INDIANAPOLIS — J.T. Barrett has seen enough Big Ten championship games from the sideline.
So just six days after undergoing surgery on his injured right knee, the Ohio State quarterback is preparing to start tonight against No. 3 Wisconsin.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said Friday that Barrett, the three-time conference quarterback of the year, has been cleared to play after undergoing 15 hours of treatment per day since having a procedure he did not specify.
“Certain people probably couldn’t do it, but J.T.’s a little different,” Meyer said after confirming Barrett had surgery following last week’s win at Michigan. “He’s just one of the toughest human beings I’ve ever come across in my career. He’s just a very unique individual.”
Most players, Meyer noted, require at least two or three weeks to recover from minor knee surgery. Barrett, however, was throwing at practice Wednesday and took his regular regimen of snaps Thursday. If his recovery continues into today, Barrett will start.
“It takes a rare individual to do that because there is a pain threshold,” Meyer said. “That’s not normal.”
The eighth-ranked Buckeyes (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten, No. 8 CFP) must figure out how effective he will be.
Meyer acknowledged Ohio State needs Barrett to be close to full mobility against one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. And if Barrett isn’t himself, Meyer will go with redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins, who led the Buckeyes to 17 straight points in a comeback win over the Wolverines last week.
Barrett has been here before — and so have the Badgers (12-0, 9-0, No. 4 CFP).
Three years ago, Barrett fractured his ankle against Michigan then cheered on backup Cardale Jones during a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin in the title game. Jones and the Buckeyes went on to defeat Alabama and Oregon to finish a national championship run.
Back then, Wisconsin didn’t know much about Jones.
This time, with another potential playoff ticket at stake, the Badgers have a better sense of what they’ll face — with or without Barrett.
“Certainly you want to get an idea of what you may see,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst said of having film of both Ohio State quarterbacks. “But it’s just one piece of it and we’ve got to make sure that our group focuses on the whole picture. It’s a really good team and it’s a really good offense and you’ve got to defend the whole team.”
A win for the unbeaten Badgers would almost certainly assure them of a spot in the playoff.
If the Buckeyes win, though, Meyer might begin lobbying to become the first two-loss team in the field. They’d probably need some help, like No. 10 TCU upsetting No. 2 Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Auburn, ranked No. 2 in the CFP with two losses, faces Georgia for the SEC title.
The argument for Ohio State making it would be wins over three top-15 teams — then-No. 2 Penn State, then-No. 12 Michigan State and the Badgers — along with a road win at Michigan and a loss to then-No. 5 Oklahoma.
The argument against: The Buckeyes were blown out at unranked Iowa and that loss to the Sooners came at home.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor won the Big Ten rushing title and earned first-team all-conference honors. Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins made the second team. But in addition to winning the Big Ten trophy and possibly a playoff ticket, the two sensational freshmen have other achievements in sight, too.
Taylor needs 120 yards to break Adrian Peterson’s FBS freshman record (1,925), set in 2004, and needs 194 yards to reach the 2,000-yard mark.
Ohio State is No. 5 in the nation in scoring at 43.8 points per game. Wisconsin enters the weekend second in points allowed (12.0). And there's one obvious place that will dictate the outcome of this game.
“I think any big game, you can just research it, every big game will come down to who wins the line of scrimmage,” Meyer said. “The line of scrimmage is going to be the key to the game tomorrow.”
Barrett might be the biggest name on this week's injury report. He's far from the only one. Wisconsin has already ruled out running back Bradrick Shaw (left leg) and tight end Zander Neuville (right leg) for the rest of the season. Ohio State running back Mike Weber, meanwhile, intends to play after hurting his right arm against Michigan. The Buckeyes also expect linebackers Dante Booker and Malik Harrison to play.
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