COLUMBUS (AP) — Cardale Jones will remain top-ranked Ohio State’s quarterback Saturday against Western Michigan.
Coach Urban Meyer announced the decision following practice Wednesday, two days after hinting he was considering starting J.T. Barrett.
Jones was pulled in the second quarter of a 20-13 victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday after throwing two interceptions.
“Someone has to beat someone out,” Meyer said. “You don’t anoint people.”
Jones led Ohio State to the national championship last season and started the first three games this season.
Barrett was 11-1 last season starting for injured two-time Big Ten player of the year Braxton Miller before breaking his ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan. Jones replaced Barrett and led Ohio State (3-0) to victories over Wisconsin in the conference title game, Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals and Oregon in the championship game.
“(Jones) was the quarterback at the finish,” Meyer said. “He was the quarterback in spring practice, the only healthy one, and he was the starter this season. He is the guy unless he doesn’t perform well.”
Wide receiver Michael Thomas was unaware who was starting when he met with the media after practice Wednesday.
“What you told me is news to me,” Thomas said. “I trust J.T. out there or Cardale out there.”
As the offensive production decreased the first three games this season with Jones in charge, Barrett’s playing time increased.
In mop-up duty against Virginia Tech in the opener, Barrett had a 40-yard run and a 26-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.
Barrett played three series in the second quarter against Hawaii when the offense had trouble moving the ball, but Jones finished the 38-0 victory. Meyer started Jones last week against Northern Illinois, but after scoring just three points, Barrett entered for the remainder of the game.
Barrett took Ohio State 44 yards in four plays for the only offensive TD of the game — a 23-yard pass to Thomas.
“They’re both great guys,” center Jacoby Boren said. “They understand it’s a daily battle, a competition.”
Jones is 26 for 46 (56.5 percent) for 334 yards this season with two touchdowns and three interceptions and a 118.82 efficiency rating. He has 115 yards on 21 carries (5.5) and a score.
Barrett has 103 yards passing on 20 for 35 (57.1) percent, two touchdowns, an interception and a 116.61 rating. He has rushed five times for 65 yards (13.0).
Meyer doesn’t blame Jones for the team’s offensive slide.
“It’s not him. The offense is in a funk,” Meyer said. “When the quarterbacks have great games it’s because those around them are playing well. All the focus is on the quarterback, and that comes with it, but we have to play much better in all areas.”
Ohio State is 75th in total offense at 411 yards per game, 100 less on average than last season when it was ninth. After gaining 572 yards at Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes dropped to 363 against Hawaii and 298 against Northern Illinois.
“We’re turning the ball over at an alarming rate, and we’re not playing well on the offensive front,” Meyer said. “So all those things have been addressed, and it’s more coaching than playing performance.”
He has not been pleased by the play of the quarterbacks but he also cites poor perimeter blocking, the lack of a deep threats and the inability to spring running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“Saturday will be exciting,” Thomas said. “We’re going to play angry and we’re going to execute at a high tempo.”