Ohio State’s run to the 2014-15 National Championship will go down in history as one of the most improbable feats of all-time. They were left for dead prior to the season when quarterback Braxton Miller suffered a shoulder injury in camp that would keep him out for the year. That left second-stringer J.T. Barrett, a freshman, to try and shoulder the load.
After a shaky game against Navy to open the season, Barrett and company were upset at home by Virginia Tech 21-35. Almost nobody thought the Buckeyes could recover from that loss and make the four-team playoff. In fact, you could find them at anywhere from 50/1 to 100/1 odds to win the National Championship after that defeat.
Well, Barrett managed to rally the troops the rest of the way as the Buckeyes reeled off 10 straight victories to close out the regular season. Unfortunately, Barrett would suffer a fractured ankle in the regular season finale against Michigan that would sideline him for the entire postseason. That left third-stringer Cardale Jones to man the QB duties.
Jones and the Buckeyes entered the Big Ten Championship as underdogs, but soundly beat Wisconsin 59-0. They were also underdogs against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and won 42-35. They still got no respect in the National Championship Game, and they blasted Oregon 42-20 despite being upwards of 7-point underdogs.
All three of these quarterbacks could be back next season, which will make for a very intriguing competition at quarterback. Urban Meyer will have a very difficult decision to make, thought it’s a good problem to have. Oddsmakers at Bovada have actually released odds on which quarterback will start the 2015-16 season opener, and here they are.
As you can see, Jones is the favorite to be the starter for the 2015-16 season opener. That’s probably the most likely scenario because there’s no way you can overlook what he provided for this team in their three biggest games of the season against the best competition they faced all year.
Jones threw for 242 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score in the win over Oregon. He clearly has the biggest arm of the three quarterbacks, which gives the offense an added dimension. He is also very tough to bring down and almost always falls forward. The threat of the deep ball helped open up plenty of running room for Ezekiell Elliott, who rushed for over 200 yards in the team’s final three games.
There are reports out there about Jones possibly entering the NFL Draft. Asked whether he would be back at Ohio State in 2015, the redshirt sophomore told the NFL Network: “I’m not going to say ‘definitely.’ (The NFL) is something that I’ll consider. My most important focus is getting my degree.”
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay called Jones “an extremely raw Ben Roethlisberger” and actually projected him as a fourth-or-fifth-round pick if he enters the draft instead of returning to Ohio State. Jones will have until Thursday to decide if he’s going to declare or not, but that could be extended since the Buckeyes played in the National Championship, and thus players haven’t had much time to ponder their future.
Miller is a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year winner and was one of the front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy entering the 2014 season. After suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, his hopes of winning that prestigious award came to an end. Miller is set to graduate this year and will have one year of eligibility remaining.
That means he could transfer without sitting out a year if he so chooses. Programs like LSU, Florida State and Oregon have been mentioned as possible destinations for Miller if he were to transfer. He told ESPN after the game Monday that he is focused on getting healthy and hasn’t made any decision yet. “I’ve got to get my shoulder right,” he said.
Barrett, a redshirt freshman this season, kept the championship hopes alive for the Buckeyes by leading them to an 11-1 regular season record. He expects all three quarterbacks will return for a great competition. “I’m not leaving,” he told ESPN. “I don’t think Braxton is leaving. I don’t think Cardale is leaving. That’s being honest. With that, I mean, it’s just competition. It’s part of football. It’s what we’re about to do.