No. 1 Ohio State turns to J.T. Barrett to lead its offense against Rutgers on Saturday after seven games of ups and downs with Cardale Jones as the starter. The Scarlet Knights have had no such issues with their quarterback.
Chris Laviano has seized the job for Rutgers after a preseason competition that did not get nearly the attention as the one making headlines in Columbus, Ohio.
Laviano is second in the Big Ten in passer rating (156.14), leads in completion percentage (69.3) and is coming off a career game. The sophomore threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Scarlet Knights (3-3, 1-2) from 25 points down to beat Indiana 55-52 last week.
“I think he’s making progress,” Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. “Sometimes the progress is more visible to the naked eye or to the public than others. But we really have seen progress, and we’re pleased with how he’s working.”
If only Urban Meyer had it so easy with his quarterbacks. Jones has started since Week 1 against Virginia Tech but his play has been inconsistent at best, especially in the red zone, so this week Barrett was promoted by Meyer.
Last year’s Big Ten player of the year has accounted for seven touchdowns (five running and two passing) the last two games in relief of Jones.
“He’s a true field general,” tight end Nick Vannett said of Barrett. “He grabs the attention of everybody and everybody listens to what he says. When you have a quarterback like that, it definitely gives you confidence in the offense.”
Barrett was the Big Ten player of the year last season, leading the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record and accounting for a conference record 45 touchdowns before breaking his ankle. Jones took over and led the Buckeyes to the national championship. Since then, the quarterback situation for Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) has been one of the most-talked about topics in college football.
Facing a defense ranked second-to-last in the Big Ten in yards per play (6.58), Barrett has a chance to make this a drama-free week and end the quarterback shuffle Meyer has been playing for much of the season. The coach did warn that Jones has to “stay engaged.”
“It’s tougher because you’re really not sure what they’re doing on their side, but we just have to prepare like both of them will play,” Rutgers safety Anthony Cioffi said.
What to watch for — beside who is playing quarterback for the Buckeyes — when Ohio State makes its first visit to Rutgers.
CARROO WATCH: Rutgers star receiver Leontee Carroo is nursing an ankle injury that will make him a game-time decision.
Carroo has played in only 3 1/2 games this season because of suspensions but still leads the team with 21 catches for 472 yards and nine touchdowns.
His return to the lineup the last two weeks has been a big reason why Laviano has played so well against Indiana and Michigan State.
Flood said Thursday that Carroo was “moving in the right direction.”
SELLOUT: This is exactly what Rutgers envisioned when it joined the Big Ten.
Tickets are sold out for the nationally televised night game at High Points Solutions Stadium. It will be the fourth sellout in the two years the Scarlet Knights have been in the Big Ten.
The stadium record for attendance (53,774) was set at last year’s Penn State game.
“It’s going to be great. The venue is awesome. 8 o’clock, prime time. It’s the first time in history, so we want to go out there and put on a show,” Cioffi said.
The Scarlet Knights have never beaten a No. 1 team in five tries. The last time was 2002 against Miami.
STREAKING: Ohio State’s winning streak is 20 games, the longest in the nation. The Buckeyes have also won 15 consecutive true road games, tops in the nation, and they have won 27 straight regular-season conference games.
For Meyer, this is the fourth time he has had a 20-game winning streak in his coaching career. No other FBS or Division I-A coach has ever had more than two.
Meyer said linebacker Joshua Perry is probable to play Saturday after he sprained his ankle early against Penn State last week.
Without Perry, sophomore Dante Booker got the most extensive playing time of his career. The Nittany Lions took advantage of Booker at times getting big yards running to his side.
Perry is second the team with 52 tackles.