Remember 2014? It seems like it was about a lifetime ago. That was the year J.T. Barrett lit the world on fire after taking over for an injured Braxton Miller, announcing his arrival in a 49-37 victory over Michigan State and taking Ohio State to the doorstep of a national championship.
Since going down with an ankle injury against Michigan that same season, Barrett has barely looked the same. Everyone was convinced he'd peaked, he'd shown the college football universe everything he had in that first transcendent season. You'd be forgiven for buying it, too: Barrett's numbers in his second season dropped in the midst of a months-long battle with Cardale Jones for the starting job, and his performance as a redshirt junior wasn't much different, culminating in a shutout loss to eventual national champs Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
By 2017's week two showdown against Oklahoma, Barrett looked as lost as he'd ever been. The calls for freshman phenom Dwayne Haskins to take over were raucous. But something incredible happened, born from the ashes of that ugly Sooner loss: the J.T. Barrett of old reemerged.
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J.T. Barrett, QB: Barrett isn't showing any signs of slowing down. The Buckeyes have steamrolled every opponent they've faced since Week 2, and the wily senior QB's numbers have never looked better. He shone against Nebraska, accounting for seven total TDs: five through the air, another two with his legs.
Barrett threw for 325 yards while completing just shy of 82 percent of his throws, both good for season highs. He added 10 carries for 48 yards on his way to the aforementioned running scores. This is the J.T. Barrett we've been waiting for, the QB who might have been. Ohio State football is fun again, and we're all the richer for it.
J.K. Dobbins, RB: Speaking of talented freshmen, Dobbins went for over 100 yards against Nebraska, the first time he's crossed the century mark since the Army game. More than half of those yards came on the game's opening drive, when Dobbins found a seam, hit the open field, and went uncontested to the end zone from 52 yards out (save for a ferocious stiff-arm to the last defender's face). With Dobbins, Barrett, and Mike Weber all playing at an All-American level, the Buckeye offense looks as dynamic as it's ever been.
K.J. Hill, WR: All you need to know about K.J. Hill's performance against Nebraska is that he was thrown the ball seven times, and he caught all seven of them. He brought two of those seven passes in for scores en route to an 80-yard day. On the quietest night of Parris Campbell's season, Hill did more than enough to pick up the slack.
I've long maintained that guys with two initials in lieu of a first name make the best football players. I'm not seeing anything from the 2017 Ohio State offense to make me rethink that hypothesis.
Jordan Fuller, DB: Fuller started off his season with a bang, reeling in an INT in the Indiana game. He's been a steady contributor ever since, and showed no signs of slowing down against the Huskers. Fuller recorded six tackles (five solo) and a pass breakup, one of four Buckeyes to rack up five or more tackles on the evening. The secondary has had its growing pains, but Fuller and co. have looked rock solid over the past few weeks.
Mike Weber, RB: Weber has played second fiddle to Dobbins all season thanks to the freshman's explosive debut and Weber's own nagging injury, but he's rumbled back to form, and he hit his season high for yards in a game (82) against Nebraska. Weber was held without a touchdown, but the Buckeyes didn't need him to, only to move the chains and hit one opposing defender with a stiff-arm mean enough to match Dobbins'. This is a terrifying tandem of backs.
Kickoffs. One of these games, in some far off year, we'll feel good enough about Ohio State's kickoff game not to clench our teeth and hold our breath when the boot goes up. But it is not this year. Urban Meyer's very specific kickoff plan requires very precise execution, and the Buckeyes haven't consistently gotten it yet in 2017. The wind did them no favors, but still: the umpteenth game with a boot out of bounds for this team makes one wonder what the repercussions of giving, say, Saquon Barkley that much of a head start might be.
BUY: Ohio State rediscovering the tight end position. After years of cultivating talent only to watch it go unharvested, the Buckeyes have gone back to treating their tight ends as viable cogs in a dynamic offense. Marcus Baugh (three catches, 43 yards, one TD) and Rashod Berry (two catches, 29 yards, one TD) are undoubtedly valued contributors to this team. That the Buckeyes have conclusively proven they can hurt opposing teams in every way imaginable is a good, good sign.
SELL: Leaving the starters in. Football is an insane meat-grinder of a sport, and every down runs the risk of someone sustaining an injury they won't come back from. So it was puzzling to see J.T. Barrett and the other starters still taking the field in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. Unsurprisingly, stalwart offensive lineman Jamarco Jones sustained a minor injury that forced him to leave the game—a loss made all the more troubling given that the Buckeye line has already had to deal with Branden Bowen's broken leg. It's a real head-scratcher.