A Fiu Words On: J.T. Barrett & The Big Ten

Posted Aug 20, 2014

A Fiu Words On ... A running commentary breaking down the latest news and notes.

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Braxton Miller’s injury stings Ohio State and Big Ten’s playoff hopes?
Aug. 20 – Where, exactly, do you think Ohio State gets its quarterbacks? Forgetting for a moment that Urban Meyer started out his Buckeye coaching career 24-0 with a whole far less talented team to work with than he has now, it’s not exactly time to close up shop now that Braxton Miller is out for the year.

No one’s going to confuse J.T. Barrett with Peyton Manning as a passer, but that’s not what Meyer needs out of his quarterback. Hand off, run for a few big plays now and then, complete about 60% of your passes, don’t turn the ball over, repeat – that’s what Barrett will be asked to do, and it shouldn’t be a problem with all the weapons around him. But the lazy national narrative now questions whether or not the Big Ten might be worthy of a College Football Playoff spot now that the Buckeyes are weakened, as if he wasn’t recruited and picked by Meyer to eventually be a pretty big deal.

Let’s stop this right here and right now. A 12-1 Big Ten champion – whether it’s Ohio State, Michigan State, Rutgers or Indiana – will be in your inaugural College Football Playoff as long as the champions of the other four Power Five conferences aren’t unbeaten. It also doesn’t matter if Ohio State goes 0-12 - considering the politics and the influence of the Big Ten, again, a one-loss champion is a mortal lock to be in the playoff. No way, no how a second SEC team with one loss gets in over a one-loss Big Ten champ – the more likely scenario would be a one-loss SEC team gets in over a one-loss Big 12 champion, and even that’s far-fetched. It doesn’t matter if the league appears to be down, or if Barrett stinks – a one-loss champ gets the invite, especially if it’s Michigan State. The Spartans would’ve made a four-team playoff last year, and they’re going to be left out of the party if they’re 12-1 because Ohio State is a little weaker? Not … a … chance.

At absolute worst, Ohio State falls flat on its face without Miller and goes 9-3, but don’t expect that to happen unless Meyer all of a sudden lost his groove as a talent evaluator. The guy knows how to find his quarterbacks, and Barrett is the next man up. Ohio State won’t be as good without Miller, but it’ll be fine. The Big Ten will be fine, too.

Kansas loses top two running backs
Aug. 20 – Being a Kansas running back has become the equivalent of drumming for Spinal Tap. What does a team that ran for a mere 1,851 yards and 12 touchdowns need? How about losing its top running back to graduation (James Sims), its No. 2 option to transfer (Darrian Miller), and now, one of its most promising options to a knee injury (Brandon Bourbon) and a veteran who’d provide good depth to a torn Achilles’ tendon (Taylor Cox). Considering the passing game came up with a whopping nine touchdown passes last season, with these losses in the backfield, the Jayhawk decided schematic advantage has been negated.

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller reinjures his shoulder
Aug. 19 – Miller wasn’t supposed to have big problems with his banged up shoulder after undergoing minor surgery this offseason, but now the Big Ten and national title picture have become far more interesting now that he's out for the year. Welcome to J.T. Barrett, yet another superstar Ohio State dual-threat quarterback recruit who suffered an injured knee, but has had a few years to get everything back to normal - now he's 100%, and he'll be thrust into the spotlight. The biggest key for Ohio State going forward? Welcome to the schedule. Who are the Buckeyes going to lose to before November 8th? Navy? Virginia Tech? Kent State? Cincinnati? Rutgers? Penn State? Illinois? You could play quarterback for OSU – and dot the I in the process – and the Buckeyes would be undefeated against that slate. However, going to Maryland on October 4th might be dangerous without the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year. But the key will be the showdown against Michigan State in East Lansing in early November, and Barrett will have eight games under his belt and the defense should be in full froth mode. And then there’s the brave new world of College Football Playoff and how the committee is going to think. If the team is getting better and better under Barrett, and Ohio State is, say, 9-1, maybe the committee thinks the team could go from good to four-worthy as the year goes on. In any event, Ohio State was probably an 11-1 team with Miller, and it’s probably an 11-1 team without him. It just won’t be as impressive.

Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon is suspended for the season
Aug. 19 – Oklahoma really, really needed Mixon. The 6-2, 210-pounder was a five-star recruit considered to be just a few ticks under Leonard Fournette, and he was expected to play a big role right away for an offense that needed more playmakers at running back. Give Oklahoma credit for acting quickly and decisively after Mixon plead not guilty to the charge related to an alleged assault – he’s being accused of punching a woman – but on the field, the pressure is on Trevor Knight to do even more now. Mixon was going to take the heat off, and now Keith Ford has to impress more than he did this offseason, and true freshman Samaje Perine will get more of a shot.

Kentucky names Patrick Towles the starting quarterback
Aug. 19 – It’s not a shocker. Jalen Whitlow took off for Eastern Illinois, but there were still four quarterbacks in the mix for the starting job and Towles has the biggest upside. Very big and very talented, the 6-5, 246-pound former Parade All-American led his Kentucky high school team to three straight state titles. He needs more seasoning, but he’ll get his chances.

Purdue names Danny Etling the starting quarterback
Aug. 19 – Don’t consider the matter closed> Etling was fantastic in the season finale against Indiana, but Austin Appleby is every bit as good and could step in if there are any problems early on. The real X factor is David Blough, a baller of a true freshman. The coaching staff won’t hang with Etling through thick and thin – he has to produce early against Western Michigan and Central Michigan or else there might be a change for Notre Dame.

Iowa State names Sam Richardson the starting quarterback
Aug. 19 – Really? Richardson was great this summer, but it was Grant Rohach who showed the upside and promise late last season throwing for a combined 631 yards in wins over Kansas and West Virginia. By far, this was Rohach’s gig to lose, but Richardson stepped up his game. Now he has to get back the magic that made him an up-and-coming dual-threat star in the Big 12. Richardson is the better runner and baller, but Rohach is still the better passer.

Northwestern RB Venric Mark transfers, top WR Christian Jones out for year with knee injury
Aug. 13 - No, you don’t get better by losing Mark and Jones, but NU’s expectations for a bounceback year shouldn’t change. The Wildcat offense wasn’t all that bad last season without an injured Mark. The running game won’t have Kain Colter to help out under center anymore, but Treyvon Green ran for 736 yards and eight touchdowns averaging 5.33 yards per carry. Losing Mark as a punt returner hurts, but Matthew Harris was more than fine on kickoff returns. Jones led the team in receiving, but if Northwestern was ever going to lose a top target, this is the year to cushion the blow with a deep and loaded corps. The emergence and improvement of passing QB Trevor Siemian will help.
- 120 Sports VOD on Venric Mark transferring

QB Baker Mayfield will appeal to NCAA for instant eligibility
Aug. 13 - The former Texas Tech walk-on who transferred to Oklahoma would provide instant depth help if the NCAA approves his appeal to be eligible right away. He left Tech after not being offered a scholarship despite throwing for 2,315 yards and 12 TDs. However, he had a huge problem with interceptions after starting out the year throwing seven TDs and no picks. After looking fantastic in the OU spring game, he’d likely slide right into OU’s No. 2 spot. Remember, Trevor Knight was mediocre-to-stunk before his epic performance in the Sugar Bowl, and with Blake Bell moving to tight end, the QB situation is thin. This comes a day after OU filed a waiver to make former Mizzou star WR Dorial Green-Beckham eligible right away.

Everett Golson named the Notre Dame starting QB
Aug. 13 – This isn’t some momentous occasion, and it doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Yes, Golson is back as the starting quarterback, beating out Malik Zaire, but no, that doesn’t mean that he’ll be the main man through thick and thin. Kelly has no problems rotating quarterbacks or playing around with the options, and if Golson is rusty or doesn’t have it, like he did in 2012, Zaire will get his shot. Remember, as good as Golson was in the Irish’s run to the BCS championship game, he took a lot of big chances – he has a fearless style of play that works for him. However, Notre Dame needs Golson’s leadership and moxie. He’s the veteran, and he’s going to have to play like it.