There were many in and around the Ohio State football program worried about a hangover from last Saturday’s huge win over Michigan State bleeding into this Saturday. Shaking off a first-half headache that was part Minnesota-induced and part weather-related, OSU (mostly) allayed those fears over the course of the last two quarters.
Up by a scant three points at halftime, the Buckeyes outscored the home-standing Gophers 14-10 in the second half to head back to Columbus with a 31-24 win. And, sounding eerily similar to a broken record on a weekly basis, it was the play of J.T. Barrett that played a significant role in OSU’s ninth win in 10 games this season.
The redshirt freshman quarterback had four total touchdowns — three passing, one rushing — to give him 37 on the season, breaking the school record of 36. He also has 29 touchdown passes on the year, one shy of tying Troy Smith‘s school record of 30 set in 2006.
Barrett also accounted for 375 yards of offense — 198 passing, 189 rushing. 310 of those yards came in the first half, and the rushing yards set another school single-game record for a quarterback. In the first half, he set a school mark for longest touchdown run by a quarterback with his 86-yarder.
Both the marks Barrett broke had been held by Braxton Miller, who, while his replacement is in the midst of the Heisman race, is in the midst of getting Pipp’d.
The Buckeye defense intercepted a pair of Mitch Leidner passes in the second half, with the offense converting one of those into a touchdown. The Gophers managed 303 yards of offense, while the Buckeyes posted 489.
Leidner threw for just 85 yards; it was the second time this year he’s thrown for under 100 yards in a game. Gopher running back David Cobb ran for three touchdowns in a losing effort.
In extending its conference-record winning streak to 22 straight, Ohio State moves to within one victory — or a Michigan State loss — of clinching the Big Ten East and a spot in the conference championship game the first weekend of December. Given the remaining schedule that looks to be a near-certainty as OSU closes out the regular season with home games against 3-6 Indiana and 5-5 Michigan.
The Buckeyes also kept themselves very much in the thick of the College Football Playoff. What will be interesting is how the committee views this win.
The Gophers came into this game 25th in the latest CFP rankings and tied for first, with Nebraska and Wisconsin, in the Big Ten West. Not only that, but Minnesota is a common opponent for No. 8 OSU and No. 5 TCU as the Horned Frogs beat the Gophers 30-7 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth in mid-September.
Many were touting that non-conference win as one of the reasons TCU should be ranked ahead of the likes of Alabama and Baylor, and it was no doubt part of the equation for the committee. With their win coming on the road against the same team, the Buckeyes will no doubt, and rightly so, be looking for a boost in its résumé on which the committee will lean to set the four-team playoff field on down the road.
Also unknown? How the committee views the seven-point win. The Buckeyes led by 17 early in the fourth quarter before the Gophers scored 10 points in the last seven minutes to make the score closer than the game actually was.
Still, the Buckeyes’ best playoff hopes, in tandem with winning out, rests on chaos ahead of them the last three weeks of the season as well as a one-loss Nebraska in the Big Ten title game. Anything less than that and OSU will be on the outside of the playoff window looking in.