Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett is on track to set a single-season school record for touchdown passes, and that doesn't surprise Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones.
Jones and the Spartans play host to Barrett and the Buckeyes on Saturday night in what might be the weekend's biggest game, and Jones has been impressed by what he has seen on tape from Barrett, who was pressed into starting duty when senior Braxton Miller was lost for the season in August with a shoulder injury.
Jones told the media Tuesday that Barrett has a "better arm" and is "a way better quarterback than Braxton."
In addition, Jones said, "As an athlete, I feel like Braxton Miller is better, but I feel ... (Barrett) fits better for that offense."
Barrett has thrown for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns, and is on a pace for 3,016 yards and 37 touchdowns in 13 games. The single-season school record for TD passes is 30 by Troy Smith in 2006, when he won the Heisman, and that yardage total would be third-most in school history. An Ohio State quarterback has thrown for 3,000 yards in a season just twice: Joe Germaine with 3,330 yards in 1998 and Bobby Hoying with 3,269 in 1995. Miller's season-highs in yardage and touchdowns came last season, when he threw for 2,094 yards and 24 scores. Barrett could surpass both those totals Saturday, in the Buckeyes' ninth game of the season.
Barrett's 23 TDs leads the Big Ten by seven over Michigan State's Connor Cook and is tied for eighth nationally. It already is the sixth-most in Ohio State single-season history. Barrett also is completing 64.7 percent of his passes; the school record is 65.3 by Smith in 2006, but no other quarterback in school history has completed more than 64 percent of his passes.
Barrett also has run for 496 yards and six touchdowns; in that facet, he has not been as productive as Miller, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2012 and '13 and had a combined 25 rushing touchdowns.
Jones isn't the only Spartans defender who has been impressed by Barrett.
"He's very similar to Braxton (Miller); he has a good arm, he can run the ball, he's very versatile," defensive end Marcus Rush told mlive.com.
Strong safety Kurtis Drummond told mlive.com that Barrett is "a guy who really understands the offense for only being in for this long. You can really tell how much he's grown each week and just seems to get more and more comfortable back there."
NFL executives, like Spartans defenders, have taken notice. An AFC team executive told NFL Media analysts last month that Barrett "is really starting to play at a high level."
Barrett has led the Buckeyes to five 50-point games this season, the most in the FBS ranks. Ohio State also is one of 17 teams nationally averaging at least 500 yards of total offense per game.
Worth noting, though, is that Barrett was bad in a loss to Virginia Tech (9-of-29, three picks) and struggled against Penn State (12-of-19, but for just 74 yards and two picks). Michigan State's defense statistically is much better than Virginia Tech's and on par with Penn State's.