Ohio State, The College Football Playoff, And The J.T. Barrett Injury Question

One of the foremost discussion topics this week in the world of college football is how the injury to J.T. Barrett will affect future evaluations of Ohio State, especially if the Buckeyes win an ugly and close Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin on Saturday night.

The Student Section editors discuss this plot complication, as Ohio State returns to Indianapolis with unfinished business to tend to.


How should the CFB Playoff Selection Committee evaluate Ohio State in light of the injury to J.T. Barrett, and how does this affect your opinion of how injuries should be assessed in general?

Terry Johnson:

On Twitter: @SectionTPJ

Fortunately, the Selection Committee has an easy job when it comes to evaluating Ohio State. All it has to do is watch the Big Ten Championship Game and make an informed decision.

Let’s be honest: Saturday’s game with Wisconsin will tell the committee – and the rest of the college football world – everything it needs to know about the Buckeyes. If the Cardale Jones-led offense moves the ball at will against the Badger defense – which ranks second nationally in fewest yards per game – it should be in the College Football Playoff. After all, a win over Wisconsin would make Ohio State 9-1 against bowl eligible opponents, with a 7-1 mark versus Power 5 bowl eligible teams.

On the other hand, if the offense sputters, Ohio State will lose to Wisconsin and this entire conversation becomes a moot point.

Bottom line: if the College Football Playoff is going to have any type of legitimacy, it must consider a team’s entire body of work. While injuries never help, it’s wrong to assume that a team will tank just because one of its top players got hurt. Remember, Kenny Guiton did an excellent job filling in for an injured Braxton Miller in each of the last two seasons. Given Urban Meyer’s track record of success with the “next man up” approach (e.g., Guiton for Braxton Miller, and Alex Smith for an injured Bret Elliot at Utah), the committee would be wise to wait until after Saturday’s contest before making any type of decision on the Buckeyes.

Urban Meyer's proven ability to adjust to injuries at the quarterback position dates back to his tenure at Utah. If anyone can get Ohio State's offense ready for a big game with a short turnaround time and lots of question marks in the equation, it's Meyer.

Urban Meyer’s proven ability to adjust to injuries at the quarterback position dates back to his tenure at Utah. If anyone can get Ohio State’s offense ready for a big game with a short turnaround time and lots of question marks in the equation, it’s Meyer.


Bart Doan:

On Twitter: @TheCoachBart

It depends on how you look at it. If Ohio State wins the Big Ten championship, the Buckeyes will have done it with their third string quarterback and, in this case, a guy not fully fit for the system the current coach recruits to. To me, that means it speaks to the overall talent of a team and coaching staff, which is what I’d assume we want in the playoff.

That said, injuries are an unfortunate part of sports, and they change the realistic goals of teams depending on who gets injured or how many happen to a team.

Take Ole Miss, for instance. Laquon Treadwell, an all-world wide receiver, went down against Auburn on a game-ending play for the most part, and Ole Miss struggled badly up until this last week. Did Ole Miss slide because one of its top players went down? Was it because of a crushing loss? All of that is impossible to calculate.

The Rebels came back this weekend and ripped Mississippi State at home. The reality with injuries is that any team with a really good coaching staff will find a way to overcome it, but will need time to do so.

J.T. Barrett being injured and out for the year should not be a death knell to Ohio State unless you have little faith in their coaching staff to develop an offense fit for the next guy in tow, which in this case is Cardale Jones, recruited by the previous staff.

From this vantage point, Urban Meyer and staff have earned the benefit of the doubt.


Matt Zemek:

On Twitter: @SectionMZ

Here’s the thing about Ohio State’s situation, which is not free of complications, but is simpler than you might think: If the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin, they will show the committee that they can overcome obstacles and shortcomings. A win itself would be the best statement Ohio State could make, and if the Buckeyes do in fact make that statement, well, they should be evaluated quite favorably. Just win, baby. That’s how Ohio State can address this injury situation.

In general, the way injuries should be evaluated is also simple, flowing from the above paragraph. If a team gets a chance to play without a key injured player, and said team shows — in living color — that it can perform well without that player, we have our answer, do we not? If a team deals well with an injury against a strong opponent, it shouldn’t get docked. If the team struggles and never shows that it can access a higher level of performance, then it should be docked.

The nuance here — when viewing the issue on a general level — is that in a bowl game, a team often has a chance to get healthy with four weeks off. This doesn’t apply to Barrett, but in general (speaking about this issue in broader terms without reference to any specific instance), if players are likely to return, the injury issue should recede from public view.

The bottom line is simple: If an injury-riddled team shows it can hang in there despite said injuries, don’t assign a penalty to that team. Wait to see if there’s a huge drop-off, especially if there are at least two or more games to choose from. Admittedly, Ohio State playing one and only one game in a post-Barrett context is the issue which could become very hard for the committee — or anyone debating this topic — to resolve on an intellectual level. We come back to the beginning: If Ohio State wins on Saturday night in Indianapolis, it will offer the best possible response to this injury-related question.


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