Sports Today: J.T. Barrett’s legacy in focus, key to Ohio State’s success this fall

After a weekend spent mostly off the grid, I’m in catch-up mode this morning. 

I missed the Bengals’ first preseason game, but my biggest takeaways from Jay Morrison’s takeaways were that new defensive ends Chris Smith and Jordan Willis has nice games and the offensive line wasn’t bad. 

The ability of those guys — not to mention running back Joe Mixon — to carry over what they were showing in practice to a game is obviously noteworthy. 

RELATED: Surprise star keys Bengals win over Tampa Bay5 things to know about the game 

Later today, we’ll get to talk to Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and at least some of his quarterbacks. 

J.T. Barrett is back for his fifth season in scarlet and gray, and he is in line to smash most of the OSU quarterback records he doesn’t already hold. 

RELATED: Ohio State quarterback history 

He already bucked recent trends when he actually made it through his third season as a starter for the Buckeyes, though he has seemed to add more detractors than admirers in the past 12 months. 

I’m sure there will be questions about whether or not he can go down as the best Buckeye quarterback ever, and the answer is yes. That is on the table. 

It will take more than stats, though. In my view, winning the national championship is a must. So is winning the Heisman Trophy. 

Is that a high standard? Yes, but that’s what it will take to surpass Ohio State’s biggest winner (Rex Kern) and its best individual (Troy Smith). 

Regardless, this will be a fascinating season for Barrett and the OSU offense with new coordinator Kevin Wilson brought in to reboot an attack that had gone stale over the past two years. 

Barrett bears some blame for the inconsistency of the offense, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much. 

RELATED: Coaching won’t hold back Ohio State offense this season

There’s no doubt he failed to execute some throws that could have given some games a different complexion, a surprise given how coolly he operated the offense for most of 2014. 

That first season as a starter he was sharper as a passer and most importantly in his decision-making. That’s inevitably going to be tied back to coaching since he had someone new (Tim Beck) in his ear in ’15 and ’16. 

And if Barrett hasn’t always had full confidence in his supporting cast the past two years, well, that’s understandable, too. 

I often go back to the puzzling game plans playing a large role in the overall funk of the offense. 

If Wilson and new quarterbacks coach Ryan Day can make sure the plan of attack is more consistently aligned, Barrett should be able to play with a clearer mind. 

Then it will be a matter of seeing what he can do — again… 

Speaking of flawed plans, I almost forgot the Big 12 (a.k.a. the AAC Plus) is bringing back its conference championship game this season. 

The people who run that league apparently forgot the game frequently brought disastrous results for the conference when its best team would be knocked out of national title contention because it had to play an extra game against an inferior opponent. 

That’s not the best part this time, though. 

Sometimes, as was the case for Ohio State in 2014, the conference title game actually matches two worthy opponents. Sometimes it can offer the chance to enhance a resume, as it did for a Buckeyes squad really in need of a second high-quality win (something No. 11 Wisconsin provided). 

That can’t happen for the Big 12, though, because they are going to keep playing a round-robin schedule. That means the conference title game will be a rematch, which is wildly unfair to the team that won the first game and inevitably raises the odds the league could miss the College Football Playoff again. 

Ironically, this ridiculous decision stems from the fallout of 2014, when Ohio State greatly enhanced its resume on the last day of the season and the teams in contention from the Big 12 did not. That was more a matter of coincidence than anything because they had simply already played their toughest opponents. 

So when all was said and done, the Buckeyes looked better on paper than TCU or Baylor, and Urban Meyer’s team got the nod for the playoff. 

The so-called “13th data point” was huge for OSU that year, but every season and situation is different. 

For example, it didn’t seem to help Penn State at all last season — or at least not enough to get the Nittany Lions into the playoff… 

On the local recruiting front, Fairfield five-star offensive lineman Jackson Carman continues to be a high priority for Ohio State — not to mention other powerhouses like Clemson and USC. 

Apparently, that won’t change any time soon. 

He told Bill Greene of he plans to take official visits to Ohio State, Clemson, USC, Florida State and Wisconsin this fall then enroll early at whatever school wins his signature. 

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