With just two games left in the regular season, Ohio State has reached one of its goals: competing for championships in November.
With a win over Indiana, the Buckeyes will have clinched a spot in their second straight Big Ten Championship Game. But there is another award opportunity that not everyone saw coming.
According to Bovada.com, an online gambling site, OSU redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has 15/1 odds of winning the 2014 Heisman Trophy as of Wednesday evening. Those odds currently put Barrett as the third-highest favorite behind Oregon redshirt-junior quarterback Marcus Mariota (2/5) and Wisconsin redshirt-junior running back Melvin Gordon (9/4).
In comparison, Barrett is third in the nation in overall quarterback passer rating, sporting an 87.9 rating, as Mariota holds the top spot with a 90.9 QBR.
Barrett has accounted for 38 total touchdowns and 3,127 total yards in 10 games this season. The Buckeyes’ last Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Troy Smith, accounted for 2,746 total yards and 31 total touchdowns during 2006-07 season.
OSU sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott said Wednesday that his teammate deserves to be in the Heisman discussion.
“He is a great leader. First of all, I think he is playing as good as any player in the nation,” Elliott said. “I think he should definitely be in the talks. I think he is right up there.”
Senior tight end Jeff Heuerman echoed Elliott’s comments adding that he, along with others close to Barrett, is not surprised by the young quarterback’s success.
“I told you guys. I know what kind of guy he is, and what kind of player he is and competitor and a leader,” Heuerman said Wednesday. “I don’t think there are a lot of people (who know him) that are really surprised. He has done a great job. He has worked for that every step of the way. Hats off to him.”
With the Buckeyes sitting at 9-1, 6-0, OSU coach Urban Meyer said he has previously spoken to his team about handling success. He added that no such conversation is needed when dealing with Barrett.
“No. This kid is so grounded. That is once again a credit to his family,” Meyer said Wednesday. “If I saw it (problems with handling pressure), certainly I would jump in the middle of that but I haven’t given it two thoughts.”
Barrett said Wednesday that the added attention and Heisman talk has been surreal for him.
“It is kind of crazy to think about. That is really never on my mind … but I am grateful that I am on that list,” Barrett said. “But the objective every week is to go out there and win games.”
Barrett has broken multiple school records this season, including most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback (189) and longest rush by a quarterback (86).
Both records were previously held by senior quarterback Braxton Miller, whom Barrett replaced following Miller’s season-ending torn labrum injury.
Barrett is also just two touchdown passes away from breaking Smith’s record of passing scores in a season.
Meyer said Monday that Barrett has acknowledged there are things he could be doing better despite breaking multiple records.
“J.T. is a Heisman candidate that knows that he could have played much better Saturday, and that’s the best thing about coaching these guys right now,” Meyer said about Barrett and the Buckeyes. “I hope it doesn’t change. That’s something we’re watching very closely with guys that are starting to get some notoriety.”
Barrett said he has the same goals as his head coach and is doing his best to remain levelheaded.
“I hope it doesn’t change me, I hope I stay the same. I will try hard to be the same: working hard, being here on a Wednesday night until probably 9 o’clock,” he said. “I am going to do my best to make sure it doesn’t. I have people here to keep me grounded so it is really unlikely for that to happen.”
Despite the Heisman attention, Barrett said the attention remains on the Buckeyes’ next opponent.
“Being 1-0 at the end of the week, making sure that is the main focus,” Barrett said. “Not thinking about the Big Ten Championship Game, not thinking about that team up north, but just beat Indiana. That is the objective this week.”
The Buckeyes and Hoosiers are scheduled to square off Saturday at noon from Ohio Stadium.