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Can Ohio State Win National Championship With Third-String Quarterback?

December 4, 2014

Has any school ever won a national championship in college football with its third-string quarterback? It certainly hasn’t happened in modern history, but that’s the challenge facing Ohio State as the Buckeyes will be turning to untested Cardale Jones the rest of the way. OSU was No. 6 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings but should move up to No. 5 when they are released again Tuesday night. Thus even a win against Wisconsin in this Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis might not be enough to get OSU into the national semifinals.

The Buckeyes would have been favored against Wisconsin if starter J.T. Barrett were healthy but instead opened as 3-point underdogs at WagerWeb. Barrett had started all season because of an injury to starter Braxton Miller, a Heisman favorite, in preseason camp in August. Barrett probably will be a Heisman finalist himself but broke his ankle in this past Saturday’s 42-28 win over Michigan. That ends the redshirt freshman’s season.

Barrett, who led the nation with 42 total touchdowns entering the game, completed 13 of 21 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown against the rival Wolverines. He also ran for scores of 25 and 2 yards while gaining 89 yards total on 15 carries. He finishes with school records for total yards (3,772), passing touchdowns (34) and total touchdowns (45), which also set a Big Ten record. Barrett passed for 2,834 yards and rushed for an additional 938 yards and 11 touchdowns.

So Jones has some big shoes to fill. The sophomore was 2-for-3 for 7 yards and rushed two times for 18 yards against Michigan. Jones barely lost out to Barrett for the starting job once Miller went down. He has thrown 19 career passes. OSU will be rooting against the likes of Alabama, Florida State, TCU and Baylor this week as a loss by one of those and a Buckeyes victory will assure Ohio State reaches the College Football Playoff.

If the Badgers win, the Big Ten won’t have a team in the playoff. Wisconsin has its own Heisman finalist in running back Melvin Gordon, the nation’s leading rusher. He rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Minnesota on Saturday to clinch the Big Ten’s West Division. Gordon has rushed for 2,260 yards, the most in Big Ten history and No. 4 all time. The record is 2,628 by Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders in 1988. Gordon limped off the field with 3:12 left in the game, favoring his right ankle, but he’s expected to play against OSU.

Wisconsin and OSU didn’t play this season. Last year they met in Columbus and Ohio State won 31-24 as Miller had four touchdown passes. This is the second straight Big Ten title game for the Buckeyes, who lost to Michigan State in last year’s game. Now those two are in the same division.