Redshirt freshman Kirk Barton told reporters after practice Tuesday he has been told he will start Saturday's game at Iowa. The 6-6, 305-pound Barton actually finished last week's game in relief of sophomore Tim Schafer, who started the season's first five games.
"I played roughly 65 to 70 percent of the plays," Barton said. "I was probably in for 42 of the 60 plays last week."
Barton was sent into the game after Wisconsin defensive end Erasmus James had given Schafer some problems.
"On the first couple series, Erasmus gave Schafe some trouble," Barton said. "They put me in and I relaxed and just got focused in. I felt I was a scholarship guy at Ohio State. Erasmus is a great player, but I was playing with him."
Barton said he has worked hard to get his shot at some playing time.
"As a practice player, I've been working hard to get better technique," Barton said. "That was my best performance so far in my short career."
Barton discussed the problems with the offense and criticism on quarterback Justin Zwick.
"It's hard seeing that," Barton said. "Justin is out there fighting so hard. He takes a lot of criticism and you guys are all over him. We've just got to step it up and get it done this week.
"Our fans, I love our fans, but they don't sit through video. They are entitled to their two cents and we have to take their criticism. If we do well, we get heaping praise. If we lose, we're going to get that criticism."
Reporters tried to draw Barton into the controversy surrounding Zwick and backup quarterback Troy Smith.
"I have always been friends with Justin, but I think Troy may deserve a shot. I don't know," he said. "You've got to perform on the practice field. That's how we determine everything now. Whoever does it on the practice field is going to play.
"They were neck and neck and Troy is not a stiff. He was an Elite 11 quarterback. He was nose for nose with Vince Young and he's been starting at Texas for two years. He deserves it. He works as hard as anyone here. I've never seen a harder worker than Troy Smith."
A win at Iowa would go a long way toward making things positive for the Buckeyes once again, Barton said.
"Like they say, winning is a great deodorant," Barton said. "But if you lose one game or two games, people start talking. They say, `If I played, I could make a difference.' "
Barton admitted it has been his dream to start for the Buckeyes. But he wants to do more than that.
"They told me today I would be starting the game," he said. "It's a cliché to say it's a dream. But it's only a dream if you play well. You don't want it to be a nightmare. You have to go in there and fight for your seniors and fight for yourself."
The road gets no easier for Barton, who will be matched up with Iowa defensive end Matt Roth.
"I went against Erasmus and he's supposed to be a top 10 NFL draft pick," Barton said. "But Matt Roth is also a great player. I know I'm going to have to step it up. He's an impact player and I'm going to have to fight him for four quarters and be successful.
"They have a 15-game home winning streak, but it's a 100-yard field. That doesn't change. Whoever doesn't turn the ball over or make bad mistakes, that's who is going to win."
Barton said the players are to blame for the lack of offensive production and, in turn, the two recent losses.
"No one is proud of that," he said. "I read the paper and everybody is coming down on the coaches. But it's on the players, not the coaches. We had a good game plan.
"I'm embarrassed. You hear (Kirk) Herbstreit and those guys say our defense is great but our offense is like a pillow fight and how we can't move anyone. It's embarrassing. You've got to have pride. When you hear that, it makes you angry. We've got to get it going."