"Cardale is a great player. I honestly feel like if I wasn't starting this year, Cardale would have done the same things I did this year. Cardale is that talented."
- Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett
Much like in late August, Ohio State is having to replace a starting quarterback on the fly, and the team sounds like they have full confidence in the quarterback stepping in on short notice. While Jones first grew up as a skinny lineman, he started to grow into the 6'5" frame that he has today, and received coaching at Cleveland Glenville from longtime head coach Ted Ginn Sr. As a junior, Jones helped lead Cleveland Glenville to a state final, but now will be tasked with in starting the biggest game of his career on Saturday night.
Stepping into the quarterback role might not be quite as big of a jump for Jones as some are assuming it will be. Jones took the majority of snaps with the starters during spring and summer camp while Braxton Miller was rehabbing, and graded out very similar to Barrett by the coaching staff. It doesn't hurt either that Jones saw some time in mop-up duty in a number of games to get him a little more acclimated to being on the field and running the offense. Jones has all the tools and work ethic that Barrett does, and his former high school coach thinks that Jones is going to shock people with how effective he is for the Buckeyes on Saturday night.
"Every play with their skill is a home-run shot, so if you're not perfect with everything, then it's a big chance of a big play. This year, towards the end of the season, they've shown some big play ability."
- Wisconsin defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda
While Ohio State has tremendous confidence in the ability of Cardale Jones, Wisconsin knows that they can't sleep on what Jones can do. The Badgers sport one of the best defenses in the country, but know that Jones can make just as many big plays as J.T. Barrett was capable of. The biggest difference that Wisconsin is preparing for from Barrett to Jones is the bigger frame Cardale possesses, which will help to make him tougher to bring down in the running game.
Aranda has an idea of what the Badgers might see from the Buckeyes on Saturday night in terms of how they line-up and use Jones. More misdirection and possibly more two tight end sets are expected to give Jones more time to get comfortable in the pocket. With little tape of Jones on the field though, Aranda and the rest of the Badgers know to expect to have everything thrown at them by a Buckeye team that has to feel like their backs are against the wall. Wisconsin does have a couple of senior linebackers in Marcus Trotter and Derek Landsich, who they are hoping are successful at slowing down the Buckeyes on their way to their third Big Ten Championship Game win in four years.
"The abundance of skill players that were supposed to help Miller have his best campaign as a senior and did help Barrett set the conference record for touchdowns in his absence will be available against the Badgers. They, in theory, should allow for any easy transition."
- Austin Ward, ESPN.com
While the tide may have turned with the injury to J.T. Barrett on Saturday, making Ohio State the underdog, there are some that aren't writing off a Buckeye win in this game. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg and Austin Ward both see a Buckeye win on Saturday night even with Cardale Jones starting. The Buckeyes already have experience this season with losing their all-everything quarterback and having to quickly shift gears and get the replacement ready, so if they've done it once why can't they do it again? What helped Barrett, and should help Jones, is the talent that Ohio State has on offense at the skill positions to be able to take some of the pressure off of the new starter.
The other big question in the game is how can a Buckeye defense that has struggled lately against the run handle Melvin Gordon? Ohio State will miss the leadership that Barrett provided, but Urban Meyer knows how to get his team ready when everybody is counting them out. On the other side, while Brian Bennett has Wisconsin winning, he has a prediction of 27-24 for the game. He sees Gordon helping to put the Badgers up by 10 points early and withstanding a late Ohio State charge. With many torn on how the game will play out, fans of both schools should be ready for a terrific game.
STICK TO SPORTS:
- Not exactly sure how one would steal a bridge, but apparently it happened in Michigan.
- Hopefully Santa doesn't bring these two kids from Wisconsin a lump of coal for trying to find him by dialing 911.
- Looking to spread some holiday cheer? A Toys For Tots toy drive is happening in Columbus on Saturday afternoon.
- A Nebraska high school staffer was fined for letting Bo Pelini use the gym to say goodbye
- I'm guessing Dr. Nick from The Simpsons is responsible for this error.