Ohio State Deals with Setbacks in Big Ten Title BidAdded - Nov. 27, 2014 - Comments
The Ohio State Buckeyes are in an interesting position right now, as it concerns the upcoming four-team college football playoff to determine the national champion. The top four teams listed are Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Florida State. Well, three of those teams are in very challenging conference championship games, and if one of them slips, there might be the opportunity for the Buckeyes to slide into one of the top four spots. But the question must be raised: in the state this team is now, are they really the #5 team in the nation? Perhaps not, since they have to turn to their third-string quarterback against the 13th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the conference title tilt, which takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday night.
First, let's give you some background. Braxton Miller, a two-time conference offensive player of the year, seemed a perfect fit for Urban Meyer's spread option offense, and was considered by some to be a genuine NFL prospect. But he injured his shoulder during fall practice and was declared out for the season. Certainly there was some panic among Ohio State fans, as freshman JT Barrett had to step in and take over. When this team lost to Virginia Tech, the season was considered lost by many observers of the NCAA football odds. But not only has Barrett grown into the job, he has excelled to the point where he was a very real Heisman Trophy contender. All told, Barrett accounted for 45 touchdowns, a conference record, and he almost certainly would have gotten over the 1000-yard mark in rushing. But he broke his right ankle, and now the Buckeyes have to turn to Cardale Jones, who has thrown only 17 passes this year.
How good is Jones? Well, he was in a legitimate competition with Barrett for the backup spot behind Miller, so he must have been impressive in drills. He's got a lot of size, and there is a certain "plug-and-play" quality to Meyer's offense, which is very system-oriented but at the same time requires great running ability and athleticism on the part of the quarterback. And this is not the ideal kind of indoctrination you want to have for a newcomer.
Wisconsin may not have had a rough schedule, but they have a punishing rushing attack, led by Melvin Gordon, who has 2260 yards to his credit (including 408 against Nebraska). As such, they can put points on the board, so the Ohio State offense, led by Jones, may have to "trade" here. This team has averaged 529 yards over its last ten games, so Jones has something rather lofty to live up to. And the Buckeyes will be playing this game with some heavy hearts, as it appears that walk-on defensive lineman Costa Karageorge took his own life this past week. Believe us when we tell you, if Ohio State makes it into the "final four," they will have earned it.