Three and Out: Ohio State gets past Minnesota, keeps playoff hopes alive

J.T. Barrett shined again as Ohio State avoided a letdown against Minnesota in its 31-24 win to keep the Buckeyes' hopes for the College Football Playoff alive.
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No. 8 Ohio State gave its playoff hopes a jolt of life after beating Michigan State in East Lansing last week, and the Buckeyes avoided a letdown on a snowy, cold Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. Ohio State survived No. 25 Minnesota, 31-24, behind another strong effort from quarterback J.T. Barrett.

Here are three thoughts from Ohio State’s chilly win over the Golden Gophers:

1. J.T. Barrett continues to wow

A week after accounting for five touchdowns in Ohio State’s win over Michigan State, the Buckeyes' redshirt freshman dazzled again. Barrett showed off his running ability with an 86-yard touchdown scamper to put the Buckeyes up 7-0 early on in the first quarter. He also took advantage of some blown coverages and Minnesota's attempts to play a Cover One defense. 

Barrett racked up 189 rushing yards, 200 passing yards and four scores Saturday, giving him 38 total touchdowns on the year, an Ohio State record. Barrett’s ability to elude tacklers and keep plays alive was critical. Ohio State owes a lot of the credit for this key road win to his threat as a runner.

Sure, some of Ohio State’s competition hasn’t been terrific this season, but J.T. Barrett has been. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. If he keeps playing like this, he’ll be in New York in December. 

2. Respect David Cobb

The Gophers have been at their best when they can get Cobb going, and they did a good job of that in the first half before the Ohio State defense tightened up. Cobb had 96 yards and two touchdowns in the first two quarters, including a 30-yard scamper into the end zone on a long third down to tie the game at 14 with just over a minute to play before the break. He added a 12-yard touchdown run with 7:08 to play to cut the Ohio State lead to 31-20 and finished the day with 145 yards and three scores.

Cobb often gets overlooked with the stable of great running backs in the Big Ten, including Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon, but he’s a big part of the reason why Minnesota started 7-2 this season. He now has 1,305 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year with a few more games remaining in his senior season.

3. Minnesota’s Big Ten West chances are slim

Despite the College Football Playoff committee ranking Minnesota at No. 25 this week, most people were still in wait-and-see mode for the Golden Gophers, especially when it came to the Big Ten West race. After its loss to Ohio State, Minnesota will finish the season with Nebraska and Wisconsin, both on the road.

Their shocking loss to Illinois could very well keep the Gophers from having a chance to play for the Big Ten title, though they’re not out of it yet.