It's coming, you may not feel it yet but it's coming. Labor day weekend is right around the corner and one of the most hyped and talented Virginia Tech defensive units is about to square off against a juggernaut rushing attack in the Ohio State Buckeyes led by the man-child Ezekiel Elliot. I'm going to go off on a limb (not really) and say Bud Foster is going to stack the box just as he did last year and dare the Buckeyes Quarterback(s) to beat the Hokies secondary led by preseason All-American Kendall Fuller, a finally healthy Brandon Facyson, and the unheralded Chuck Clark. The secondary will be on an island all night long and frankly I love it because if we're going to lose this game then let's go down playing man coverage across the board and blitzing ALL NIGHT LONG. Hopefully Urban Meyer forgets Elliot is on the Buckeyes roster as he did last year when he gave his star only eight carries for a meager 32 yards.
But as Hokie fans have painfully learned in the past all it takes is a poised passer and some playmakers on the outside to burn the defense badly a la East Carolina last season led by Shane freaking Carden. So for me the game is going to come down to which Quarterback on the Buckeyes would be most effective against the Hokies all-out, stuff the run by any means defensive strategy? We all know the two options so let's dive into their numbers a bit and see which one scares us most and who we think we have a shot against.
First, let's remember what happened last year. That felt good didn't it? OK, first option is J.T. Barrett and according to some like ESPN's Travis Haney this is Barrett's job to lose. His running ability with timely accurate throws perfectly fit Urban Meyer's offense and as he showed last year, Barrett got better every single week as the season progressed. He also faced three teams in the Big Ten that ended the season ranked in the top 10 in total defense and they were Penn State, Michigan (I know, how?), and Michigan State. Against those three opponents Barrett threw for 550 yards, rushed for another 250 yards, and had a total of 11 touchdowns. With those types of results against big time opponents (minus Michigan) one would think Barrett has shown he can win against the elite defenses, but as an overzealous Hokie fan I beg to differ because not one of those teams had Bud Foster, Kendall Fuller, and an angry Dadi Nichols. The Hokies secondary when healthy has two legitimate NFL caliber corners (Fuller/Facyson) followed up by two NFL caliber pass rushers (Nichols/Ekanem). Looking at those three defenses again, only the Spartans had a pass rush that was in the top 25 in total sacks in 2014 whereas the Hokies came in at number 3 in the country. Those defenses Barrett faced were great especially the Spartans, but none of the three poise the same challenges a healthy Virginia Tech defensive unit will with the overwhelming talent and depth returning this year. Not to mention, which one of those units has Bud Foster? NONE!
Option number 2 is the prototype NFL sized Quarterback, at 6-5 and 250 pounds, Cardale Jones is bigger than both defensive ends on the Hokies and nearly bigger than starting defensive tackle Corey Marshall. Although Barrett is hyped to be the more accurate passer, Jones carries a grenade launcher for an arm and the opponents he took down on the way to a national championship were elite. The sample size for Jones is only three games but good grief did he play the best of the best. Jones and the mutant-running back Ezekiel Elliott dominated Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon by a combined score of 143-55. During that same stretch Jones compiled 742 yards passing, six total touchdowns and two picks. The numbers don't jump off the page, but Cardale's ability to stretch a defense down the field allowed the Buckeyes to manhandle all three opponents with a dominant rushing attack. Safeties couldn't play in the box as much with the ever looming threat of Jones throwing over the top of the defense to one of the many speedsters on the outside. Jones was able to win on the biggest stage and with each game it seemed the Buckeye's confidence grew larger by the second. Having a prototypical Quarterback who can make any throw down the field is not Urban Meyer's preference, but when it mattered most Jones was able to come away with the most improbable national championship run I can ever remember.
At the end of the day, both of these guys are legit studs and give the Buckeyes the QB advantage nearly every time they step on the field, but if I had to choose which Quarterback I'd rather face I'd rather go with what we know and have already faced which is J.T. Barrett. I know it was his first big game in his redshirt freshmen year, but the Buckeyes were playing at home and the Hokies defense made him look inept for large portions of the game. Barrett will be forced to throw into tight windows all night long while facing one of the best pass rushes in the country. And do you really think Bud will blitz less with a defensive line as good as ours? PLEASE, he will blitz just as much as he always has because there is no such thing as too much pressure being a bad thing.
Bring the house every single play Bud, I dare Barrett to beat us consistently down the field with his arm all night long. And just wait until all of Lane is jumping. Whoever is at QB for the Buckeyes, good luck (Taken voice).