What Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was tasked with at the beginning of the season seemed downright Herculean. After Heisman Trophy hopeful Braxton Miller went down with an injury, Barrett was asked to step in and lead a potent Buckeyes’ offense. Entering Saturday, he had not only thrived, but also carried his team to the brink of an improbable College Football Playoff bid.
In one play it was all wiped away, like some sort of cruel football Etch A Sketch. The redshirt freshman from Wichita Falls, Texas, was injured on the first snap of the fourth quarter in Ohio State’s 42-28 win over Michigan on Saturday afternoon.
Ohio State’s postseason hopes were undoubtedly tied to Barrett, who was carted off the field after lying crumpled beneath a Michigan defender following a run for no gain. He was given an inflatable cast and clapped his hands in frustration as the cart headed for the tunnel. The school later announced the injury was a right ankle fracture. Barrett will have surgery on Sunday and is out for the rest of the season.
Backup quarterback Cardale Jones came in with Ohio State leading 28-21, and stars Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa promptly put the game away. Elliott dashed for a 44-yard score, while Bosa forced a Devin Gardner fumble that Darron Lee recovered and ran back for a touchdown.
Before the injury Barrett was having another signature game in a year filled with them. He broke former Purdue standout Drew Brees’ Big Ten record for total touchdowns (43) in a single season on six-yard toss to Nick Vannett in the first quarter. He scampered 25 yards to tie the score at 14 with seven seconds left in the first half. He hit Devin Smith for a 52-yard gain on the opening sequence of the third quarter, and he scored a two-yard rushing touchdown on the next play.
On ESPN’s College GameDay this morning quarterback guru George Whitfield said Notre Dame’s Everett Golson often tries to be Superman when the team needs him to be Clark Kent. Barrett is the opposite. He had no problem being Kent, and his remarkable consistency is the primary reason the Buckeyes are sitting at 11-1.
This costly win over Michigan doesn’t knock the Buckeyes out of the playoff race, as every team vying for a spot in the top four has won ugly. Still, the loss of Barrett heading into the Big Ten title game is huge for an Ohio State squad that has struggled to defend the run. The Buckeyes don’t seem to trust backup quarterback Jones with the full playbook, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman must decide what to do now that such a big part of his game plan missing.
The playoff selection committee has already noted it will factor injuries into its decision-making, so Ohio State without Barrett could be viewed very differently. That’s all most fans will likely want to discuss in the playoff era, but watching a playmaker like Barrett go down this way is a shame, plain and simple.
As for Michigan, this loss could be the end of coach Brady Hoke’s tenure. The Wolverines drop to 5-7 overall and 31-20 in Hoke’s four years in Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are left searching for answers before their trip to Indianapolis. Regardless, Barrett deserves an invitation to New York for the Heisman ceremony, even if he arrives on crutches.