Let's go back to 9th grade...
...and open up our books to Shakespeare's immortal classic, "JTB and Cardale"...
* * *
Two quarterbacks, both alike in dignity.
In fair Columbus, where we lay our scene.
From championships won break ground to new rivalries,
Where khaki pants could make golden pants unclean.
From forth the genius mind of Urban Meyer
A pair of star-cross'd throwers take their life;
Whose misadventured drive-killing overthrows
Do with their arms bury their fans' roll'd eyes
The fearful passage of the Hawaii game,
Which, but their victory's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our early season review;
The which if you with patient eyes attend,
What here shall you read, I shall patiently try to mend.
* * *
It seems like every year since Urban Meyer began coaching for the Ohio State Buckeyes, there has been a game where, after a dominant win, there has been another puzzling win that leaves fans puzzled. To wit:
Big Win: Ohio State 63-38 Nebraska, in a game that really wasn't even that close.
But then: Ohio State 29-22 Purdue, in overtime, with an injured Braxton Miller and a Bard-like performance in relief from Kenny Guiton.
Big Win: Ohio State 42-14 Indiana, a thorough demolishing of a team that played the previous year's Buckeyes to a three-point defeat.
But then: Ohio State 42-41 Michigan in a game that exposed both a very suspect defense, as well as our love for Cardale Jones's son/father, Tyvis Powell.
Big Win: Ohio State 56-17 Rutgers, just two weeks removed from also welcoming new B1G member Maryland to the league with a 50+ point performance.
But then: Ohio State 31-24 Penn State, in a game that saw the Buckeyes coast to a 14-point lead, blow said 14-point lead in the second half, and wake up just enough to beat James Franklin's Nittany Lions in Happy Valley in overtime.
Big Win: Ohio State 42-24 Virginia Tech, a revenge game that played out incredibly well, save for one quarter, and showed the Buckeyes as the dominant force they were at the end of the previous Bowl Season.
But then: Ohio State 38-0 Hawaii. The most uneven 38-point shutout in history. And at the center of the expectations are the two signal callers, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett.
Now, yes, I know that that it is a bit early to talk about expectations after such a small sample size of games in this season, and in the careers of Jones and Barrett. And it is also true that the Hawaii game didn't provide an iota of real fear in any real Buckeye fans' hearts. But for the majority of the game, there was not really anything on offense that clicked against a dreadful Rainbow Warrior defense. In fact, it was by the sheer will of the Buckeye defense that the game truly got out of hand in the end, anyway, as the Silver Bullets held former USC quarterback Max Wittek to just 7/24 passing for 67 yards, and two interceptions (and it could have easily been four or five picks, as just about every Buckeye defensive back had a pass defensed at some point).
But the quarterback play for the Buckeyes wasn't exactly world-conquering, either:
Cardale Jones: 12/18, 111 yards, 0 TD; 1 rush, 7 yards, 0 TD
J.T. Barrett: 8/15, 70 yards, 0 TD; 6 rush, 5 yards (with sacks), 0 TD
These aren't the same two guys who picked apart Bud Foster's kinda-sorta elite defense the week before. If not for Ezekiel Elliott's workmanlike 101 yard (3.7 avg) 3 TD day, there might be even less joy on this page today.
What we are getting at is the same point that usually comes up when a team has two viable (and in the best case scenario for Ohio State, exceptional) options at quarterback: if you have two quarterbacks, then you often don't have one good one. For the Buckeyes it is a bit different considering that Barrett or Jones could start for just about every other team in the country.
If you have two quarterbacks, you often don't have one good one.
For his part, Meyer seemed upset when he addressed the media on Monday, focusing on the uneven quarterback play, as well as very different (read: bad) performance from the offensive line. While it is true that a faulty offensive line can make a quarterback's life hell, once-a-decade quarterback(s) should be able to make up for it against a team with an S&P+ rating of -13.6 (for comparison, Ohio State's S&P+ is 29.5, highest in the country). Statistically, and visually, it was just a game for the quarterbacks that failed to reach the lofty bar set by winning a National Championship.
And yet ... the Buckeyes still won, going away, in a shutout, just like they were expected to (exactly as they were, in fact: the opening line was Ohio State -38). Imagine if Ohio State needed a ton of luck and overtime to barely beat an FCS team, like Auburn did. Imagine if Urban Meyer had spent last week running his mouth about scheduling, only to be hoisted by his own petard, like Arkansas and their fearless, #Karma-seeking leader Bret Bielema did. We're living in a world in 2015 where Colin Cowherd says Urban Meyer is better than Nick Saban AND that Ohio State would destroy worlds in the SEC.
For now, the two quarterback system, with Jones as the starter and Barrett spelling him when necessary, is 2-0. And maybe the Hawaii game was just one game in a long season, and not indicative of what's to come. The schedule, as some have mentioned, isn't difficult until much later in the year (we see the hell out of you, Sparty). But before November comes, there will likely have to be a final decision made at the quarterback position, and one of Ohio State's Star-cross'd throwers will have to be the starter for good.
We all know how Romeo and Juliet ended. Hopefully Ohio State's Bard/Head Coach has a different finale in mind for JTB and Cardale.