J.T. Barrett is a Heisman frontrunner in the preseason. Here’s what he will have to do to win the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
Ohio State quarterbacks just don’t seem to get enough Heisman love.
Troy Smith won in 2006, but there weren’t really any other options. Braxton Miller deserved to at least be in the discussion in 2012 and 2013, but was left out in the cold. J.T. Barrett might have been hurt late in 2014, but he was good enough to be close to the Heisman pin – and wasn’t.
This year, Ohio State will again be fantastic even if it is missing the star offensive pieces of the past few years. This offense is all about Barrett and what he can do to run it, so what will he have to do to win the Heisman?
Step One: Take to the tweaked offense
It’s not like Ohio State is turning into Oregon, but Barrett needs to be Marcus Mariota. The coaching staff is going to quicken up the pace, which means putting the ball in the hands of its star and letting him roll. Barrett can run, he can be accurate, and he can be unstoppable when in a groove. All his top targets are gone from last year, and he’s going to have to make everyone around him better. He can do that.
Step Two: Rip the (bleep) out of Bowling Green and Tulsa
Bowling Green has a new coaching staff and needs to rebuild after finishing last year 86th in the nation in total defense. Tulsa had an unstoppable offense last year, but it also couldn’t do anything defensively, finishing with the nation’s third-worst defense.
Barrett has to go ballistic against these two to start the season.
There can’t be any struggles like Ohio State’s offense had last year. There also can’t be any warm-up issues. Barrett has to come out roaring and put up massive numbers to set the Heisman tone, and then he needs to establish himself as the lead dog in the race.
Step Three: Outplay Baker Mayfield and get the win over Oklahoma
Marcus Mariota had the whole world watching when Michigan State came to town early in the 2014 season. Then, 318 yards, three touchdowns, 42 rushing yards, and one big win later, he announced himself as one of the Heisman front-runners.
Barrett not only has to come up with his big game on the road against one of the nation’s top teams, but he has to win the Heisman hype duel with Baker Mayfield. As long as Barrett gets the win, that’s all that really matters. If he’s fantastic and if he’s razor-sharp with a dominant performance, book the trip to New York as at least a finalist.
Step Four: Survive back-to-back road games against Wisconsin and Penn State
Even if rocks against the Sooners on the way to a 5-0 start – Ohio State will roll against Rutgers and Indiana – he’ll have to deal with back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and Penn State. Even if the Buckeyes win those two games, Barrett’s stats could fall off the map against two of the league’s better defenses. Throw in the date with Northwestern the week after if the Cats’ defense is anywhere near as strong as it was last year. Wins will be all that matter at this point for Barrett’s Heisman campaign, but these are the midseason grinders to fight through. It’s going to be especially hard against these teams to …
Step Five: Run well
Wisconsin finished fourth in the nation against the run, Penn State finished 14th in the country in total defense, and Northwestern allowed just 126 rushing yards per game. New year, new teams, but these three will still be good. Barrett doesn’t have to run wild to stay in the Heisman hunt, but if he does a decent job taking off from time to time, it’ll boost up his campaign.
Step Six: Survive against Michigan State and Michigan
And win the Big Ten championship, too. Everything Ohio State does over the first 10 games – including the road games at Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Penn State – builds up to the road game at Michigan State and the regular season finale against Michigan. In terms of the Heisman, if Barrett is circling the field in mid-November, he can be in a position to take the trophy with two good games, two wins, and a victory in the Big Ten title game on the way to the CFP.
Will J.T. Barrett win the Heisman?
It’ll take some big games on the big stages to get close – no problem there – and it’ll take Ohio State getting to the playoff to make it happen. Again, Ohio State quarterbacks since Troy Smith just don’t seem to get enough Heisman love, but this year is different. This is a talented, but rebuilding team, and anything positive that happens will be on Barrett’s shoulders. The offense has to be far better than it was over most of last regular season, and he has to be the catalyst. It all adds up a fourth-place finish.