Last Updated: 2017-12-01
Quarterback J.T. Barrett plans to play in the Big Ten Championship game for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Normally, that statement wouldn’t even have college football fans bat an eye. However, Barrett suffered a knee injury before and during their season-finale against the Michigan Wolverines. He played until the third quarter when his knee finally gave out on a mundane play. Barrett never returned to the game. However, backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins came in and led the Buckeyes to a comeback victory.
Reportedly, the knee injury was bad enough for Barrett to have arthroscopic surgery this week. Yet, he is expected to start against the Wisconsin Badgers when the two teams kickoff for the conference title. Just one question- how long will Barrett be able to perform with a potential College Football Playoff berth on the line?
Despite helping lead the Buckeyes to the national title during the 2014 season, Barrett has never participated in the Big Ten championship game. They fell short of the division title two years in a row. Now, Barrett finally has his chance at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Barrett is approaching his career high in touchdown passes. He has 33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, almost regaining form from his freshman season. Barrett is completing a career high 66 percent of his pass attempts. He has also added nine rushing touchdowns to reach 40 rushing touchdowns for his career.
Unfortunately, we don’t know if Barrett will be at his best this weekend. Clearly, there was something wrong with Barrett early in the game last week. The Buckeyes’ offense took a whole quarter to get in rhythm. By the time Barrett left the game, he was only 3-of-8 passing for 30 yards and 1 touchdown. Still, Barrett was able to run for 67 yards and an additional score against the Wolverines. Barrett had thrown for at least two touchdowns in 10 of the 12 games.
Interestingly enough, the Buckeyes need Barrett to be at maximum efficiency. During their loss to the Oklahoma Sooners, he had no touchdowns and one interception. He finished the Iowa game with 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The only two games where Barrett threw more picks than touchdowns, the Buckeyes lost. Therefore, turnovers will be a huge key for the Buckeyes’ offense. If he can’t take care of the ball, then Haskins needs to play.
The Badgers enter the game with 15 interceptions and 23 forced turnovers. They are in the top 25 in both categories. They are also No. 8 in sacks averaging 3.25 per game. Due to all of this defensive pressure, the Badgers have defensive touchdowns this season. Meaning, Barrett must be in his right frame of mind against the Big Ten’s best defense. The knee injury may limit Barrett’s ability to run. That’s not great when you’re playing against the Badgers. Moreover, Barrett could be risking further injury if he’s unable to protect himself Saturday night.
Despite the injury news, the Buckeyes are still 5.5 favorites over the Badgers. You don’t see this unique situation everyday. Your undefeated opponent has the No. 2 scoring defense, while winning games by almost 23 points per contest. Yet, the two-loss team with an ailing quarterback is the favorite. However, the last time these two teams faced off in the Big Ten Championship, the Buckeyes won 59-0 with a backup QB. In all, the Buckeyes have won five straight games. The other four games have been within seven points.