W. Michigan-Ohio St. Preview
(AP) - Cardale Jones will remain top-ranked Ohio State's quarterback Saturday against Western Michigan.
Coach Urban Meyer announced the decision following practice Wednesday, two days after hinting he was considering starting J.T. Barret.
Jones was pulled in the second quarter of a 20-13 victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday after throwing two interceptions.
''Someone has to beat someone out,'' Meyer said. ''You don't anoint people.''
Jones led Ohio State to the national championship last season and started the first three games this season.
Barrett was 11-1 last season starting for injured two-time Big Ten player of the year Braxton Miller before breaking his ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan. Jones replaced Barrett and led Ohio State (3-0) to victories over Wisconsin in the conference title game, Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals and Oregon to the championship game.
''(Jones) was the quarterback at the finish (last season),'' Meyer said. ''He was the quarterback in spring practice, the only healthy one, and he was the starter this season. He is the guy unless he doesn't perform well.''
Wide receiver Michael Thomas was unaware who was starting when he met with the media after practice Wednesday.
''What you told me is news to me,'' Thomas said. ''I trust J.T. out there or Cardale out there.''
As the offensive production decreased the first three games this season with Jones in charge, Barrett's playing time increased.
In mop-up duty against Virginia Tech in the opener, Barrett had a 40-yard run and a 26-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.
Barrett played three series in the second quarter against Hawaii when the offense had trouble moving the ball, but Jones finished the 38-0 victory. Meyer started Jones last week against Northern Illinois, but after scoring just three points, Barrett entered for the remainder of the game.
Barrett took Ohio State 44 yards in four plays for the only offensive TD of the game - a 23-yard pass to Thomas.
''They're both great guys,'' center Jacoby Boren said. ''They understand it's a daily battle, a competition.''
Jones is 26 for 46 (56.5 percent) for 334 yards this season with two touchdowns and three interceptions and a 118.82 efficiency rating. He has 115 yards on 21 carries (5.5) and a score.
Barrett has 103 passing yards on 20 for 35 (57.1) percent, two touchdowns, an interception and a 116.61 rating. He has rushed five times for 65 yards (13.0).
Meyer doesn't blame Jones for the team's offensive slide.
''It's not him. The offense is in a funk,'' Meyer said. ''"When the quarterbacks have great games it's because those around them are playing well. All the focus is on the quarterback, and that comes with it, but we have to play much better in all areas.''
Ohio State is 75th in total offense at 411 yards per game, 100 less on average than last season when it was ninth. After gaining 572 yards at Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes have dropped to 363 vs. Hawaii and 298 against Northern Illinois.
''We're turning the ball over at alarming rate, and we're not playing well on the offensive front,'' Meyer said. ''So all those things have been addressed, and it's more coaching than playing performance.''
He has not been pleased by the play of the quarterbacks but he also cites poor perimeter blocking, the lack of a deep threats and the inability to spring running back Ezekiel Elliott.
''Saturday will be exciting,'' Thomas said. ''We're going to play angry and we're going to execute at a high tempo.''
In the past two games Elliott has averaged 4.2 yards on 50 carries after rushing for 122 yards on 11 attempts versus Virginia Tech.
''If you look historically what an Ohio State offense is for us,'' Meyer said, ''it's control the line of scrimmage, best perimeter blocking in America, which we had last year, and a very good, solid play, action passing attack. That's not what's going on. So we're going to get that fixed.''
The offense has been so stagnant that in the past five quarters it has three touchdowns while the Ohio State defense has scored twice. Against Northern Illinois, linebacker Darron Lee's 41-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter provided the difference.
''It doesn't really matter what the offense does,'' co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. ''If they score 50 points or five points, we have a job to do, and it's to go out there and limit points and keep the opponent out of the end zone.''
The defense faces a Western Michigan team that piled up 628 yards last Saturday, but that came in a 52-20 victory over Murray State, which has one of the worst defenses in the FCS. The Broncos totaled 41 points and 635 yards in opening losses to No. 2 Michigan State and Georgia Southern.
"The first two games we were worrying about other people, not us and we weren't playing our style of football," coach P.J. Fleck said. "We were able to get up early and become balanced. We are at our best when we are balanced and that's the biggest challenge for the coaching staff every week."
Zach Terrell went 25 of 30 for 355 yards and four touchdowns last week and is tied for 10th in the nation with 947 passing yards. He threw for 365 against the Spartans on Sept. 4, as Western Michigan never allowed Michigan State to pull away in a 37-24 loss.