Cotton Bowl: Ohio State’s JT Barrett is latest great QB to face USC

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images /

If anyone knows about great quarterbacks of late, it’s USC. They’ll get a good look at Ohio State’s JT Barrett in the Cotton Bowl.

In the last three years, USC has faced No. 1 NFL Draft pick Jared Goff, two-time Rose Bowl champ Kevin Hogan, 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jake Browning, Pac-12 record-holder Luke Falk, second round draft pick DeShone Kizer, last year’s Big Ten revelation Trace McSorley, dark horse Heisman candidate Khalil Tate and next year’s potential No. 1 pick Josh Rosen.

Friday night in Arlington, Ohio State’s four-year starter J.T. Barrett is added to the list. Where does he fit among the Trojans’ recent opposition? At the top, according to linebacker Uchenna Nwosu.

“I’d say he’s a very individual quarterback, being able to throw the ball and being able to make plays on his feet,” the senior said Tuesday in Dallas. “He’s pretty much the best quarterback [I will] play all year, and probably in my whole college career.”

Barrett’s numbers make it hard to argue otherwise. The Buckeye quarterback boasts a 161.98 passer rating and a 35-to-9 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio in 2017, to go with more career rushing yards than USC legends Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

Not to mention, he just plays better in big games. The senior set an Ohio State record with 16-straight completions in a comeback win over then-No. 2 Penn State in October, all while rushing for a season-high 95 yards.

[Barrett] is pretty much the best quarterback [I will] play all year, and probably in my whole college career.— Uchenna Nwosu

Altogether, it makes Barrett a difficult a quarterback to compare, though there are familiar tendencies.

Some say Penn State’s McSorley is comparable, especially given the bowl game context. For defensive lineman Christian Rector, Barret’s akin to Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush, who torched the Trojans for 106 rushing yards and four total touchdowns during a 49-14 Irish romp two months ago.

Linebacker Cameron Smith noted Barrett’s crafty efficiency, particularly as a runner who picks his spots and knows he doesn’t need to pick up 70-yard gains to make plays.

RELATED: USC Preps for a Deep, Explosive Ohio State Receiving Corps

Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s assessment is even simpler: Barrett forces defenses to be aware of all 11 players on offense due to his versatility.

“Unless you play one-on-one across the board, you can’t account for him,” safety Chris Hawkins said. “Nobody plays one-on-one across the board. That’s kind of a pedestrian defense, if you think about it.”

And so USC expects to proactively limit Barrett’s impact on a team level, starting up front.

“Once he breaks the pocket, you start to get worried a little bit,” Hawkins said. “But I think we have some of the best edge-containing guys in college. Uchenna Nwosu is one of the best players in college, period.”

The Trojans will need him to be to keep Barrett at bay in the Cotton Bowl. They’ll certainly see plenty of the ball-carrying quarterback.

Ohio State has a propensity to rely on his experience in big spots, as Barrett ran the ball at least 14 teams in each of the Buckeyes’ tough games this year. That includes 18 totes in a Week 2 loss to Oklahoma, and 17 in the win over Penn State in Columbus.

Can USC take advantage of offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson choosing his quarterback over his two elite rushers?