On Saturday, the Ohio State Buckeyes took another big step toward the Big Ten championship and a chance to play for much more than that. However, as Urban Meyer moves closer to a possible spot in the College Football Playoff, his quarterback might be moving closer to college football’s most prestigious individual award.
After seeing another strong performance against a Top 25 team, we’re left to ponder one thing: When does J.T. Barrett start to get Heisman talk? It is clear that the Buckeye offense goes as Barrett does.
On its second possession of Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Barrett showed his playmaking nature by running past everyone on an 86-yard touchdown scamper. After that play, which was Ohio State’s longest play from scrimmage of the season, it became highly improbable that the Gophers were going to be able to run with the Buckeyes…literally. The play set the tone for the entire game for Ohio State’s offense.
The 31-24 final score was not entirely reflective of the way the game was played. Ohio State outgained Minnesota 489 yards to 300, but three turnovers put points on the board for the Gophers. One of these turnovers was a poor decision by Barrett, which has been rare this year. It was his eighth interception of the campaign, giving Minnesota some momentum going into halftime.
Every time the Buckeyes needed a big play, however, it was Barrett who stepped up with his legs and his arm. Even with the clock nearing four minutes remaining in the game, with Ohio State protecting a 31-21 lead, there was no doubt that Barrett was going to run on a draw on third and five. He picked up six and ran valuable time off the clock. In addition, Barrett set a new school record for rushing yards by a quarterback, with 195, in just his 10th collegiate game.
Having contributed to 38 touchdowns already this season, Barrett passed the total of the arguable Heisman frontrunner, Marcus Mariota of Oregon. In addition, he passed preseason Heisman candidate Braxton Miller’s school record. Miller contributed to 15 touchdowns in his first 10 games. Barrett is four touchdowns away from Drew Brees’ single-season Big Ten record.
Though Barrett was awful against Virginia Tech, every Heisman candidate can have an off game. If anything, the blowout loss to the Hokies shows one thing: how much Barrett’s means to the offense. Since he got the bad game out of his system, Barrett and the Buckeyes have been on a roll. When you are looking at most valuable players across the country, it’s tough to say that anyone has a better argument than Barrett, based on what he’s given — and meant — to Ohio State.
When Miller went down for the season in practice just days before the campaign kicked off, it appeared that the season could be over before it even started. Nobody could have imagined that Barrett would be this good this soon. More so, nobody would have thought that the Buckeyes — without Miller — would be in the driver’s seat for a Big Ten title and a possible bid for the playoff.
One of the biggest challenges for Barrett becoming a Heisman finalist may come from his own conference. Strong seasons by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah provide an argument for each player as a finalist. It seems unlikely that the Big Ten would get two players at the ceremony, but if Ohio State wins the Big Ten title, it would be difficult to keep Barrett out – especially if the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin or Nebraska in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship.
After seeing Barrett on the national stage against Top 25 competition in back-to-back weeks, it’s hard to see any way outside of an Enron-type collapse that Barrett does not go to New York in the second week of December.