J.T. Barrett reminds doubters why he's a star and Ohio State's starting quarterback
Barrett proved he and the Buckeyes are capable of making major noise in Saturday's comeback win
When Ohio State was throttled by Oklahoma at home, I wrote that it was time for the Buckeyes to move on from J.T. Barrett. We had seen what he could do, and I determined it was not enough to put Ohio State in contention for a national championship. No one was surprised when Urban Meyer didn't flinch to defend his quarterback. Barrett remained the starter and unsurprisingly bounced back in a major way against suspect competition over the next five games.
That 5-0 run wasn't why Barrett retained his starting duties. Saturday, against No. 2 Penn State in a massive atmosphere with College Football Playoff consequences, we saw why Meyer didn't flinch and was so resolute in Barrett leading No. 6 Ohio State.
In a 39-38 win over the Nittany Lions, Barrett completed 33-of-39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns. He had 17 carries for 95 yards and answered the bell by making all the necessary plays with the game on the line.
The signature play of the afternoon came on the go-ahead scoring drive when Barrett stared down a blitzing defender and delivered a first-down strike to set up a game-winning score. The accurate throw completed -- despite the big blow from a rushing defender -- illustrated the toughness and winning demeanor Barrett showed all day long.
After Saturday, the Buckeyes are in the driver's seat to win the Big Ten, and that's always been the expectation. But did we get our answer on Barrett? Does he have Ohio State back in national title contention once again?
Most of Barrett's work was done in the intermediate passing game where the crossing routes and drags are so difficult to defend. His toughness in the run game was overpowering for Penn State. His precision throwing the ball was devastating. But was any of it new?
Perhaps it's the efficiency that was distinct from that team we saw on Sep. 9. New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has had some time to gel with his offensive pieces. The timing, rhythm and execution were there. The Buckeyes piled up 529 yards of offense and scored 39 points on college football's No. 1 scoring defense. There wasn't any panic when Penn State jumped out to a big lead or when Ohio State was looking at a two-score halftime deficit. There was calm and total confidence in the final two scoring drives to win the game.
Barrett has always been this guy. He just reminded us what he's capable of delivering: 13-of-13 passing in the fourth quarter with a couple of physical runs to grind out the clock on the final possession. These are reasons to love this Buckeye team with him under center.
But there are more tests yet to come.
Michigan, Michigan State and likely Wisconsin all have dominant defenses waiting for the Buckeyes. With a potential playoff birth, Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame or Clemson are all potentially lying in wait.
On Saturday, Barrett brought Ohio State back into national title contention, he validated his coach's decision to stick with him and inserted himself back into the Heisman Trophy conversation. There's a lot left to accomplish for Ohio State, but for the first time in a long time against a top-flight opponent, Barrett looked like a guy you can count on to deliver.
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