J.T. Barrett felt and played like his old self Saturday.
The most compelling argument for Ohio State earning a playoff bid, based on what the College Football Playoff committee has indicated it values most, is winning a Power Five conference championship. The outcome of the game could have big implications in the College Football Playoff rankings as the No. 8 Buckeyes face off against the 12-0 Badgers. So would every conference championship game where a three-loss team upsets an unbeaten team.
It was the first loss of the season for Wisconsin (12-1) and nearly certainly knocked the Badgers out of a College Football Playoff spot.
And they did it behind a quarterback many expected to be watching.
The combination of Wisconsin's defense and the questions around Barrett's knee might make this one more of a low-scoring game. Taylor is a breakaway threat, averaging 150.5 yards per game and 7.0 yards per carry.
This time, Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst understood the gravity of the situation. "He's a heck of a quarterback". Jones said the more long-lasting pearl of wisdom he takes from that game comes when he thinks back on the single-minded focus in practice that week. The score came one play after Barrett escaped a tackle attempt from defensive end Alec James and picked up nine yards on third-and-7.
His throwing form didn't suffer either when Barrett completed an 84-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin on the Buckeyes' next series. A 77-yard run by J.K. Dobbins set up a 1-yard touchdown run by a Barrett.
"I guess there's an appropriate comparison", center Billy Price said when asked about the circumstances this week compared with 2014, when he was a starter at guard as a redshirt freshman. Not even Meyer's former standout, Tim Tebow, accomplished the feat. "How you keep him out of the game I just don't know how it happens".
The Badgers began their comeback effort with a field goal midway through third quarter.
Otherwise, the Buckeyes stayed pretty much in control and kept Barrett out of trouble. As no higher than a fourth seed if they make this year's CFP, the Buckeyes would probably play in domes in New Orleans and Atlanta. "I feel like we're one of the best teams in the country".
An interception by Wisconsin linebacker Jake Collinsworth had set up a touchdown that drew the Badgers to 24-21 with 12:39 remaining. Mike Weber lost a fumble at the Ohio State 11-yard line that Wisconsin turned into a field goal.
The Buckeyes came right back with another big play, though, as Barrett threw a quick pass to Parris Campbell, who broke tackles from Natrell Jamerson and Nick Nelson on his way to a 57-yard score.
Will close wins over Wisconsin and Penn State be impressive enough to erase the blowout loss to Iowa? Naturally, such a stellar record is going to give the Badgers the lead in the Big Ten - West standings.
Wisconsin: Critics contended the Badgers were never as good as their undefeated record because of a weak schedule. He ended up leading Ohio State to a double-digit victory in his first meaningful time running the offense. And all he needed was one run.
Dobbins ended up with 17 carries for 174 yards.
This is particularly true when " Jump Around", the song played at the start of the fourth quarter, has the old joint jumping, with the stands full of bouncing students and the press box gyrating. Jonathan Taylor is leading the offense with 1,806 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Barrett's fourth-down run against MI in 2016 was a game-winner, too. The conversion milked precious extra minutes off the clock before a short field goal that served as the game's final points.
Saturday night wasn't easy, but it was memorable - just like Ohio State's 2014 national championship season with (and without Barrett).
Wisconsin: Also awaits its postseason fate Sunday.
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