The 2015 Ohio State Buckeyes team comes into this season with all eyes on them. Last season they were 14-1 and had to overcome many obstacles. Prior to the 2014 season, All Big Ten quarterback Braxton Miller was injured in an August practice and out for the entire season. Backup JT Barrett stepped in and despite a loss to ACC unranked Virginia Tech, was leading a fast paced and efficient offense. Losing to Virginia Tech was the Buckeyes’ first home opener loss in thirty-six years and caused many people to count them out for the post season. Any Big Ten team hates to lose to the ACC, and it sometimes can ruin their chances at post-season play. Barrett, however, got his act together and was a Heisman trophy candidate until bad luck struck the Bucks again. In the season-finale against rival Michigan on November 29, 2014, Barrett suffered an injury to his ankle when trying to scramble for extra yardage. Sophomore Cardale Jones took over in the fourth quarter and held on for a 42-28 win. With Barrett out for the post-season, Jones was up for the starting job.
Many people, including myself, were very doubtful of his abilities because the only playing time he really got was when the Buckeyes were up by a large margin in the fourth quarter. He was also famous for a tweet he sent his freshman year saying “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.” OSU fans as well as many football fans did not have much faith in him due not only to his lack of experience, but also because he was not thought of as that bright of a person by his tweet.
Going into the postseason, Jones was now in the spotlight as he made his first full start against the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship game. He proved them wrong by going 12-18 for 257 yards in a 59-0 win. The quality of play continued as Jones led the Buckeyes to a victory in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama 42-35 and a big win in the inaugural college football playoff national championship versus the Oregon Ducks 42-20. The 2014 Buckeyes team was probably one of the best ever. They did not lose many impact players because many of their All-Americans and All-Big Ten players were underclassmen. They would surely dominate as everyone thought.
Earlier this year, Hailey Loftin wrote a column for the Apex Legacy questioning whether Ohio State should really be ranked number one. In early weeks I could understand after watching the teams offensive struggles and going down early but barely beating Indiana (a team that has not beat the Buckeyes since the early 90s) and barely beating unranked MAC conference Northern Illinois 20-13. It did, however, as with many teams, get better as the season went on. As a Buckeye fan, I am used to close games. We have always had really good, winning records in my life, but the scores and games are not always pretty. You can simply look at our 2002 national championship team as an example. They were called “The Luckeyes” because there were a lot of close games against unranked teams and inconsistent offense. In 2002 we had the famous “Holy Buckeye” play where we beat unranked Purdue in the final two minutes. We also had many other unnecessarily close games such as the overtime versus Illinois. In college football as well as any sport, when a team is a champion, we have much bigger expectations the next year. They do not just want to win; they want to win big. If they were not as highly ranked, a small victory would be celebrated more than questioned.
Things are looking up for the Bucks after winning the last two by larger margins. They defeated Maryland 49-28 and Penn State 38-10. Buckeye fans felt as if JT Barett was a better choice for quarterback over Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller because of his success before injury. Miller was moved to receiver and is sometimes used as an option quarterback, and Jones was initially given the job. Jones looked out of place; he often overthrew or did not locate an open man leading to multiple turnovers and offensive struggles. The Maryland game was the turning point for this year because it showed the team’s new system. The system is credit to Tom Herman, Houston Cougars head coach, who led the offense last year during the national championship and is currently 6-0 in his first year. This system uses Jones until the offense gets into the “red zone” because he is a pocket passer and strong arm; Barrett is best for” red zone” because he is more composed and more of a running quarterback while Miller is used as an occasional quarterback and slot receiver because of his speed. This system has proven successful in the last two games because there have been no turnovers, and the games have been won by larger margins. No promises that they will always look like the defending national champions, but as the season goes on, they will be getting better and gaining more experience. Hopefully Ohio State will return to the playoffs and national championship even if they do end up playing like the “Luckeyes.”