J.T. Barrett doesn’t spend much time on introspection. He’s not thinking about his last practice or his last game, which arrives at 8:30 p.m. Friday when the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes play No. 8 Southern California in the Cotton Bowl.
Reporters asked Barrett numerous philosophical questions Tuesday at the Omni Dallas Hotel, everything short of, “What is the meaning of life?” Barrett, for the most part, shot down those type of queries.
Ohio State’s fifth-year senior quarterback won’t look to the future this week or think much about the past — something that’s hard to avoid when film of the 2015 national championship game is playing on the big screen at AT&T Stadium as the team practices. He’s only thinking about the Trojans, or what he’s going to eat next or when he’s going to take his next nap.
“I think I’m just a different guy,” Barrett said.
However, when it comes to the big question of whether this season will be a success even if Ohio State loses the Cotton Bowl, Barrett has some candid thoughts.
“I think at Ohio State it’s very interesting what we see as success,” Barrett said. “At other places, when you go 11-3, it’s a really good year. At Ohio State, our expectations are really high. I remember when I first came in, it was very clear at Ohio State you win every game you play. It’s hard to do. We don’t shy away from the responsibility of playing at Ohio State. The guys who play understand the responsibility. That’s what you signed up for. You sign your name across the dotted line, and it doesn’t say it’s going to be easy. It’s hard to be an Ohio State player, but you embrace it and put yourself in the best position.”
The Buckeyes (11-2) seek their fifth 12-win season in coach Urban Meyer’s six seasons. The program won 12 games twice in the six seasons prior to Meyer’s arrival, though the addition of the Big Ten Championship game in 2011 has given the program extra opportunities to get to 12 wins.
The 2014 team won its 12th game in the Big Ten title game and then won two more in the playoffs. This team got to 11 victories by beating Wisconsin 27-21 on Dec. 2 in Indianapolis. Beating a top-10 team and getting to that magic number of 12 would leave no doubt about the success of this season, even if the Buckeyes were left out of the playoffs.
“Talking about if it’s a successful season or not, I’m not the one to do that,” Barrett told reporters. “I’m pretty sure some of you all (in the the media) are going to make that determination. I’m just focused on the Cotton Bowl and winning this game and trying to get prepared in order to do that.”
Barrett and his teammates know they have no control over what the fans think. Center Billy Price said no one should judge a team on whether it won the national championship. The 2014 Buckeyes set that standard by beating Alabama and Oregon in the playoffs. The 2016 Buckeyes got back to the playoffs, only to lose 31-0 to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.
This season is already a success, Price said, because the Buckeyes won the Big Ten championship. He didn’t wake up every day this season thinking about winning a national championship. He thought about the Big Ten championship because he has played against Big Ten teams for the last four years and takes pride in competing in the conference.
“Is it the overall goal every year to win a national championship? No,” Price said. “We start at Big Ten. Get in the Big Ten East. Win the Big Ten championship. Get the Big Ten and just dominate from there. Because you start playing your best football in November and December and let things take off.”
Ohio State vs. Southern California, 8:30 p.m., Dec. 29, ESPN, 1410