College Sports

Further Review: Barrett, Buckeyes are back at the top of the B1G heap

Ohio State 39, Penn State 38. Those who watched it won’t soon forget it. And I’m including those of us who had no choice but to record it, block out all contact with the outside world for a while, then fast-forward through it for a glorious hour and a half or so.

It was spectacular.

The Nittany Lions proved themselves to be an elite team, but what the Buckeyes did — after trailing 28-10 in the second quarter — was reinvent themselves as national-title contenders. And the biggest story in the story was senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who played merely the greatest game of his career.

Barrett’s 33-for-39 passing performance, for 328 yards and four touchdowns, included a perfect 13-for-13 fourth-quarter run as his team was storming back. He wasn’t intercepted — still stuck on a measly one pick for the season — and added 95 yards on the ground. We all were reminded of his prominence in the Big Ten, which seemed to be largely forgotten as Penn State’s Trace McSorley and other quarterbacks around the country soared.

Ohio State's J.T. Barrett reintroduced himself to all of us Saturday as the best quarterback in the Big Ten. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

It’s the Buckeyes who have the best quarterback in the conference. Not that he was alone Saturday in standing out.

RELATED STORIES
No. 9 Notre Dame wears down No. 14 N.C. State behind Adams, Love
Northwestern stuns No. 16 Michigan State 39-31 in 3 OTs

A tip of the helmet to Nebraska’s Tanner Lee, who threw for 431 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-24 victory at Purdue and made like Joe Montana on the Huskers’ last-ditch, winning drive. And we shouldn’t overlook Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, who dropped one dime after another as the Wildcats edged Michigan State 39-31 in triple overtime.

But let’s just talk about Brandon Peters, shall we? Lost in the commotion of a huge Week 9 was Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s decision to yank John O’Korn and send in redshirt freshman Peters against Rutgers. Once the Wolverines’ No. 3 quarterback this season, Peters looked the part of an eventual star. That’s huge as we barrel toward Michigan’s regular-season-ending games at Wisconsin and at home against Ohio State.

If the Wolverines have a stud under center, they can beat either or both of those teams. Peters stands 6-5 and has innate comfort in the pocket. Talk about a game to remember. His modest 10-for-14 for 124 yards and a touchdown might have been the start of something huge.

Question of the week

What will the first College Football Playoff rankings look like Tuesday?

We all know Alabama will be in the top four. Georgia, too. But the Associated Press’ No. 2 (Penn State) and No. 4 (TCU) teams lost in Week 9, so what gives? Unbeaten Wisconsin is 8-0, but the Badgers have beaten precisely no one.

My best guess: It’ll be Alabama No. 1, Georgia No. 2 and, whoa, I just got confused. Other than unbeaten Miami, which has only a decent résumé to this point, we’re looking at once-beaten Ohio State, Penn State, Clemson, Oklahoma and, yes, Notre Dame.

The Irish’s only loss was by a point to Georgia. It won’t surprise me at all if they’re among the four. I can see Clemson in the mix, too.

Say what?

‘‘I’ve never touched a football in a football game, other than at center.’’

That was Wisconsin offensive lineman Michael Dieter, who scored on a trick play to put the Badgers ahead 24-3 on Saturday at Illinois.

Some Illini fans were offended by what they perceived as poor sportsmanship, but that’s silly. A wise coach — in this case, Paul Chryst — rewards his wall of beef once in a blue moon. Dieter and all of his linemates will cherish the moment forever.

Big Ten power rankings

1. Ohio State (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten): Coach Urban Meyer looked stunned as the Buckeyes fell behind Saturday. It’s almost like he knew this team was bound for the Big Ten title and the playoff.

2. Penn State (7-1, 4-1): These Nittany Lions are just plain better than the 2016 team that won the Big Ten and went to the Rose Bowl. But will it matter?

3. Wisconsin (8-0, 5-0): Any chance the Badgers’ offense wants to come along for the ride?

4. Michigan State (6-2, 4-1): What a gut punch at Northwestern. It’s still a hugely successful season, given the nine-loss train wreck in 2016.

5. Michigan (6-2, 3-2): Let’s see what you’ve got, Peters. Your defense is good enough to give you a chance.

6. Northwestern (5-3, 3-2): Next up for the Wildcats is a date at Nebraska. Win there, and they’re back in the overachievers column.

7. Iowa (5-3, 2-3): The Hawkeyes’ 17-10 victory at home against Minnesota was classic in the not-good-but-not-bad sense.

8. Nebraska (4-4, 3-2): How many jobs were saved by the comeback at Purdue?

9. Purdue (3-5, 1-4): It’s OK, Boilers, you’re much better than before. We all still see it.

10. Minnesota (4-4, 1-4): The Gophers have a great home stadium and a can-do new coach in P.J. Fleck. It’s just going to take a bit of time.

11. Maryland (4-4, 2-3): Every time we think the Terrapins are abjectly terrible, they pull a gag like coming back to beat Indiana.

12. Rutgers (3-5, 2-3): We’ve seen worse records. And the Scarlet Knights haven’t embarrassed themselves all month.

13. Indiana (3-5, 0-5): We’re tempted to call this the best 0-5 team in Big Ten history because there’s some talent in Bloomington. No, really.

14. Illinois (2-6, 0-5): They’re in excuse mode in Champaign. It’s kind of sad.

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com