Well on the way to defeating Michigan last Saturday, the Ohio State Buckeyes suffered a blow that has major ramifications on the upcoming Big Ten Championship Game: freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett had to be carted off of the field with an apparently serious injury.
The news broke quickly: a broken ankle. Barrett’s season was done.
It was a heartbreaking diagnosis for a team that already had to endure the loss of another Heisman Trophy candidate – Braxton Miller – who was injured in the pre-season and as a result was held out the entirety of the 2014-15 campaign.
Without Miller returning to helm the Buckeye ship, many wrote Ohio State off. The Buckeyes responded by plugging in J.T. Barrett – a redshirt freshman.
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Despite some early growing pains, notably a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech at home in week two, the Buckeyes rebounded, reeling off 10 straight victories heading into this week’s contest.
While the Buckeyes were able to move on after losing one quarterback, it won’t be as easy this time around. Ohio State will turn to an unproven commodity as they prepare for the Big Ten Championship game.
Who takes over?
With Barrett sidelined the rest of the season, the Buckeyes will turn to sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones. Jones has taken snaps in seven of Ohio State’s 12 games this season, but hasn’t played many, if any, meaningful minutes.
Jones is 10-17 for 118 yards and a pair of scores through the air in 2014, and has added 26 carries for 206 yards.
No time for growing pains
As discussed earlier, Barrett had an excellent season, but it began with a rocky start. The young quarterback threw five interceptions over the first three games of the season – his first three games in uniform – including three interceptions in the loss to Virginia Tech.
Barrett eventually turned things around and had a Heisman-worthy season, finishing with 34 passing touchdowns and 11 rushing scores, breaking Drew Brees‘ college record of 42 total touchdowns in a single season (Barrett finished with 45).
While Barrett was able to use the non-conference slate to get into a rhythm with his offense, Jones won’t be afforded that luxury. In fact, he is thrown into the mix just one week prior to the biggest game of the season.
Jones will need to adjust – quickly. It’s that simple.
What to expect
Ohio State features a strong running game, and runs well from the quarterback position. Jones fits that mold, so expect Ohio State to run pretty much the same offense they usually do.
The Badgers should expect to see plenty of zone read looks, as Jones is an athletic quarterback, and at 6-5, 250-pounds, an imposing figure. Ohio State will likely hit the run hard early to try to suck the Badgers safeties near the line of scrimmage, opening up the passing game to make things easier on the young quarterback.
Barrett’s absence appears to be a big part of early lines favoring Wisconsin, as despite the Badgers own struggles at quarterback, Wisconsin has the edge in QB experience.
Regardless of the quarterback situation, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is one of the brightest minds in college football, so Wisconsin shouldn’t expect a free ride come the Big Ten Championship Game Saturday night.
Statistics courtesy ESPN.com.