The J.T. Barrett show returns to the spotlight this week. The No. 3 Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) hope it enjoys a 58-day run. That’s how many days fall between a noon game Saturday in Champaign, Ill., and the national championship game Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Monday he will start Barrett over Cardale Jones against Illinois if Barrett has a good week of practice. That’s qualification goes for every week, Meyer said, so expect Barrett to make his second start of the season.
“It’s never an easy call,” Meyer said. “I think it’s the right thing at this time.”
Barrett started against Rutgers on Oct. 24 but was suspended for the Minnesota game after being cited for operating a vehicle while impaired on Oct. 31 near campus.
“It’s a serious mistake by a kid that’s really lived most of his life mistake free,” Meyer said. “He’s human.”
“He accepted responsibility and wanted to move forward and was apologetic,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said.
Cardale Jones improved to 11-0 in his career as a starter with Ohio State’s 28-14 victory Saturday. He completed 12 of 22 passes for 187 yards with one touchdown pass. He also ran for a 38-yard touchdown. Meyer said Jones started slow and finished strong.
The performance by Jones underscored the fact that the offense runs better with Barrett. Even before he started at Rutgers, Barrett energized the offense in previous weeks when taking over for Jones in the red zone.
The Buckeyes need the offense in peak form with the biggest games of the season looming later this month against Michigan State and Michigan.
“I think the big thing is he’s a legitimate threat running the ball,” Ohio State left tackle Taylor Decker said. “He reads the read option very well. He pulls it when he needs to and he gives it when he needs to. In the red zone, teams just want to take away (Ezekiel Elliott), and J.T. scores. Not to take anything away from Cardale, but (Barrett) has an incredibly high football IQ. He just understands football and what to check to. The offense is just faster.”
Barrett rushed for 102 yards on 11 carries against Penn State. He replaced Jones in the third quarter in that game. The next week, Barrett gained 101 yards on 13 carries against Rutgers. Barrett averages 7.3 yards per carry. Elliott, by comparison, averages 6.4.
Jones gained 65 yards on 12 carries Saturday. His rushing numbers would have been better, but Minnesota sacked him four times and Jones lost 27 rushing yards.
“Cardale did nice job on (quarterback) draws,” Meyer said. “They were more slower, developing plays. J.T., as you look back at his history, he’s more quick hitting and a little more Braxton (Miller) style. It’s just a much different style of offense, but we have the ability to do both.”