Last year on New Year’s Eve, Ohio State got embarrassed in the postseason by the eventual National Champion Clemson Tigers. Embarrassed might be an understatement, as the Buckeyes were shutout 31-0.
The offense could get absolutely nothing going offensively. They had 215 total yards, three turnovers, just nine first downs and had the ball for about 12 less minutes than Clemson.
A big part of the struggle was quarterback J.T. Barrett. Barrett had been inconsistent all season long and laid an egg in one of the most important games of the season. Barrett finished the night with 127 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Barrett finished the season with 2,555 yards, 24 touchdowns, seven interceptions, a 135.3 rating and a 61.5 completion rate. Barrett also had five games where he completed less than 60 percent of his passes, including three where he didn’t even complete half of them. It was definitely nothing like his freshman year when he helped lead the Buckeyes to the playoffs.
It appeared that some of that inconsistency came into this season as well when Barrett and the Buckeyes struggled early in their season opener against Indiana and then in their loss to Oklahoma in the following week. Fans and analysts were writing off Ohio State already, mostly due to Barrett’s play.
Whatever the reason was for Barrett’s forgettable junior season or his slow start to this season, all of those bad memories have been erased from his brain apparently. Barrett has been performing like his old self this season.
In his next five games after the Oklahoma loss, Barrett began to take off. Yes, those games were against Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska, who all have a combined record of 20-20. But Ohio State took advantage of the opportunity, winning all five games by a combined score of 266-56.
Then came a test for the Buckeyes with their matchup against Penn State. It was also a test for the Nittany Lions, as the only rated team they had played all season up to that point was Michigan, who is not even ranked in the AP Poll anymore. Penn State got off to a great lead and appeared to have another win over the Buckeyes like they did last season.
Ohio State wasn’t finished though. They scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to beat Penn State 39-38. Barrett played arguably his best game ever. He finished with 328 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, completed 84.6 percent of his passes and also ran for another 95 yards. This game put Barrett in talks for the Heisman Trophy by some analysts.
Is this an overreaction to one good game? Think again.
Barrett’s numbers on the season have been spectacular. He has completed 69.5 percent of his passes, which is seventh in the NCAA. He has thrown for 2,166 yards, 25 touchdown passes (third), one interception (lowest for players with at least 70 attempts), and a 176.2 rating (third).
He also leads the Big Ten Conference in all of those categories, which is arguably the best conference in college football. Not too much of an overreaction after all.
Barrett now finds himself in the Heisman race with Penn State running back and Heisman frontrunner Saquon Barkley, Stanford running back Bryce Love, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Barrett’s case for the Heisman
It seems that it is Barkley’s award to lose. The guy has been doing it all for the Nittany Lions all season long.
Love has also had an amazing year, but has played a bunch of average teams. However, he is averaging over 10 yards per carry and has 1,387 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. That is impressive regardless of which power five conference you play in. But let me explain Barrett’s case.
First off, the numbers don’t lie. Don’t let the yards by Rudolph and Mayfield fool you. Yes, they may have more passing yards than Barrett, but look at their strength of schedule.
Rudolph has played just two teams with records over .500. They beat West Virginia, but lost to TCU. Mayfield has played just two as well, losing to Iowa State, but beating Ohio State. Barrett’s yards would probably be through the roof too if he was playing teams like Baylor and UTEP.
Barrett has played three teams over .500, including Oklahoma, Army and Penn State. The worst team he has played has a 3-5 record. Rudolph has played four teams with losing records, including 0-8 Baylor and 2-7 Tulsa. Mayfield has also 0-8 UTEP and 0-8 Baylor.
Despite Barrett’s schedule, he still has more touchdowns and less interceptions than both Rudolph and Mayfield. Not to mention he has more rushing yards than them and also a higher completion rate and rating than Rudolph.
The rest of the season
Barrett is going to have a few more tests before the season is all said and done. They will play at Iowa this week, who has always been a competitor in the Big Ten. Then they will host No. 24 Michigan State, who have been surprisingly successful so far this season. They will also end the season against their big rival Michigan at The Big House.
Barrett will get the chance to prove himself worthy of the Heisman against some of the best competition in the Big Ten. If you ask me, I think he can handle it and will prove to the doubters that he is legit.
If Ohio State wins out, they will be back in the playoffs, looking for redemption after their loss last season. You can bet these Buckeyes want nothing more than a shot at the National Title to make everybody forget about last season. It is going to be an exciting finish.
Featured image by USA TODAY Sports
“From Our Haus to Yours”