Jim Naveau column
COLUMBUS — As I sat down to have a bowl of cereal on Saturday morning, I debated whether to turn on my laptop because I spend entirely too much time staring into a computer screen most days.
But I was bored, so I turned it on. It was an hour later before the cereal hit the bowl after the discovery that Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett had been cited for operating a vehicle while impaired at a sobriety check point near the OSU campus early Saturday morning.
In the age of the internet, everything moves faster, so it was no surprise that pretty much every question and every opinion about the situation was aired in just that one hour.
For every person who thinks Barrett should be made an example of, there is another who says it was a youthful mistake, have some sympathy, he will learn from it.
For everyone who says all the praise Barrett received for being a leader now rings hollow, someone else says not to criticize a young man you’ve never met. If you had a dollar for every time someone on Twitter said, “Haters gonna hate,” you could buy dinner at a very nice restaurant tonight.
For every Ohio State fan hoping for a quick return to the field for Barrett, there are others saying Urban Meyer needs to come down hard on his starting quarterback and that the one-game suspension given to Barrett isn’t enough.
The bottom line is Barrett made a bad decision. And his timing was awful.
He had just regained the starting quarterback job from Cardale Jones and Ohio State’s offense was playing with supreme confidence with him in the lineup.
Everything he did as a starter in a 49-7 win over Rutgers as a starter last week and in a 38-10 win over Penn State in extensive playing time off the bench validated Meyer’s decision to make him the No. 1 quarterback.
One of the first things Meyer always says about Barrett is that he is a great leader.
Whenever I hear a coach talk about a player’s outstanding leadership skills, I wonder if he is saying that because it is who the player really is or if he is saying it to encourage the player to become that kind of leader.
In Barrett’s case, it appeared his leadership skills were genuine, illustrated by the faith his teammates have in him.
His bad decision might have blind-sided Meyer more than it would have if it had come from some other players. But it also is not the first time he has made headlines for the wrong reason.
Last season a former girlfriend called 911 and accused him of domestic violence, but that allegation disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
While Barrett’s suspension was announced as a one-game penalty, it would not be surprising to see it unofficially become a little longer.
In 2001, when starting quarterback Steve Bellisari was charged with driving under the influence, he was suspended for one game by Jim Tressel. He was allowed to return to the team for the Michigan game the next week but did not play. He also did not start the Outback Bowl game against South Carolina but played most of the game.
Rightly or wrongly, the biggest issue for many Ohio State fans is how this will affect the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes’ pursuit of another national championship.
The first College Football Playoff rankings of the season will be announced on Tuesday night, though this situation will have a minimal effect or no effect on Ohio State’s ranking.
And, in case you’ve forgotten, the top four teams in last year’s first rankings were: 1. Mississippi State, 2. Florida State, 3. Auburn, 4. Mississippi. Ohio State was No. 16.
The big football question is if Ohio State’s offense will return to the inconsistent unit it was when Jones started the first seven games of the season or if it will to continue to play at a high level without Barrett.
The next two opponents, Minnesota and Illinois are not total pushovers. If Jones starts and plays well against Minnesota or in both games, who will be the starter for the Michigan State and Michigan games at the end of the regular-season schedule?
Just when it seemed like Ohio State had found a little bit of certainty, the uncertainty has returned.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.