Can J.T. Win the Heisman? Baver Answers Bye Week Questions

Colin: The OSU offense looks like a kid playing Madden on the easiest level. Has J.T. reinserted himself into the Heisman race?

Brent: What a turnaround, huh? Urban, Kevin Wilson, Ryan Day and JT seem to now be in sync … least against the softer part of OSU’s schedule that they just buzzed through. And JT’s confidence? It’s night and day since the shell-shocked look we saw from him on the sidelines late in that Oklahoma game. At a minimum, JT has a decent shot of getting to New York for the Heisman presentation IF he can get it done against the stiffer competition that Ohio State has coming up

Colin: What is the offense doing now it wasn't earlier in the year? Is this becoming Kevin Wilson's offense?

Brent: At a high level….it’s two things. One is what we just talked about, and that’s JT’s confidence. The other is the play callers (Wilson, Urban and probably Ryan Day to some extent) doing a much better job at mixing things up. Specifically, you’ve seen some run-pass options, where JT has the option of keeping, pitching, or passing. You’ve got Day’s “mesh concept”, using receiver crossing patterns that free up a WR (usually Johnny Dixon) in the middle….we’ve seen Dixon take it to the house 3 times on this play. You’ve also got the new wrinkle in using TE Rashod Berry as a fullback and lead blocker.

But back to the confidence thing and the play calling. The Buckeyes offense is now confident enough to run tempo without the fear of 3-and-outs wearing down their defense. And JT’s gotten comfortable enough to start throwing the ball over the middle and into tighter windows. As far as play calling, the OSU coaches seem to be staying one step ahead of opponents’ defensive adjustments week after week.

Colin: The Cornhuskers have gotten absolutely embarrassed the last two meetings with the Buckeyes. Is there any hope for a proud Nebraska program moving forward and do you think they regret joining the Big 10?

Brent: They are awful. And to think, OSU punter Dru Chrisman went to the trouble of traveling to Lincoln. Mike Riley was simply a bad hire. I mean, his successful days at Oregon State were behind him, and he lands the Nebraska job in 2015? I think at the very latest, Riley is gone at the end of this season, and getting Scott Frost to return to Lincoln could get things headed in the right direction pretty quickly. I am not sure it mattered whether it was the Big Ten or the Big 12….Mike Riley is not the guy to head a program like the one Nebraska has.

Colin: Going into bye week, which OSU players have shown the most improvement since the beginning of the season?

Brent: (1) JT Barrett, for the reasons we just discussed. (2) Dante Booker….he was everyone’s whipping boy after the Buckeye LBs got burnt for several big plays by Oklahoma, but he has really come on since. Everyone knew he had the skills; now he’s translated those skills into production. (3) Binjamen Victor….like Booker, he is another guy that everyone knew had all the talent in the world, but I thought maybe lacked WR instincts. He’s proved me wrong there; Victor is really starting to get it.

Colin: Who has been a disappointment?

Brent: Kendall Sheffield. 5-star athlete, 2-star cornerback….at least so far. I am still holding out a glimmer of hope that he can play corner at the level that OSU needs.

Colin: Give us an update on your picks and what games/lines will you be watching this weekend?

Brent: 16-7 against the spread…I’ve been killing it. Not a lot jumping out at me spread wise this week, so I will just take a stab at the 2 marquee games. Penn State-Michigan in Happy Valley. I think you take Michigan and the 9 ½ points here. Michigan’s defense should keep them in this one, but their offense probably keeps them from winning it. I like Notre Dame laying 3 ½ at home, hosting a USC team that is off that emotional 1-point win against Utah. I think Notre Dame is the better team here, and the home field alone is worth 3 ½ or more points.