Tag Archives: J.T. Barrett

Barrett a Good Bet for 2017 Heisman

The question has been asked as to whether Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is good enough to lead Ohio State to a national championship. I personally think the question is absurd considering there is no 2014 national title without the services of Barrett. However, a national championship for Ohio State is anything but a certainty, yet Ohio State fans can bank on Barrett being a part of the Heisman trophy conversation.

Barrett is currently listed as the second favorite at 6-1 odds and only trails Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield at 11-2 odds, according to Bovada Sportsbook. We all know Vegas isn’t stupid. Should Barrett find himself in New York as a Heisman finalist, I’d say Ohio State’s playoff chances and championship aspirations will be looking fairly solid.

It’s fair game to doubt Barrett, especially with how anemic the offense was in the latter portion of the 2016 season. Don’t get me wrong, Barrett was a no-show along with the rest of the offense in the embarrassment that was Ohio State’s CFP semifinal against eventual national champion Clemson. But that was Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer’s mess and he wasted little time in attempting to get it resolved with the hiring of former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator.

Normally, it would be difficult to expect improvement from a quarterback who holds just about every passing record at Ohio State, but being on the wrong end of a 31-0 shutout in the biggest game of the season will do that.

If there is any silver lining to the Clemson debacle, it’s that Ohio State has responded well to a Clemson beating before. It was only three years ago when the Tigers and former receiver Sammy Watkins torched Ohio State’s defense and made the secondary look anything but DBU. Meyer vowed that he would get the defense back on track just like he promised to fix the offense this time around. Ohio State rebounded from consecutive losses in the Big Ten title game and Orange Bowl in 2013 to winning the national championship in 2014.

Not a bad turnaround.

Getting back to Barrett, while I fully expect the soon-to-be fifth-year senior to have a championship-caliber final season in Columbus, both from an individual and team perspective, Barrett is not going to look like a future NFL quarterback out there because that’s not what he is. Sure, there is a place for Barrett in the NFL, but most likely not at quarterback. How many of Meyer’s former quarterbacks were stud passers? Other than current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, can you even name another one? And Smith is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s greatest “game managers” Chris Leak or Tim Tebow? Please.

It’s Meyer’s system, not the quarterback that drives the bus, but Meyer needs the right quarterback and the right coordinator for the necessary results and Ohio State now possesses both with Wilson now aboard.

Former Heisman winner Sam Bradford landed college football’s most coveted award at Oklahoma in 2008, where it was Wilson in control of that powerhouse Sooner offense. The Ohio State offense was never the same after former offensive coordinator and current Texas head coach Tom Herman left for Houston, but the addition of Wilson is the next best thing to getting Herman back.

Meyer doesn’t recruit quarterbacks that can’t get the job done, especially after almost three seasons. He recruits guys that can win football games in his system and the stats come as a byproduct of that. Is Meyer loyal to his players? Of course he is, but I can guarantee you that he isn’t starting Barrett for almost four years if he doesn’t think he can win a national championship.

The two Heisman frontrunners, Mayfield and Barrett according to Bovada, square off in a rematch in the Horseshoe in September. Even with a solid two months left in the season at the game’s conclusion, it is a matchup that will not only have playoff implications, but it could ultimately decide the Heisman.

With Barrett returning for one final season, the current state of the quarterback position at Ohio State is status quo. Whether it’s a conference title, national championship or Heisman Trophy, they’re all within reach with Barrett under center.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

Photo by Flickr

Is J.T. Barrett Good Enough to Win the Buckeyes a National Championship?

When you’re playing for Ohio State, being simply “good” is not enough. The expectations are to be great, and win national championships. With that being said, does J.T. Barrett truly have what it takes to lead the Buckeyes back to a national championship?

Barrett will leave Columbus owning most, if not every quarterback record in the Ohio State record book, but after the Ohio State offense failed to score a single point during its national semifinal game against Clemson, one has to wonder if the two-time Big Ten quarterback of the year can take his team where it expects to go.

It’s a conversation that will most likely take place all off-season, with Barrett deciding to return next season as a redshirt senior.  If you were to look strictly at the numbers, one could say Ohio State was equipped with one of the better returning quarterbacks in the country.

Barrett truly was one the nation’s best during his redshirt freshman season, (his first as a starter) completing a career best 64.6% of his passes, throwing for 2,834 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. A stat that was very underrated during that season, was the fact that Barrett averaged 9.0 yards a pass attempt, also a career high to this point. The yards per attempt stat shows how effective Barrett was getting the ball down the field during that season, and gives you some hope that with Kevin Wilson taking over, J.T. can once again play at that high level.

The biggest difference between the play of Barrett during that 2014 season and the two seasons that followed in the eyes of most, is the fact that Barrett was under the tutelage of new Texas head coach Tom Herman. Herman has quickly become one of the better offense minds in college football over the past few seasons, and many believe he was a big reason J.T. Barrett, as well as Cardale Jones, played so well during 2014.

The two seasons after saw Barrett splitting time with the aforementioned Jones during 2015, and having a pretty good 2016 regular season only to have everything crash and burn on offense against Clemson in the playoff.

Barrett threw for 2,555 yards during the 2016 campaign with 24 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. He also added 845 yards rushing and 9 more touchdowns on the ground. A big difference from Barrett’s 2014 season is that during the 2016 season he averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt. Sure, a 2.3 yards per attempt dip doesn’t seem like much, but it shows the issues the Buckeyes had stretching the field and getting chunk plays. There are plenty of schools who would love to have a quarterback with those numbers, but at Ohio State expectations are a little different.

Yes, with a 26-4 career record as a starter and a 3-0 record against archrival Michigan, maybe Buckeye faithful should have a little more faith in the quarterback who has accounted for more total touchdowns that any player in Ohio State history. But those numbers are irrelevant if they aren’t accompanied by playoff wins and national championships.

Top-rated 2016 Under Armor All-American Dwayne Haskins has a chance to be a great player for Ohio State one day, and with his upside, a good off-season and more shaky play from Barrett could see the ultra-talented Haskins get his number called sooner rather than later. If Haskins can do the job just as good or better than Barrett and has more upside for the future, why not make his time now?

Whether he has been affected by poor coaching, (which has been addressed in the form of hiring a new offensive mind in Kevin Wilson) way below average play at receiver, or simply the fact that he hasn’t improved from year to year, Barrett will definitely feel the pressure to perform this upcoming season.

E-mail Derek at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @D_woods21.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Ohio State in Great Shape With Wilson On-Board

Now that Ohio State’s debacle in the desert in the 2016 College Football Playoff against eventual-national champion Clemson is finally in the rear-view mirror, the 2017 season can’t come soon enough.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer hinted at possible changes after the Buckeyes were shutout for the first time in 23 years. With co-offensive coordinators Ed Warinner and Tim Beck out, you can expect a new identity from the Ohio State offense in 2017. The hiring of former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson and San Francisco 49ers assistant Ryan Day should undoubtedly upstart the offense and establish an identity right away, which is something the 2016 unit sorely lacked by season’s end.

What will be Ohio State’s identity in 2017?

Scoring points.

Ohio State fans should be excited about Wilson’s arrival. This guy made Indiana’s offense more than formidable. Indiana. Imagine what he can do with a bunch of Meyer-recruits destined for the NFL.

With Noah Brown and Curtis Samuel declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft, Wilson will be without the services of Ohio State’s No. 1 receiver and most explosive offensive weapon from 2016, respectively. As is the case every year for Ohio State, it’s next man up once again. The return of quarterback J.T. Barrett and running back Mike Weber, who compiled 1096 yards as a true freshman, will bring much-needed stability for Wilson and the offense next season.

I don’t think it’s even a question that the offense is in good hands with Wilson. Not only did Wilson succeed at Indiana, he turned Oklahoma into the offensive juggernaut it is today while with the Sooners from 2002-2010. Going 6-6 at Indiana is like being undefeated at Ohio State. The Hoosiers weren’t bowl-eligible very often prior to Wilson’s arrival in Bloomington and it started to become the norm before he was relieved of his duties due to reports of mistreating players.

When Oklahoma returned to national prominence after winning the national championship in 2001, it was the defense that carried the team. Wilson arrived in Norman the following year as co-offensive coordinator and was promoted to OC in 2006. Oklahoma boasts one of the top offenses in the country and it was Wilson who got the ball rolling during his tenure.

So, with all of that said, is Wilson going to be able to resolve Barrett’s passing deficiencies? There is no arguing that Barrett’s passing game requires serious improvement and regressed as the 2016 season went on. That’s probably the understatement of the century. However, Wilson working with a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year should be fun to watch. Barrett’s only the Ohio State record-holder for touchdowns responsible for, so the criticism has been a bit farfetched.

By the way, the Ohio State 2017 recruiting class is widely recognized as the second-ranked incoming class in the nation behind Alabama, so that never hurts.

Meyer said that the Buckeyes’ playoff performance in the Fiesta Bowl would never happen again and that he was going to get the offense fixed, specifically the passing game. Meyer has three titles for a reason. He assembles one of the best coaching staffs in the country routinely and the addition of Wilson is no different. Don’t be surprised if Barrett makes a return to the Heisman conversation next season.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

Photo by Fenstermacher Photography

College Football Playoff Preview: Fiesta Bowl

The nightcap of the New Year’s Eve bowl schedule is the second College Football Playoff semifinal. This game is a closer matchup, in most people’s minds, than Alabama-Washington. They have good reason to think that, too. Both the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Clemson Tigers have been incredibly good teams this season. Though neither was helmed by the “true” Heisman hopefuls I thought they would be, both teams turned in great resumes. This game will take place at the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona, which gives the home field advantage to…neither, I guess? Ohio State fans travel so well, so there may be a few more of them, but I expect the crowd to be about even. The game is sponsored by PlayStation, who should take this as an opportunity to MAKE ANOTHER COLLEGE FOOTBALL VIDEO GAME. I mean, come on guys, haven’t we suffered enough?

I digress. Let’s stop worrying about corporate sponsors and instead look at the matchup. While both teams have highly competent defenses, both Ohio State and Clemson are highlighted by their offensive abilities. This should be a high-scoring affair. Both teams can score in so many ways that it will really be a contest of which defense can get the most stops. J.T. Barrett and Deshawn Watson may make a few mistakes, but both should play well in their final college football game.

In terms of defenses, I think, looking at the body of work, the Buckeyes have the slight advantage. Overall, it seems that the Buckeyes defense has done a better job that the Tigers in keeping high quality opponents from scoring points in bunches. This fact could just give Ohio State the slight edge in this matchup.

Ohio State and Clemson are going to trade punches throughout the night as we get closer and closer to 2017. If the game is as much as an offensive battle as I think it will be, it may in fact mess with some people’s New Year’s plans, to a degree. I think both teams will play great throughout the night, and even if one team gets up by a few possessions, the high-powered offenses mean that it will still always be a game. However, I think near the end of the game, Ohio State is going to get the few stops it needs to seal the deal and move on to the College Football Playoff National Championship.

 

Final Score: Ohio State Buckeyes 52, Clemson Tigers 42

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Is the Big Ten Better Than the SEC Right Now?

It’s the age-old question that college football fans from the North and South love to quibble over because who doesn’t want to have bragging rights that their conference is undisputedly, top-to-bottom the best college football has to offer? Some say it’s still the SEC because Alabama won the national title this past season and is in prime position to claim it again in January. They also point to the depth and competitive balance of the conference and say its teams as a collective whole are a better product. At least they don’t have Rutgers or Maryland. Sigh. Fair enough.

However, others believe there’s been a shift in conference supremacy and that the Big Ten has surpassed the SEC with its coaching and quarterbacks.

Back in 2010, Auburn became the fourth SEC school to win a national title in five seasons and the league featured five national championship-winning coaches in Nick Saban, Les Miles, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier and Gene Chizik. In addition, James Franklin arrived at Vanderbilt, Mark Richt had won two league titles at Georgia and Bobby Petrino led a solid Arkansas program. Fast forward to the end of the 2016 season. Out of those eight coaches, Saban is the only one who remains and the SEC athletic directors have replaced those championship-caliber coaches with unproven leaders who have struggled.

Now, it’s the Big Ten that’s filled with solid coaching commodities, from Meyer building a powerhouse at Ohio State to Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, Paul Chryst at Wisconsin, and Franklin at Penn State. Moreover, Mark Dantonio, Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald have been fixtures of stability at their respective programs. And don’t forget in the only regular Big Ten-SEC matchup this season, even with lesser talent and by far, much less expectations, Wisconsin led by Chryst in just his second year, outcoached an LSU team that had national title aspirations and was headed by the SEC’s second-best coach, Les Miles.

In terms of quarterbacks, I think it’s safe to say this year, the Big Ten’s signal callers were better. While he wasn’t Heisman Trophy-caliber worthy as once expected, J.T. Barrett was still really solid, as well as Trace McSorley, Wilton Speight and Clayton Thorson. However, for the SEC, with its consistent misses under center, more of its teams have been searching for the easy fix, courting junior college players and graduate transfers hoping to get a Russell Wilson. But instead, they’ve found John Franklin III and Greyson Lambert. The number of transfers being used at SEC schools is incredible. I find it even more ironic that the SEC gets all the high-profile, five-star quarterback recruits and are using Purdue rejects at flagship schools. Danny Etling won the LSU job and Austin Appleby guided Florida.

There are valid points to the argument the Big Ten is better than the SEC, and depending on how you look at it, the conference just may be better. But as much as it pains me to say it as I’m a staunch Big Ten supporter, I find it hard to make an argument that our conference is clearly above-and-beyond better than the SEC. Right now while there is more parity in the Big Ten at the top and it has more high-ranked teams than the SEC with four teams finishing in the top eight of the final College Football Playoff rankings, the bottom half of the conference really brings down the Big Ten compared to the SEC and hurts the Big Ten’s depth.

Bottom line is the SEC as of today owns the national title and to me, it’s all about the hardware. Could that change in a few weeks? Absolutely. But as for now, as of today, I’d give the edge to the SEC…just barely.

E-mail Mike at  or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The College Football Playoff is a Familiar Place for Ohio State

It’s no secret that Ohio State is faced with a daunting task in its quest to become the first two-time national champions of the playoff era. Defeat last year’s national runner-up in Clemson and barring a major upset by Washington, once again dethrone the dynasty that is Alabama football, that’s all.

However, Ohio State fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The 2016 Buckeyes enter the playoff with a similar feel to the 2014 squad that ultimately secured the inaugural CFP national title. No, Ohio State will not be starting a third-string quarterback and the Buckeyes are not riding the momentum of a 59-0 scarring in the conference championship game. In fact, there wasn’t even a Big Ten title game appearance, thanks to Penn State. Regardless, Ohio State enters the four-team field once again, ahead of schedule.

Just like in 2014, this team wasn’t supposed to make it here. Ohio State never lost starting quarterback  J.T. Barrett or even backup Joe Burrow to season-ending injuries at any point, but the Buckeyes were forced to replace 16 starters due to last season’s talent exodus. Obviously, the cupboard wasn’t bare. A 10-2 season was widely considered a best-case expectation for this group. Young or not, the Buckeyes are one of the four best teams in the country for a reason.

The notion that Clemson’s hunger for a rematch with Alabama in the national championship game outweighs Ohio State’s youth and lack of experience in the playoff setting is a bit farfetched. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has absolutely thrived with young teams his entire career and this time around shouldn’t be any different.

The majority of Ohio State’s roster may not possess experience in the playoff, but the Buckeyes certainly come in with a chip on their shoulder and plenty of motivation, just like in 2014. Two years ago, it was Ohio State that had to prove it belonged in the playoff when TCU was checked out of the top-four, even with a blowout victory over an inferior opponent in Iowa State. There was plenty of controversy surrounding Ohio State’s inclusion to the playoff and the Buckeyes certainly backed it up with a national title.

There was no shortage of controversy when Ohio State finished at No. 3 in the playoff ranking a couple weeks ago. The Buckeyes managed to get the nod over Penn State because of having just one loss and a more impressive resume, even though the Nittany Lions defeated Ohio State earlier this season and were the Big Ten champions. Ohio State proved to be the best of the group in 2014, so why can’t they do it again?

The 2016 Buckeyes were dealt a mysterious loss, which was also the case in 2014 and that alone should make Buckeye Nation feel very comforting heading into the playoff. Whether Meyer was at Florida or in his current position at Ohio State, the three-time national championship coach has never secured college football gold in an undefeated season. Two years ago, it was Virginia Tech that entered the Horseshoe under the lights in early September and unleashed their will on Ohio State.

This year, it was the collapse in Happy Valley that resulted in Ohio State’s lone blemish. Although the loss to Penn State doesn’t look so bad now, it was pretty mindboggling to see the Buckeyes lose as three-touchdown favorites to a team that was defeated 49-7 by that team up north, especially in such fluky fashion.

Want another reason to feel confident? Ohio State will be playing Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, which can be referred to as the Horseshoe of the west. Over the last 14 years, whether the location was Tempe or Glendale, the Buckeyes have won four Fiesta Bowl’s, including the 2002 national championship.

In light of the holiday season, Meyer is certainly a gift that keeps on giving and the 2016 regular season was surely a Meyer-like blueprint for the Buckeyes to make another legitimate run at a second national title in three years. After all, who’s got it better than Ohio State?

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo by Paula R. Lively

Barrett Gets His Opportunity to Finish the Job

Ohio State is back in the playoff after a one-year hiatus, but this time it will be quarterback J.T. Barrett leading the Buckeyes in their Fiesta Bowl matchup with Clemson and possibly beyond.

We all remember that it was Cardale Jones, filling in for an injured Barrett, who forever became a Buckeye legend in 2014 by delivering both a Big Ten title and national championship to Columbus for the first time in 12 years. It was the “12 Gauge” cannon that stretched opposing defenses, including the vaunted Alabama defense en route to the title. Jones stepped into the national spotlight at the perfect time because Ohio State probably doesn’t win a national championship without their newly formed aerial assault.

But this time, Barrett gets the opportunity to finish what he started. At times, Barrett has been criticized for his inconsistency to throw the football down the field with accuracy and the Ohio State passing game as a whole has been lackluster at best for the latter portion of the 2016 season.

As dominant as the Silver Bullet defense, we know both Clemson and Alabama are going to score their fair share of points against the Buckeyes. No, Washington doesn’t possess a chance to knock off the Crimson Tide and if Ohio State is fortunate enough to get by Clemson, it will be another Urban Meyer vs. Nick Saban matchup, but this time for the national championship.

We can’t expect first-team All-American safety Malik Hooker and the defense to put up a score or two every game, especially against top-notch opponents. Barrett’s passing game will need to evolve in the coming weeks if the Buckeyes are to have a chance at claiming a second national title in three years.

It’s hard to find a fault in Barrett’s game when he is the all-time record holder at Ohio State for touchdowns responsible for. Barrett has used his arm successfully in big games before. Barrett and receiver Noah Brown tore apart the Oklahoma defense early in the season, connecting four different times for touchdowns. The Oklahoma victory is also the sole reason that Ohio State is a member of this year’s playoff. In Ohio State’s memorable 49-37 victory at Michigan State in 2014, which put the Buckeyes back in the national title chase, Barrett was 16/26 for 300 yards with three touchdown passes.

Say what you want about Barrett, but the guy is a flat-out winner. He makes the necessary plays when the game is on the line, whether it’s with his legs or his arm and the Buckeyes win almost every time. In Barrett’s three career losses, the signal-caller could hardly be considered at-fault.

In just his second career game, Barrett and Ohio State got their doors blown off by Virginia Tech early in the 2014 season. Barrett was a sitting duck in the backfield due to some of the most porous offensive line play you will ever see. Barrett could hardly be blamed for the debacle that occurred in the Horseshoe that night.

When it comes to the Michigan State game last year that cost Ohio State a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and ultimately the playoff, the ultra-conservative approach by the coaching staff cannot be attributed to Barrett. As for Penn State earlier this season, all I will say about that is Barrett doesn’t play on special teams.

There is not a doubt in my mind that if Barrett needs to throw for over 300 yards to win a playoff game, he will do it. You play to your strength and Ohio State thrives at dictating their brand of football. Win or lose going forward, Barrett will do his part.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo: Flickr/dviscione

Thankful Ohio State Is In The College Football Playoff

After an epic 38-31 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, it was a foregone conclusion in my mind that the Penn State Nittany Lions were headed to the College Football Playoffs. After all, they were the only team to defeat Ohio State, fluke or not and just added a conference title so I was initially shocked when the playoff committee decided to choose the Buckeyes over Penn State. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked their selection of the Silver Bullets and as the title obviously suggests, I am thankful the committee put them in the field.

If you’re still saying, this is completely unfair, I hear you. I agree with my fellow colleague, Tim Bach, it’s  unfair in every way and I’d be pissed off if I was a Penn State fan.  As a Wisconsin fan, I hate the Buckeyes but I take pride in my conference and as a Big Ten fan, I admit that Ohio State gives us the best chance at a national title for the second time in three years.

Think about it. As hot as Penn State has been, is there anyone out there who believes the Nittany Lions can stand next to Alabama and knock them off? I certainly don’t believe so and I‘d be hard pressed to find anyone else who does. However, the Buckeyes are the team in my opinion that poses the biggest threat to the Crimson Tide.

Now I know what you might be saying. Hasn’t J.T. Barrett struggled as of late (86 yards versus Michigan State, 124 yards versus Michigan) and inconsistent passing been a problem this whole season? Shouldn’t an offensive line as talented as theirs be better in protection (59th, 25 sacks allowed) and be more disciplined (64th in fewest penalties allowed)? Didn’t this team lose to Penn State, barely beat the Spartans and need two overtimes to defeat Michigan? Isn’t this team very young and inexperienced?

I concede that all those points are accurate but you have to admit, though this team has faced adversity, they still have come out on top even when nothing has gone right. It’s dangerous to live on the edge but there is something to be said about a battle-tested team that can make crucial plays in crunch-time.

Remember in 2014, the Buckeyes had a very young roster with a loss to Virginia Tech but still crashed the College Football Playoff and came away with the title over the favored Crimson Tide.

Another point to keep in mind is unlike 2014, this isn’t uncharted territory for head coach Urban Meyer and it’s intimidating to think what kind of game plan he devises given nearly a month to prepare. Next to Nick Saban, he has one of the brightest minds in the game.

Before Alabama, however, the Buckeyes need to take care of business against a highly motivated Clemson team. Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson showed little signs of wear-and-tear from last season as his stats are practically identical but even so, only two quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions than his 15, which plays right into the strength of this Ohio State team. The stingy, ball-hawking secondary nabbed 19 interceptions and their pass efficiency defense (91.43 rating for opposing quarterbacks) leads the nation.

On the other hand, the way to hurt the Buckeyes is to pressure Barrett and Clemson features a fearsome defensive line led by Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, and ACC defensive rookie of the year Dexter Lawrence that can dominate Ohio State’s porous offensive line.

I believe it will be a closely contested game and both defenses will force each quarterback to throw the ball so it comes down to who’s more efficient and less turnover prone. In my mind, I’d have to lean towards the Buckeyes as they hold onto win 31-28.

So how does Ohio State defeat the Crimson Tide?

Besides the aforementioned prowess of Meyer and the strong defense, the Buckeyes have a dual-threat signal caller in Barrett and Alabama’s defense struggled against other mobile quarterbacks like Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Clemson’s Watson in 2015.

In addition, if Ohio State can limit its mistakes, apply pressure on true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, sustain long drives and score before the Crimson Tide can answer, they have a shot at dethroning the champions.

In the end, I think that Alabama still wins the national title in a surprisingly close game, 30-23. Remember I didn’t say Ohio State would win but gave our conference the best chance and I’d rather lose by seven points than get blown out and humiliated.

Yes, it’s unfair but the committee did our conference a huge favor and for that I’m thankful.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Meyer-Harbaugh II, Ohio State Will Not Disappoint

It’s finally Michigan week.

Throw the records out and forget about whether Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh have closed the talent gap on Ohio State. It’s going to be a battle for the ages on Saturday and will serve as the centerpiece for the 2016 edition of the college football playoff.

The new AP poll has been released and includes three Big Ten teams in the top-five for the first time since 1960. Wisconsin is listed at No. 5 with Ohio State and Michigan slotted at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

The 113th chapter of The Game clearly has everything on the line and is probably the most pivotal matchup between the storied rivals since their 2006 clash. Ohio State and Michigan were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 and it was a virtual play-in game into the BCS national title game. However, we are now in an era where a postseason playoff exists, so this Ohio State/Michigan game is as good as it gets and the stakes surely don’t get any bigger than this.

The Buckeyes are coming off a nail biting 17-16 victory over Michigan State. I’ve always said that Ohio State is a team that is built for overtime, but head coach Urban Meyer may want to thank Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio later for his failed two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter. At the end of the day, Michigan State has always been a thorn in the side for Ohio State and coach Meyer, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the Spartans presented the Buckeyes quite a challenge, even in a down year.

Michigan State has interrupted and quite possibly prevented three separate national championship seasons for Ohio State (1998, 2013, 2015). In any case, the Buckeyes got through it and in November, you’ll take a win any way you can get it. Ohio State can now return home and think about nothing except that team up north.

Should we be worried about what would be a devastating loss to the Wolverines? Michigan can’t truly declare itself “back” until they beat Ohio State, especially when the stakes are at a level such as this. Whether we want to admit it or not, Michigan is going to win one of these games sooner rather than later, but it’s not going to be this year in the Horseshoe with a playoff spot on the line. No, not with Meyer in the scarlet and gray’s corner. Michigan is not Michigan State and let’s remember that in the championship department, it still reads Meyer 3-0 over Harbaugh.

As for the game itself, is Michigan backup quarterback John O’Korn going to deliver a victory on the road if starter Wilton Speight is unable to play? Boy, doesn’t that sound familiar to Ohio State fans. Cardale Jones worked out, O’Korn will not. I know it was a snow-covered field in less-than desirable conditions in Michigan’s victory over Indiana, but 7/16 for 59 yards just isn’t going to cut it. Something tells me that Speight will find a way to play Saturday because if not, it will be tough for the Wolverines to do much offensively.

Regardless of who lines up under center for Michigan, the Silver Bullets will be ready. When it comes to the Buckeyes offensively, quarterback J.T. Barrett and the combination of Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel should be tough to defend, even for Michigan’s stout defense. Weber is now over 1000 yards on the season as a redshirt freshman and we know Samuel can deliver a house-call any time he touches the football. Most importantly, I like Ohio State’s chances strictly because of Barrett’s experience.

This isn’t going to be Barrett’s first Ohio State/Michigan game like it will be for either Speight or O’Korn. It really does give the Buckeyes the advantage. Now, there have been plenty of times where experience proved to be irrelevant in the rivalry. Former Buckeye Craig Krenzel sure didn’t have a problem delivering a victory in Ann Arbor back in 2001, the day the rivalry swung in Ohio State’s favor. However, with young cats all over the field in their first experience of The Game, Barrett has been here before and should be able to put Ohio State over the top.

This is a game where legends are made and regardless of anything that has happened up to this point in the season, we can be sure that The Game will live up to its billing as it so often does. As it should be, it’s now a one-game season.

Maybe the third try will be the charm for Harbaugh and Michigan in 2017 because this time around, Barrett and the Buckeyes earn a spot in the playoff and provide more happy times in Columbus. Ohio State wins 27-23 with a goal line stand to preserve the victory. Everyone have a happy Thanksgiving!

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo by Paul Kruse

Baby Buckeyes Growing Up Fast

The Ohio State Buckeyes were a dominating force in September and then the usual growing pains took over for what is one of the youngest teams in the nation. If Ohio State entered the Nebraska game as pre-teens, they left Ohio Stadium Saturday night as full-fledged adults. What a difference a week makes. It was just last week that Ohio State squeaked by Northwestern and preserved a 24-20 victory on its final drive. The offense had looked anything but explosive over the last month and we all wondered if the Buckeyes could get back to playing an elite brand of football.

And then Nebraska came to town.

If Ohio State’s 62-3 thrashing of Nebraska didn’t send shock waves through the college football universe, I’m not sure what will. Ohio State was a sleeping giant in October that just decided to take a little cat nap with all of its youth. Now, the Buckeyes are starting to grow up real fast. It’s perfect timing with road games at Maryland and Michigan State prior to an epic showdown with that team up north for a spot in the Big Ten title game and most likely a playoff berth.

Save it, Penn State fans. You’ve had a nice season and should see the Nittany Lions in a quality bowl game, but there will be no trip to Indianapolis this year. Michigan loves beating up on bad Big Ten teams so don’t think the Wolverines will be on upset alert come this Saturday. Iowa certainly qualifies as one of those.

For one Saturday night in the Horseshoe, Nebraska was the Wisconsin of 2014 that got blitzed by Ohio State 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game. How coincidental that the Buckeyes happened to record another 59-point victory in an effort that will surely impress the playoff committee. At least for Nebraska, it was a lot closer than that 62-3 score. Okay, not really.

When Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. suffered what looked to be a frightening injury midway through the second quarter, Ohio State already had the game won in convincing fashion. I’m sure that Armstrong could have put up a few more points on the board had he been able to play a full game, however, Nebraska was overmatched from the start.

Not only was Ohio State’s resurgence to the elite of college football the most impressive showing of the weekend, it may have been a statement that the Buckeyes could be the only team in the country that is capable of knocking off Alabama. We all remember who defeated the Crimson Tide in the playoff semifinals of 2014. Ohio State has done it before so why not?

Alabama has lost just six games over the last five years and they have all been against dual-threat quarterbacks in a spread offense. Personally, I don’t think teams like Michigan or Washington would stand a chance. Michigan’s pro-style offense would be an inviting matchup for Alabama any day of the week. Washington won’t see an opponent that is even half the caliber of Alabama and the Huskies would get exposed mightily. I would give undefeated Clemson a fighting chance. The Tigers did come close in the national title game last year, but Clemson isn’t operating at the level it was in 2015.

Ohio State is the only team that can beat Alabama at its own game. The Buckeyes have coach Urban Meyer, quarterback J.T. Barrett and the necessary talent to defeat the Crimson Tide in postseason play not once, but twice.

However, first things first. Ohio State needs to stay sharp in a couple of road tune-up contests before The Game returns to Columbus in three weeks. Meyer and company haven’t accomplished anything if they don’t finish the regular season strong, but Saturday’s performance surely put Ohio State back on the map. Nothing has changed in terms of Ohio State’s chances to wind up in Indianapolis or be included as one of the four playoff participants, but now the Buckeyes finally look the part.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo by Nik Bronder

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