J.T. Barrett has been on coach James Franklin’s radar throughout the latter’s tenure at Penn State.
It only seems like forever.
“J.T. Barrett has been playing at Ohio State for I think this is his 16th year, maybe going on 17,” Franklin deadpanned while talking to reporters Tuesday. “(He’s) one of the most successful quarterbacks in school history, if not the most, (and) one of the most successful quarterbacks in Big Ten history and nationally.”
On Saturday, when No. 2 Penn State travels to Ohio Stadium to play Barrett and the No. 6 Buckeyes, the senior will come in playing the best football of his college career.
In 2017, Barrett has posted career highs in completion percentage (66.5), touchdown-to-interception ratio (21-to-1) and adjusted yards per attempt (10.7). Since a lackluster performance in a loss to Oklahoma in week 2, in which Barrett was limited to 158 yards passing and was intercepted for the only time this season, he has completed 72.1 percent of his passes.
Franklin, at Penn State since 2014, has been impressed with how the Buckeyes have operated with Barrett at the forefront.
“Early in the season they were still trying to kind of find their offensive identity. They’ve found it now,” Franklin said. “I see J.T. playing with a lot of confidence. He’s obviously surrounded by a lot of talent and he’s doing a great job of distributing the ball to that talent. Again, you've got an experienced, play-making quarterback in a scheme that really accents his abilities and his supporting cast.”
That supporting cast should be at full strength Saturday, as receiver Parris Campbell is expected to play after suffering a head injury early against Nebraska and running back Mike Weber is sound after dealing with a hamstring much of the season. The Nittany Lions also will get their first look at freshman running back J.K. Dobbins, who leads the Big Ten with 7.8 yards per carry.
Penn State might not be acquainted with Dobbins, but they know all about Barrett, who has had mixed results against Penn State. In 2014, he led the Buckeyes to a double-overtime victory at Penn State despite passing for only 74 yards. But he rushed for 75 and both of Ohio State’s touchdowns in overtime.
A year later at Ohio Stadium, Barrett came off the bench in the second quarter and accounted for four touchdowns in a 38-10 win. Barrett rushed for 102 yards and completed 4 of 4 passes for 30 yards and two scores.
In last year’s 24-21 Penn State win in State College, Barrett was 28-of-43 passing with 245 yards and a touchdown while being limited to 26 yards rushing on 17 carries.
The Nittany Lions believe familiarity against Barrett could come in handy, but just to be safe, they’re preparing for the unexpected.
“It’s great to have that much knowledge of J.T. Barrett and being able to play against him,” senior safety Marcus Allen said. “You kind of have a track record of what he usually does. I know this is a new year, and we’ll have to be on our toes, because every year they have something different.”