Indianapolis — J.T. Barrett felt and played like his old self Saturday.
The only thing that would make the Ohio State quarterback feel better would be making the College Football Playoff.
Six days after undergoing surgery on his right knee, Barrett started the game, threw two touchdown passes, ran for another and led No. 8 Ohio State to a 27-21 victory over previously unbeaten No. 3 Wisconsin for the Buckeyes’ first Big Ten title since their 2014 national championship run.
“We have two wins over two top-four teams and another one over a team ranked 12th or 13th,” said coach Urban Meyer, who included a win over Penn State in his rundown. “We’re a conference champion and we deserve a shot.”
All the Buckeyes (11-2, No. 8 CFP) can do now is wait to see if college football’s selection committee agrees.
With one final chance to make an impression, Ohio State ended the Badgers’ perfect season and the nation’s longest active winning streak at 13 by winning their fourth in a row.
And they did it behind a quarterback many expected to be watching.
But unlike most athletes, who need at least two or three weeks to recover from minor knee surgery, Barrett told doctors and coaches he would be OK.
After watching Barrett in pregame warmups with a protective brace around the injured knee, Meyer gave his three-time captain the starting nod. Barrett didn’t disappoint.
He wound up 12 of 26 for 211 yards and two interceptions and ran 19 times for 60 yards including a crucial fourth-down conversion that set up the last field goal of the game.
“We expected to see the best and he was,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst said of Barrett. “He’s a heck of a quarterback.”
It didn’t take Barrett long to get going, either.
Following a 9-yard run on third down on the Buckeyes’ second possession he hooked up with a wide open Terry McLaurin for an 84-yard TD pass to make it 7-0.
Two possessions later, Barrett threw a short pass to Parris Campbell, who turned a missed tackle into a 57-yard mistake for another score. Then after a 77-yard run by J.K. Dobbins, Barrett powered in from the 1-yard line to give the Buckeyes a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.
“It never does (surprise me),” Meyer said. “That’s just because I’ve had (Tim) Tebow — this kid is a lot like him. How you keep him out of the game I just don’t know how it happens.”
No, Barrett wasn’t perfect.
The only time he really paid for it, though, came on an ill-advised pass from near his goal line in the first quarter. Barrett was picked off by Andrew Van Ginkel, who returned it 9 yards for a Wisconsin score.
Otherwise, the Buckeyes stayed pretty much in control and kept Barrett out of trouble.
“I didn’t have any pain in my knee,” Barrett said before answering whether the Buckeyes deserve a playoff spot. “I feel like we’re one of the best teams in the country.”
Wisconsin got within 21-10 at halftime and 21-13 early in the third quarter before the offense got into the end zone on Chris James’ 1-yard run early in the fourth. A conversion pass from Alex Hornibrook to Troy Fumagalli cut the deficit to 24-21.
But Barrett’s extra effort on the fourth down play set up the field goal and the Buckeyes defense stopped Wisconsin twice to close it out.