I’m about to let you in on the worst-kept secret in Oklahoma football. It’s so poorly-kept, in fact, that you likely already know it:
Oklahoma defenses can’t handle dual-threat quarterbacks.
It’s been that way for at least three seasons now, dating back to when Jonny Manziel torched the Sooners in the 2013 Cotton Bowl. They were dissected by Deshaun Watson in last year’s Orange Bowl. Two weeks ago, Greg Ward Jr. absolutely eviscerated them at NRG Stadium.
Next week, in addition to the many other things keeping Oklahoma coaches up at night, the Sooner defense will have to reckon with with the best dual-threat QB in the nation not named Jackson or Watson.
J.T. Barrett—who set the school single-game passing touchdown record with 7 in week 1—has tallied a combined 583 yards and and nine touchdowns through the air and on the ground this season. Not only that, but he’s done that without much play in the fourth quarter (just seven combined attempts) due to the blowout nature of Ohio State’s victories so far.
Barrett would be a tough matchup to plan for on any team, but the term ‘dual-threat quarterback’ automatically triggers 73% of Oklahoma fans and 100% of the coaching staff. It’s a fact. I checked.
Skip to the :43 mark in this video and watch how Barrett patiently waits for his blockers to clear a lane, and then explodes through it for the touchdown:
Tulsa isn’t exactly known for their stout defense, but Barrett ran all over them to the tune of two touchdowns. It doesn’t help OU that the Buckeyes have another rushing stalwart in Mike Webber, who seems every bit up to the part of filling in the mammoth shoes left by Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott. Game planning the read option is near-impossible against
the real OSU the Buckeyes.
But running isn’t even the best part of Barrett’s game. The dude can sling, and with accuracy. Check out his highlights against Bowling Green, all three minutes of them:
He throws with accuracy, hitting his receivers in stride. The Heisman hopeful also makes sure his receivers are in a position to make plays after the catch, something many quarterbacks who excel at throwing on the run neglect. His deep ball isn’t, say, Sam Bradford-esque—this amazing rant should tell you Barrett’s feelings about long passes—but he’s gotten better at it as every season has progressed.
How are you supposed to defend against a runner who throws the ball so well? If you know the answer, contact Mike Stoops immediately.
Barrett’s passing ability is just as concerning as his propensity to run the ball. Oklahoma’s secondary has been inconsistent at best through two games. Barrett likes to spread the ball around, too: five different receivers have caught touchdown passes for the Buckeyes. Considering that Barrett tends to throw towards the sidelines rather than over the middle is especially concerning to the Sooners, as their cornerbacks have not shown they can stop above-average receivers yet.
Lastly, but perhaps most concerning, is the fact that J.T. Barrett has an inside line with former Ohio State and current Houston coach Tom Herman. Herman is one of the two coaches Barrett contacts every Monday, although apparently they don’t often talk about football.
It seems likely, though, that Barrett and Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer spoke to Herman about football, especially concerning Ohio State’s matchup in Norman Saturday.
Urban Meyer didn’t let on much when asked about his conversation with Herman: “We did talk to Tom. Just got their thoughts on personnel because you see what you see on videotape,” Meyer said. “It was more about personnel because they have a couple of new players as well in the back end of their defense and what’s their thoughts on the defensive line [sic].”
Barrett added that they spoke about “in-game adjustments and what they were able to see and execute. Things like that.”
They’re playing coy. The coach-speak translation roughly amounts to something like And why in the hell would we tell YOU what we spoke about? It’s our GAME PLAN.
Barrett is a special player, and there is little doubt that he will produce on Saturday. Even good defenses don’t stop great players—a great player can only be contained. Baker Mayfield is another such example.
And so Saturday’s titanic matchup of two of college football’s most storied programs will come down to this question: who will contain whom? If Barrett is allowed free reign to run wild and sling the ball sideline-to-sideline, consider the game already Urban Meyer’s.