Ohio State has what some might call a perfect problem looming in the 2015 season as two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller could return for his final season of eligibility.
The No. 8 Buckeyes (8-1, 5-0) are currently in the midst of the College Football Playoff race behind the play of redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett.
Since losing to Virginia Tech at home Sept. 6, the Wichita Falls, Texas, native has been sensational under center. Barrett led the Buckeyes to four consecutive games of 50 or more points and 500 or more yards — both school records.
Barrett’s 64.4 percent completion percentage and 34 total touchdowns through nine games has him square on the map as a Heisman Trophy contender and the clear favorite to win Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Perhaps his most impressive performance came Saturday night in East Lansing, Mich., against the defending Big Ten champion Michigan State Spartans. Barrett went 16-of-26 for 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, and added 86 yards and two scores on the ground.
Afterward, Barrett embraced coach Urban Meyer as the Buckeyes took over sole possession of first place in the Big Ten East Division and opened up a smooth path to finishing with just one blemish on their résumé.
Meanwhile, Miller continues to rehab the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and sits quietly on the sidelines supporting the young quarterback.
The whispers have already started up about who will get the most playing time in 2015, despite OSU’s ongoing battles in the conference and nationally.
Barrett needs just two touchdowns to tie Miller’s career best for total touchdowns in a season (36), but the explosiveness Miller brings to the table cannot be ignored.
Meyer said in his Monday press conference that OSU is “fortunate” and “blessed” to have two outstanding quarterbacks in the building each day. But he said Barrett is more of a product of the environment at OSU.
“We’re very fortunate to have those guys,” Meyer said. “But once again, when you start saying that, J.T. is a product of those around him. I also say that when things aren’t going as well.”
And it is true. OSU has surrounded Barrett with more weapons than a quarterback could ask for. And despite his ability to spread the wealth around, he doesn’t bring the dynamic play making that Miller possesses.
Miller can turn a broken play into a 50-yard gain in a flash. His mobility and shiftiness turns a simple read option into a defensive coordinator’s nightmare.
It’s easy to jump on the Barrett bandwagon because we live in the moment as a society, and especially as sports fans. Barrett’s play has been outstanding and he deserves a trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony if the Buckeyes win out and take the Big Ten crown.
But let’s not forget what Miller has done for the program. In Meyer’s first season, when the team did not have the personnel to fully run the spread offense, Miller was the offense. Often the best attack for OSU in those days was broken plays where Miller could scramble and make something out of nothing.
Barrett’s game is predicated on the players around him to help support his progression.
Miller has proven he can carry an entire load by himself. And he deserves to carry that load one more time for the Buckeyes.