this Oct. 4, 2014, file photo, Ohio State's quarterback
Cardale Jones leaps over Maryland's safety Anthony Nixon
during the second half of an NCAA college football game in
College Park, Md. After Ohio State lost quarterback Braxton
Miller in the preseason to a shoulder injury, J.T. Barrett
had a big year before breaking his ankle against Michigan.
Now the Buckeyes turn to Cardale Jones in the Big Ten title
game against Wisconsin on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014.
Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda drew on a baseball
analogy to describe Ohio State's best offense in the Big Ten.
It didn't matter
that injuries had the sixth-ranked Buckeyes relying on
third-stringer Cardale Jones at quarterback heading into
Saturday's Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.
with their skill is a home-run shot, so if you're not perfect with
everything, then it's a big chance of a big play," Aranda
said. "This year, toward the end of the season, they've shown
some big-play capability."
with the football equivalent of a promising but inexperienced
hurler out of the bullpen to finish their season.
It doesn't get
any tougher than having to face the league-best defense of
Wisconsin (10-2, No. 13 CFP), which allows 260.3 yards per game.
running back Mark Weisman (45) is tackled by Wisconsin
defenders during the first half of an NCAA college football
game, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, in Iowa City, Iowa.
Jones is playing
in relief of Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett, who broke his
ankle in last week's win over Michigan. Jones had the edge as the
backup going into fall camp.
redshirt freshman, had performed well while replacing Braxton
Miller, the three-year starter who hurt his right shoulder two
weeks before the season opener.
So Jones will
make his first career start in the biggest game of the season for
Ohio State (11-1, No. 5 CFP).
a really good environment against a very tough defense,"
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "But it's not like he's not
taking snaps with the one offense or understands the concepts. So
he has a very good understanding."
Mainly, Jones has
watched Barrett operate an offense that leads the conference in
scoring (44.1 points per game) and total yardage (503.4 yards).
Barrett was hurt
on a carry on the first play of the fourth quarter against
Michigan. The Buckeyes were held to 416 yards in total offense in
the game, their lowest total since being limited to 293 at Penn
State on Oct. 25.
Marcus Trotter (59) and Warren Herring wrap up Minnesota's
David Cobb during the second half of an NCAA college
football game Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, in Madison, Wis.
Wisconsin won 34-24.
For his career,
Jones is 10 of 19 for 121 yards and two touchdowns. The move to
Jones might put Wisconsin at a disadvantage because there's not
much film of him out there — especially in meaningful
"I guess we
won't really know until Saturday," Badgers linebacker Marcus
Trotter said when asked how different Ohio State's offense might
look with Jones instead of Barrett.
"But at the
same time, their offense is very similar to every other offense in
that they're going to stick to their bread and butter,"
Trotter added. "They might have a couple tricks up their
sleeves just because of the new quarterback."
preparing for perhaps more misdirection than what Ohio State has
so far shown. Maybe more two tight-end sets to provide maximum
protection for Jones, which would put the impetus on taking 1-on-1
shots down the field.
quarterback run isn't going away, though it might take on a
different look with the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Jones carrying the
ball instead of the 6-1, 222-pound Barrett.
thing that strikes you is his size," Aranda said about Jones.
"One of their top plays is the quarterback sweep, and he's
awfully good at it. ... He lowers his shoulder, runs over guys,
runs around guys."
The Buckeyes now
have a freshman Stephen Collier, who has never played a snap,
backing up Jones. It appears that may not impact how many times
quarterback runs will be called on Saturday night with Jones.
"We have to
win this game. We're not saving him for next week or the week
after. We're not saving anything," Meyer said.
Neither will the
Badgers defense, which has been playing especially well over the
last six weeks. Wisconsin's quick, smart linebacking crew has the
capability of keeping Jones and the Ohio State running game in
check. Seniors Trotter and Derek Landisch form the experienced
core at inside linebacker.