Sorry, haters: Buckeyes are in ideal position to snatch another title

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J.T. Barrett is back to starring on the field — and his Buckeyes are right where they want to be. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

J.T. Barrett did what he had to do after leading No. 3 Ohio State to a 28-3 victory at Illinois on Saturday: apologize.

“I’m truly sorry for my actions,” said the sophomore quarterback, who returned from a one-game suspension following an arrest for drunk driving. “I know that the main thing about it is I wasn’t really thinking about my position here at Ohio State. … I apologize to Buckeye nation.”

So we’ll move on from that story to the bigger-picture one about the 10-0 Buckeyes and their quest to run the table in the Big Ten, return to the College Football Playoff and claim a second consecutive national championship.

Critics have essentially been looking for an apology all along from this team, which has faced a relatively light schedule for a title contender yet has struggled in several outings against inferior opponents. Northern Illinois lost by a touchdown in Columbus. Indiana went wire-to-wire with the Buckeyes in Bloomington. Even Maryland and Minnesota, each under .500, made Urban Meyer’s team look a bit suspect.

But there’s no apology coming, nor should there be.

Ohio State — despite its puzzlingly underperforming offensive line and season-long controversy at the quarterback position — is in a beautiful spot entering the stretch of November everyone has been waiting for. Two regular-season games remain, at home against Michigan State and on the road at Michigan. The Buckeyes have teed things up for a run of quality victories, including in the Big Ten title game, that would entrench them as playoff favorites.

“I expect us to play Ohio State football,” Barrett said. “We have to stay aggressive and hopefully come out with a Big Ten championship. But we have to play better to beat Michigan State [Saturday in Columbus]. They are the top of the conference, too.”

With all due respect to the Spartans: No, they’re not. Ohio State has won 23 straight games overall, and an unreal 30 in a row in the regular season. Until further notice, the Big Ten belongs to the Buckeyes. The came can be said about all of college football.

Think of this in terms of how topsy-turvy the season is for everyone else in the Big Ten. Last week at Purdue, Illinois outgained the Boilermakers 595-263 in an utterly dominant 48-14 victory. Purdue is the same team that had rolled Nebraska the week before. Nebraska went on to beat Michigan State.

Ohio State just wins — always.

Is it perfect? No, it’s never perfect. But Meyer’s team continues to ooze talent the rest of the league’s contenders can’t even imagine having for themselves. As Meyer pointed out following the win at Illinois, his defense has been “lights out” of late. That’s so true — the last four opponents are averaging under 10 points a game.

Nobody’s perfect in college football, regardless of record. No. 1 Clemson got everything it could handle in a 37-27 win at 3-7 Syracuse on Saturday. No. 2 Alabama has lost a game.

All Ohio State does is win, and that’s more than good enough to this point. No apologies necessary.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg



Week: No. 12 Oklahoma 44, No. 6 Baylor 34. This was the biggest win for Sooners coach Bob Stoops in so long, we have to wonder if Stoops is an elite coach anymore. But forget that for now — the Sooners are 9-1, and they have a shot, at 8-1 Baylor’s expense, to rise up into the playoff mix.

OU quarterback Baker Mayfield was heroic, throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 70 yards. And running back Samaje Perine had 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Week: Oregon 38, No. 7 Stanford 36. What a win for the Ducks, who are 7-3 but — whom are we kidding? — wrecked their rivals’ chance to rip through the Pac-12 and get into the playoff. It was a hugely entertaining game, with the Cardinal (8-2) scoring with 10 seconds left before failing on a two-point conversion attempt. Stanford had 32 first downs to Oregon’s 18, but the Ducks were clutch when it counted. Not a bad turn of events for arguably the most disappointing team in the country.

Weak: No. 15 TCU 23, Kansas 17. Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin busted up an ankle. (He should be back soon.) His team slobbered all over itself in a silly performance against an 0-10 Jayhwaks team. Are the 9-1 Horned Frogs done trying? It sure seemed so in this one.


Jake Rudock, QB, Michigan: No. 14 Michigan’s offense was needed like never before this season in a 48-41 double-overtime victory at Indiana. Rudock delivered, throwing for 440 yards and (hello) six touchdowns. Scoring pass No. 4 came on fourth-and-goal on the tying drive that forced overtime in the waning seconds of regulation. The Wolverines (8-2) stayed alive in the Big Ten East race.

Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan: The Wolverines go double-Game Ball Gonzo this week, and for good reason — Chesson caught 10 balls for 207 yards and (hello) four touchdowns in the game of the year for Michigan’s little-talked-about offensive unit.

Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy: This one’s easy — Reynolds rushed for four touchdowns in a 55-14 blowout of SMU, shattering former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball’s career record of 77 scores on the ground. Reynolds now sits at 81, with at least four games remaining with the 8-1 Midshipmen.


Up: No. 23 North Carolina. The Tar Heels’ ranking is ridiculous. They’ve won nine in a row since losing their opener, and Saturday’s 59-21 victory over Miami was ridiculous. Look out, Clemson, come ACC title-game time.

Down: No. 9 LSU. The Tigers were hammered on their home field 31-14 by Arkansas. Pretenders? Guess so.

Down and out: No. 21 Memphis. The Tigers played well in a 35-34 defeat at unbeaten Houston, but that’s two straight losses for a team that once had designs on sneaking into the playoff. Sorry, boys.


• There’s no question who sits atop the Heisman Trophy race now. It’s Alabama running back Derrick Henry, who topped the 200-yard mark again as the Crimson Tide won 31-6 at Mississippi State to move to 9-1. Henry is gigantic and fast — an absurdly good combo.

• Loving 10-0 Houston. Not buying for a second that the Cougars could play within two touchdowns of any other playoff contender. Sorry.

• Iowa is 10-0 following a 40-35 victory over Minnesota. The Hawkeyes were ranked fifth by the playoff committee entering the weekend. But let’s be real — no chance this team beats Ohio State in the league title game if it comes to that.

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.


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