“Is it possible that the game Barrett just played against Wisconsin was better?... On the surface, clearly the Michigan State game looks better. And maybe it actually was. But is there an argument for Wisconsin's defense being much better than the one Barrett saw in 2014 in East Lansing?”
-Bill Landis, cleveland.com
The idea that J.T. Barrett just played his best game as a Buckeye is one that has come up a surprising amount since the overtime victory against Wisconsin; in fact, Land-Grant Holy Land’s own Colton Denning and Matt Brown discussed it on this week’s edition of “Hangout in the Holy Land.”
In his article, Landis does a good job of breaking down how last Saturday’s game compares to the 2014 game against Michigan State in which Barrett went 16 for 26 with three touchdowns passing, while running for 86 yards and two more scores.
Statistically, that game dwarfs Barrett’s Wisconsin line of 17 for 29 with one TD and an interception, and 92 yards and two TDs on the ground. While this debate is fun for mid-week discussions, the thing that sticks out about both games to me (and perhaps even more from the 2014 Penn State game) is that Barrett is a far from perfect quarterback, but he has an innate ability to make the right play at the right time.
While I would never dare say that an Ohio State quarterback has “moxie,” especially not in a week leading up to a matchup with Penn State, Barrett does have something special that few quarterbacks possess. He doesn’t have the IRL video game-like skills of Braxton Miller or the shotgun arm of Cardale Jones, but boy, does he grind better than anyone else in the game.
Barrett’s throwing accuracy is suspect at times, but it seems that when the game is on the line, he finds a way to complete a pass that he would otherwise overthrow earlier in the game. Late in close contests, Barrett tends to magically become uncatchable, either in the pocket or out in the open field.
While expecting J.T. Barrett’s otherworldly clutchness to come through in every tough situation might be foolish, history shows that when the lights are the brightest, more often than not, Barrett will shine.
“Rested and rejuvenated Penn State sees more than a football game looming Saturday. In Ohio State, the Nittany Lions have a chance to redefine their program in James Franklin’s third season as coach.”
-Todd Jones, The Columbus Dispatch
I admit it, living south of the Mason-Dixon line, I drank the Kool-Aid that SEC upstart James Franklin was going to take the modicum of success that he had at Vanderbilt and rejuvenate the once-proud Penn State football program after the debilitating blows of the Jerry Sandusky revelations.
Thus far, I have been wrong. He is currently just 18-14 at PSU, with a conference record of 8-11. However, his seat has cooled considerably after a solid start to the 2016 season, despite being throttled by that other Big Ten East power. Now it appears that the folks in Happy Valley have circled this weekend’s tilt with No. 2 Ohio State as an “opportunity” to regain a bit of their former glory.
Since Penn State joined the Big Ten, the Buckeyes hold a 15-7 record over the Nittany Lions, and Urban Meyer teams have outscored Penn State 167-61, going 4-0. However, PSU has a nasty habit of playing highly-ranked Buckeye teams tough. Even if the final scores don’t always reflect it, these match-ups are always hotly-contested.
In the 2014 game, an unranked Penn State squad took then-No. 13 OSU to overtime in front of a White Out crowd, before Joey Bosa’s sack kept the championship drive alive. With Buckeye fans dreaming of another title run, and coming off of an emotionally-draining victory in Madison, it might be a good idea to buckle up for another bumpy trip to Happy Valley.
“And it’s Barrett’s uncanny ability to churn out both touchdowns and victories that will help him win over enough voters by December to give the Buckeyes another stiff-arming statue to display in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.”
-Austin Ward, ESPN.com
This is the state of sports punditry: if you make a “bold” prediction, no one holds you to it when it doesn’t happen, but if it does some how come through, you can publicly pat yourself on the back for your brilliance and foresight. Nonetheless, the bold predictions from ESPN’s Big Ten writers will likely be quite popular amongst Buckeye fans.
First, Brian Bennett predicts that both Ohio State and Michigan will make the college football playoff in 2016. While no conference has yet placed two teams into the playoffs in the same year, the first seven weeks of the season have set the table well for just that possibility. With OSU and UM ranked second and third in the most recent AP poll, if the Big 12 and Pac 12 champions don’t impress the committee, a close loss in Columbus (like in 2006, when the rivals met as the nation’s top-two teams) could allow the Wolverines to crash the playoff party.
Despite the Cooper-era levels of anxiety that a postseason rematch could produce, is there any Buckeye fan alive that wouldn’t mind beating Michigan twice in one season, including perhaps in a National Title game?
While Bennett’s prediction has a certain level of logic, Ward’s sounds extremely far-fetched on first blush, but it might not be. Do you remember who the Heisman frontrunner was after Week 7 last year? That’s right, it was Leonard Fournette, who ended up finishing sixth.
Right now, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is everyone’s odds-on favorite, with Barrett in second, but with matchups against a game NC State squad and Houston left on the slate, not to mention an ACC Championship game to cap the season, there are miles to go before Jackson strikes the pose in New York.
And, as I said above, Barrett is not one to shirk away from tough games. While he might never put up the audacious numbers of Jackson, or have the highlights of Christian McCaffrey, it’s unlikely that Barrett’s performance the rest of the season will knock him out of contention. So, here’s to hoping that he can grind his way to Ohio State’s record eighth Heisman.
STICK TO SPORTS
- Apple to announce new Macs later this month.
- New Wolverine movie will follow “Old Man Logan” on a cross-country journey.
- Samsung made YouTube remove videos of “Grand Theft Auto” mods using Note 7s as bombs.
- How to watch tonight’s third presidential debate.