Bruce Feldman dropped by The MoJo Show on Monday to preview the Big Ten Championship between No. 6 Ohio State (11-1) and No. 14 Wisconsin (10-2), and Brian Jones led off with a very simple question: What can you tell us about Cardale Jones?
“I know he weighs almost as much as you,” joked Feldman, the CBSSports.com senior college football columnist. “He is a big dude. He is every bit of 6-5, 250. All the people here – teammates and everything – talk about (his) incredibly strong arm.”
Jones will start Saturday in place of J.T. Barrett, who broke his ankle in a 42-28 win over Michigan.
Jones, a redshirt sophomore, caused quite a stir as a true freshman when he tweeted, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”
According to Urban Meyer, however, Jones has come a long way in his three seasons in Columbus. He can also throw a ball 50+ yards – from his knees.
That doesn’t hurt, either.
“He’s matured a lot over the last couple years,” Feldman said. “I think it’s unrealistic to expect him to be as efficient and as precise as J.T. Barrett is. J.T. Barrett’s intangibles are off the chart. This kid probably runs as well and has a stronger arm, but will he be as efficient in running the offense and making decisions and everything?
“And let’s remember,” Feldman continued. “We’re judging J.T. Barrett not on his first game or second game starting, where he struggled against Virginia Tech at home. We’re judging him on what we saw over the course of the year with everything else. We’ll see how this kid develops.”
Unfortunately for Jones, he’ll have to do it against a Wisconsin defense allowing just 16.8 points per game – fourth best in the country. Still, Meyer isn’t going to expect – or even ask – Jones to win the game by himself.
“This is a good staff,” Feldman said. “It’s not just Urban Meyer (and) Tom Herman, the offensive coordinator. We may see some Wildcat with Jalin Marshall, who’s a real dynamic dual-threat guy. They can run the ball, too. It should be fun to see what they come up with.”
Wisconsin, meanwhile, will once again lean on tailback Melvin Gordon, who leads the country with 2,260 rushing yards. Is Gordon the Heisman favorite?
“I think he’s a long shot, to be honest,” Feldman said. “(Marcus) Mariota’s been ridiculously effective, putting up huge numbers for a team that’s got a chance to be in the thick of the playoff. I think as excellent as Gordon is, one thing that I think hurts him a little bit (is there are) some really productive running backs in the Big Ten.”
Such as Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, who ranks tenth nationally in rushing yards (1,523), Minnesota’s David Cobb, who ranks eighth (1,548), and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman (2,036), who ranks second.
“I think (Gordon’s) numbers kind of aren’t as eye-popping when you see another guy at Indiana who’s a one-man show putting up similar numbers,” Feldman said. “There are some good running backs in the Big Ten.”