so why worry about it now? A bunch of other things have to happen before this becomes an actual issue, and we'll get a better idea of all the factors involved in another month or so.
For now, just enjoy what you're getting from Barrett and this offense. If you're looking for something else to freak out about, feel free to direct your attention in the general direction of the secondary.