The Ohio State Buckeyes have their biggest game of the season on Saturday when the Michigan State Spartans come to town and J.T. Barrett needs to be at the top of his game. Otherwise, Ohio State’s chances of repeating as national chances could be dead in the water.
Look at it this way: Saturday’s game against Michigan State marks the first time this season that Ohio State has actually played a ranked opponent. After being criticized for having a light schedule all season long, the Buckeyes are finally being tested against a team that ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to offense and defense, but is 87th in defending the pass while 19th in stopping the run.
It just so happens that Barrett is excellent at both passing and running the ball. Though he was the team’s starter last season before breaking his ankle in the regular season finale, Barrett didn’t become the full-time starter until midseason in 2015 and still showed that he is a great runner on top of throwing the ball well.
In his collegiate career, he has completed 64. percent of his passes for 3,456 yards and has a touchdown-interception ratio of 42:13. On the ground, he has rushed for 1,341 yards on 229 carries for 19 touchdowns.
If Ezekiel Elliott can get his wheels going strong on top of a strong game from Barrett, Ohio State’s offense could look borderline unstoppable.
But the team’s offense starts and stops with Barrett, who completed 15 of 23 passes in a 28-3 win over Illinois last weekend but had just 150 yards with a touchdown and an interception. A lot of that can be attributed to Elliott having the hot hand, rushing for 181 yards and two scores on 27 carries, but what if the Spartans’ tough run defense turns Elliott into a non-factor? Barrett can’t be afraid to throw the ball and pick and pop Ohio State’s way to a victory.
That means that unlike most of the season, Ohio State’s offense needs to be aggressive.
It needs to go for a full-on offensive blowout, even if the defense struggles and the game turns into a shootout. The Buckeyes’ average margin of victory on the season is just under 23 points per game, and a lot of that can be attributed to a fairly weak schedule. Rather than let Elliott be the heart and soul of the offense in this game, establish the passing attack and get guys like Michael Thomas and even Braxton Miller get lots of touches. Make Jalin Marshall a big part of the game.
No matter how you look at it, Ohio State’s victory against Michigan State depends heavily on Barrett having a strong game. Elliott is all well and good, but it’s going to come down to the quarterback in this game.
Simply put, it’s time for Barrett to lead Ohio State to the national championship on the field this time and not let injury rob him of the experience, and that starts with beating Michigan State handily.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports