What we learned last week: Perceptions are hard to erase.
When J.T. Barrett went into Ohio State's eventual 38-0 win over Hawaii in the second quarter, I knew that was going to unleash a lot of probably unnecessary talk about who should be the starter going forward, but I also thought he would play well enough to justify it.
It's not that Barrett was bad, he just wasn't any better than Cardale Jones, who also wasn't necessarily bad but didn't set the bar very high early on. That was plain to see on the stat sheet, but it was also what the eyeball test told me.
Barrett still had to deal with pressure, he still wasn't very sharp throwing the ball, and most of the offense's success when he was in the game was probably more attributable to others than him (as with the struggles, I guess it's fair to say).
This is all meaningful because at the end of the day one of them has more tools to deal with trouble than the other, and that is Jones.
Yet I still saw reactions on Twitter acting as if Barrett had fixed the team's problems because it "just looked better" when he was in there. That's a fairly terrible way to decide who should be the starter, but it wasn't even true. Yet it was only partly surprising to see that reaction after it became clear throughout the offseason the image of Barrett burned in the minds of many fans and analysts was from pretty much only the good times.
Urban Meyer saved us all a week of debate Monday by declaring Jones his starter, confirming what could have been inferred from his post-game comments about whether or not he was being fair to them.
Meyer going back to Jones in the second half -- in addition to his decision never to go to Barrett while the Virginia Tech game was in doubt -- was a pretty good indicator he felt this was more of a QB1 and QB2 situation than 1A and 1B, but now we know for sure.
How will it play out the rest of the season? Even if Jones is the No. 1, one can easily conclude he doesn't have endless rope. (Though he seems to have more with coaches than fans, that's probably not unusual.)
Jones could almost certainly play his way out of the job, particularly if he makes dropping snaps and throwing the ball into coverage a habit.
Though he certainly couldn't have been happy about either the way he played or getting pulled (that's just a natural reaction for any competitor), he said all the right things in the postgame interview room.
Whether he meant them all is somewhat beside the point. Going before the press and trying to take the heat off the rest of the team is indicative of a guy who understands what is best for the team going forward. I'm sure Barrett would have done the same thing, but with Jones it's probably more notable given that he does not have Barrett's reputation as a consummate leader.
There are far more important things than talking to the press for a college quarterback, but taking the "team first" approach when it would be say to complain about the blocking or the play calling is indicative of a guy maturing into his role as a leader, too.
At least that's my read of the situation.
Barrett has some great points on his resumé and did nothing wrong to lose the job, so he does deserve more consideration of his feelings than most players in a quarterback competition would, but what is best for the team has to be considered above all else.
In that case, it's nice to get Barrett (or any backup) reps when possible in case he is pressed into action by injury later, but making sure the starter is comfortable in his role is more important because you're still hoping he is the only one needed. In the past we've heard Meyer talk about getting reps for a lot of players who never got off the bench even in blowouts, but this is a different situation for certain. I suspect we'll see Jones get more time to play through mistakes than he got last week, but Barrett will be used more quickly in games that are in hand than backups have in the past.
What will we learn this week: Are the Buckeyes' protection problems chronic?
Perhaps it's just a matter of typical early-season issues with getting into sync combined with the talent of Virginia Tech and the small preparation window for Hawaii, but it would be naive to completely dismiss this as a potential problem down the line. That is especially true considering this is a veteran unit including four guys who played all season together last year.
This is probably a topic better to be explored more in-depth in another piece, but it's also interesting to consider there is a recurring theme of odd front defenses giving Ohio State trouble. I say that mostly because... hardly anyone runs an odd front defense full time in college football.
And then I guess for this week there is the opponent.... How good is Northern Illinois?
The Huskies were ranked only No. 82 in Football Outsiders preseason projection, but that's 39 spots higher than Hawaii (Virginia Tech was No. 27).
The FO preview also indicates they played a high-tempo offense last season while the 4-3 defense tended toward bend-but-don't-breakiness.
They are 2-0 after beating FCS Murray State handily last week and getting by UNLV 38-30 in their opener. (The Runnin' Rebels are expected to we one of the worst teams in FBS, for what it's worth, and they play Michigan this week.)