No. 9 Ohio State was locked in a battle against archrival Michigan.
Late in the third quarter, the Buckeyes trailed 20-14 when their star QB, J.T. Barrett, went down with a knee injury and did not return to the game.
The Buckeyes were forced to turn to redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins, who had played sporadically during the season, but never on a stage anything like this, on the road, against Michigan.
Haskins was sensational, converting on a critical third-and-13 to keep the drive alive, leading to a score. He’d finish 6-of-7 for 94 passing yards, adding another 24 on the ground on three carries.
His new look, one that freed up additional carries for Ohio State’s dynamic running backs, along with a downfield threat that’s different from what Barrett offers, gave the Buckeyes just enough offense to hold off Michigan, winning 31-20.
Now, the Buckeyes head to the Big Ten Championship game to face Wisconsin with a potential playoff bid in the balance.
If this sounds pretty familiar, well, that’s because it is pretty familiar!
Lets roll back the tape to 2014. Ohio State’s presumed starting QB that season, Braxton Miller, missed the entire season due to injury, leading the Buckeyes to turn to their backup, J.T. Barrett (yeah, he’s been there a while). With the Buckeyes holding a 28-21 lead in the second half against Michigan, Barrett has to leave the game due to injury, forcing his strong-armed backup, Cardale Jones, to enter the game.
Jones, giving Ohio State’s offense a different look, preserved the victory (Ohio State would win 42-28), sending the Buckeyes to the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin with a potential playoff bid on the line, though the Buckeyes would have to jump higher-ranked teams to make it in.
Ohio State would then absolutely plaster Wisconsin, 59-0. The 2017 Buckeyes play an undefeated Wisconsin next week in the Big Ten Championship.
The Buckeyes would jump Baylor and TCU, claim the No. 4 seed, knock off Alabama, and then win the whole dang title.
Are we saying that’s what Ohio State is going to do here? Well, no. The comparisons aren’t perfect.
I mean, for one, 2014 Ohio State didn’t give up 55 points to a 7-5 Iowa team, and this Ohio State team did. The 2014 Ohio State team was playing its best football near the end of the season, and it’s not totally clear that this Ohio State team is. And for what it’s worth, Barrett says he’s going to play in the Big Ten Championship game, which he didn’t do in 2014.
But it’s more than a funny coincidence, don’t you think? And it shows that the future is bright for Ohio State.
It’s really hard to overcome quarterback injures, even if you have a great college football team. Ask Clemson against Syracuse. Or heck, ask Michigan, which probably would have beaten Ohio State had it gotten better production from its eventual third-string quarterback, John O’Korn.
But they are there, no? Having a backup quarterback with the ability to stretch secondaries downfield gives Ohio State momentum ahead of a must-win showdown against Wisconsin. Needing a big win to get back into playoff consideration? With big wins late in the season potentially overcoming ugly losses earlier in the season?
If nothing else, Ohio State showed it has the personnel to overcome what would normally be a debilitating injury, given how involved Barrett is with Ohio State’s offense.
And given how young the rest of Ohio State’s skill position talent is, the future is once again bright for this offense. Haskins was a big-time quarterback recruit and looks like the real deal, so far.