It’ll be an almost bigger reveal than anything that happened on the field across the country over the first weekend of the college football season.
Which Ohio State quarterback will take the field Monday as the Buckeyes’ starter at Virginia Tech (7 p.m., ESPN)?
Will it be sophomore J.T. Barrett, who was in the Heisman Trophy picture when he got hurt in the 12th game of OSU’s national championship season? Or will it be junior Cardale Jones, who stepped in for the Big Ten title game and the playoff and played his way into sudden household-name status?
It’s the unknown the college football media have wondered — obsessed — about since January. Coach Urban Meyer still wouldn’t give up the goods as the opener at raucous Lane Stadium in Blacksburg approached.
“I imagine if one of them was way ahead, I probably would announce it,” he said. “But they’re not, and [the decision] is more for our team than for who we’re playing.”
It’s difficult to know where to begin to answer the question of which player — the efficient, dynamic Barrett or the big-bodied, giant-armed Jones — gives the Buckeyes a better chance to maximize their potential.
But here’s one guess: It’ll be Barrett who gets the nod, and it should be. After beginning the 2014 season under most difficult circumstances — replacing longtime starter Braxton Miller, who was injured in training camp — Barrett handled his job with poise and precision, throwing for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdowns. The 938 yards and 11 TDs he added on the ground made him the total package.
Especially with the Buckeyes missing several receivers to suspensions against Virginia Tech, Barrett’s accuracy as a thrower and intuitiveness as a zone-read runner are at top value.
Jones is a rare talent — and his fearlessness against Alabama in a national semifinal made him an inspirational figure to his teammates — but he still has yet to start in a true road game. Barrett gained important experience in winning at Penn State, Michigan State and Minnesota as a redshirt freshman. If he kicks his game up a notch in his second year as the starter, he could be the best quarterback in the country.
Besides, the Buckeyes would have Jones — the most proven backup imaginable — at the ready. It’s kind of the perfect position to be in.
THREE TAKEWAYS FROM WEEK 1
1. The Pac-12 isn’t quite as strong as I thought it would be. No. 15 Arizona State wasn’t just outplayed in a 21-point loss to Texas A&M; it was outclassed. The unranked Aggies were stronger up front and faster on the edges. No. 22 Arizona, which won the South last season, didn’t impress at all in a 42-32 victory over UTSA. And you all know what happened to 21st-ranked Stanford in Evanston. It’s no longer clear which league is second-best to the SEC.
2. Minnesota’s defense bordered on great in the Gophers’ opening loss to No. 2 TCU. Given Wisconsin’s offensive-line struggles against Alabama and Nebraska’s up-and-down play on both sides of the ball in a loss to BYU, Jerry Kill’s team might just be the real Big Ten West favorite.
3. Michigan State is extremely fortunate to be getting Oregon in Week 2. A month from now, new Ducks quarterback Vernon Adams could be the talk of college football. For now, he’s still a transfer who missed spring ball and has only one start under his belt for the Ducks, who must travel to East Lansing to take on a revenge-minded Spartans team. Adams looks like the real deal — and then some — but he’ll be a far more complete player down the line than he is at this point.
ONE MORE THING
It seemed at least half the college football columnists out there delivered snarky admonitions (see: “#OverreactionSaturday” on Twitter) to the rest of us to not to make too much of, or dare draw any conclusions from, the first games of the season. Yeah, well, I don’t care if they’re right for pumping the brakes. I mean, of course they’re right. But over-the-top ridiculousness has been the very lifeblood of college football during the BCS/playoff age, and I’m as big of a sucker for it as anybody.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.