Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, Alex Roux, BTN.com editor, October 26, 2017
In the latest edition of Dot Commentary, there are no losers. BTN.com's Tom Dienhart and Alex Roux discuss a pair of winners who have done special things under center, and are forced to choose between them.
This week's question: Which QB in the Penn State/Ohio State matchup would you rather build a team around?
Dienhart: J.T. Barrett
Ohio State?s J.T. Barrett is my guy. There have been few better dual-threat quarterbacks in the Big Ten over the last 25 years. He is the perfect blend of passer/runner/leader. And that makes him the signal-caller to build your team around.
The numbers speak for themselves. Barrett ranks No. 6 in Big Ten history in total offense, passing Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Denard Robinson in 2017. Barrett has 11,043 total yards; next on the list is Indiana?s Antwaan Randle El. Barrett trails the former great Hoosier by 321 yards for fifth place on the conference all-time list.
We have seen Barrett at his best since that loss to Oklahoma in September, as he?s playing some of the best ball of his career. In the five games that have followed, Barrett has hit 99-of-137 passes (72 percent) for 1,351 yards with 18 touchdowns and no interceptions. Barrett also has run 39 times for 232 yards and four scores, averaging 5.9 yards per tote. And Ohio State has scored over 50 points in each of the last four games, just the third Big Ten school ever to pull that off. If Barrett excels in a win vs. Penn State this Saturday in Columbus, he will become a legit Heisman contender.
On top of his physical skills, the 6-2, 220-pound Barrett is an excellent leader. In fact, he?s the only three-time captain that Urban Meyer has had.
Physical skills, impressive stats, lots of wins, and tremendous leader–Barrett has it all.
Roux: Trace McSorley
To avoid any impression of hot-takery, I want to get two disclaimers out before I get to my choice: First, I agree with everything Tom said about J.T. Barrett's brilliance. He's an all-time Big Ten great and will be remembered as such. Second, it's tough to go wrong with either of these signal-callers under center. But since I have to choose, I'm going to have to split hairs. And that ugly, ingrown hair I'm choosing to split is Barrett's performance in "big" games compared to Trace McSorley's. Simply put, McSorley has a better track record in critical games.
I try to stay away from the ambiguous practice of defining what makes a "big-game" or "clutch" player, because it can be an unfair label to assign with such small sample sizes–especially in a sport like football. Not to mention that in the middle of only his second full season, McSorley's sample size is much smaller than Barrett's. And Barrett's not strictly a bumslayer, either–his 7-3 record against ranked teams is nothing to sneeze at. But when two guys' dual-threat talents match up as closely as these two QBs do, something's gotta be the determining factor.
In arguably the three biggest games of Barrett's career (all against Top 5 teams–a 30-27 win over No. 3 Michigan in 2016, a 31-0 Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson in 2016 and a 31-16 loss to No. 5 Oklahoma in 2017) he's thrown zero touchdowns and four interceptions, plus one rushing TD in that thrilling Michigan win. In the three biggest games of McSorley's career (a 24-21 win over No. 2 Ohio State, a 38-31 Big Ten Championship Game win over Wisconsin and a 52-49 Rose Bowl loss to USC–all in the 2016 season) he combined to throw nine touchdowns and three picks, plus he ran for two more scores on the ground.
I'm not ready to declare Barrett doesn't show up when the lights shine brightest. In one sense, he's been a victim of his own success. Ohio State likely doesn't get to those stages without him, and the microscope's focus is always sharper at Ohio State. Plus, he didn't get a chance to contribute to the 2014 College Football Playoff run due to injury. But those numbers don't lie: In that small and rather arbitrary sample size, McSorley has shown more of an ability to lift his team in epic fashion.
Barrett has a chance to shut a lot of people up this weekend against McSorley's Nittany Lions. But until that happens, I'm giving McSorley the slight edge under center if I'm building a program from scratch.