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Sloppy Win vs. Minnesota Proves J.T. Barrett Still Buckeyes' Best Option at QB

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 08 Nov 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio After an additional week of uncertainty, Ohio State's quarterback conundrum once again seems as clear as it ever has in 2015.Only this time, the ongoing situation seems to have been settled not by one signal-caller winning the job, but rather by one failing to capitalize on an unexpected opportunity.As J.T. Barrett served a one-game suspension for an OVI citation during the Buckeyes' bye week last weekend, Cardale Jones found himself back in the Ohio State starting lineup after having started the first seven games of the season. And while Barrett's 324-yard, five-touchdown performance in the Buckeyes' eighth game seemed to solidify his status as Ohio State's new starter moving forward, his actions opened the door for Jones to start the ninth game and potentially beyond.But although Jones now finds himself 8-0 as a starting quarterback this season, his so-so effort in the third-ranked Buckeyes' 28-14 win over Minnesota on Saturday was enough for Urban Meyer to reconsider turning back to Barrett when he returns from suspension next week."Yes," Meyer answered when asked if Barrett was now back in the running to be Ohio State's starting quarterback against Illinois next week.At this point, Barrett's regaining of his starting role may be more of a formality than anything else.Because while Jones was solid against the Golden Gophers, completing 12 of his 22 pass attempts for 187 yards and a touchdown while adding 65 yards and a score on the ground, he hardly looked like the quarterback Ohio State needs him to be as it enters the heart of its 2015 schedule with games against Michigan State and Michigan ahead.The Buckeyes offense just simply didn't appear as effective as it was in Ohio State's previous three outings, which saw Barrett's role rise from red-zone quarterback to situational signal-caller and eventually a place in the starting lineup.In that stretchwhich included double-digit victories over Maryland, Penn State and RutgersBarrett totaled 544 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns, emerging from an early-season slump when playing time behind Jones was sparse.Perhaps most importantly, the reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year provided the Buckeyes with the dual-threat ability at the quarterback position that they seemed to have lacked with Jones, whose rushing touchdown against Minnesota on Saturday was his first since Ohio State's season opener."A little different," Meyer admitted of his team's offense under the direction of Jones. "Probably more so now as the season's gone on than I [thought] earlier in the year. A little different. I think the read [option] game, that's not really a big part of Cardale's game, which is kind of one of the parts of the foundation of the offense."That's not necessarily the fault of Jones, either, as Meyer's play-calling has seemed to be more conservative with the 6'5", 250-pounder in the lineup than it has been when Barrett has taken the reins of the Buckeyes offense. The OSU offensive line didn't do much to add to Jones' cause against the Golden Gophers, as he was sacked four times on Saturdaywhich is four times as much as Barrett has been sacked all season.With Jonesfor whatever reasonunable to gain yards on the ground as consistently as Barrett, he would need to find other ways to move the ball down the field. Ideally, that would be with his cannon-like arm, which played a key role in the Buckeyes' run through the postseason at the end of last year and made him one of the top quarterback prospects entering his junior campaign.And while on occasionincluding completed passes of 45 and 44 yards on SaturdayJones has been able to do just that, he hasn't done it at a clip stable enough to make what he lacks with his legs a moot point.That was clear when Meyer first opted to make the move to Barrett two weeks ago and again as he briefly evaluated Jones' performance against Minnesota on Saturday."You have to get those yards somewhere else," Meyer said. "It has to be [the deep ball]. It looks pretty good when you're hitting that...you gotta hit those passes."At the moment, no public decision has been made as to who will be lining up behind center for the Buckeyes in Champaign next Saturday. It is worth noting, however, that Meyer mentioned earlier in the week that once a player returns to his roster from suspension, he's fully reinstated and not subject to further benching as a continued punishment.If that's the case, then Barrett didn't do anything to lose his starting status beyond the one game he just missed.More importantly, Jones didn't do anything to take it from him, either, as it remains clear that Barrett gives the Buckeyes the best chance to repeat as college football's national champion this season.Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Odds provided by Odds Shark. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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