Barrett, Buckeyes don’t expect letdown vs. Illinois

Published 2:23 am Thursday, November 12, 2015

COLUMBUS (AP) — J.T. Barrett is back at quarterback for top-ranked Ohio State after a one-game suspension.

Coach Urban Meyer had said Barrett would regain the starting job over Cardale Jones if he practiced well, and Barrett came through.

“He’s looked sharp,” Meyer said Wednesday. “J.T.’s a unique guy, a guy who’s an extreme competitor. He’s a very focused guy. It’s not like, ‘Boy, he’s working much harder this week.’ He’s a professional who’s going to work to play quarterback for Ohio State.”

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The second-ranked Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten; No. 3 CFP) are at Illinois on Saturday. They are trying to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 23 games and avoid looking ahead to the final two games of the regular season against Michigan State and Michigan.

“We have a fairly mature team so letdown is probably not the proper word; (it’s) execution and doing the right things, just the grind involved in college football right now,” Meyer said. “I don’t think there’s a chance of a letdown.”

The defending national champions will play their second noon Eastern game this season and first since Oct. 10.

“The atmosphere might not be what we’re used to the past couple of weeks, a few nights games, and this being our first noon game in a long time, and actually being 11 o’clock their time,” defensive tackle Tommy Schutt said. “That’s something we had to address this week to really get up and being ready for that noon kickoff.”

Linebacker Joshua Perry loves playing under the lights like he did in high school outside of Columbus but said the early start has a benefit.

“Generally they’re not as juiced up in terms of fans and all that stuff, but it’s fun to get out there early and get the anticipation out of the way,” he said. “Obviously, a night-game atmosphere is second to none. We know it’s going to be a little bit different of an atmosphere, so we’re preparing for that now.”

Another factor could be the wind at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

Not that Ohio State’s kickers need more of a challenge.

Meyer this week replaced Jack Willoughby with Sean Nuernberger for field goals and extra points, although Willoughby will retain the kickoff duties.

It’s something you have to evaluate,” Meyer said. “We made the decision to go with Jack and he struggled. So when he struggles, the other guy you give him chances.”