It was a cold day in Minneapolis, and No. 8 Ohio State emerged with a victory over No. 25 Minnesota, surviving a late Gopher comeback attempt to win, 31-24. David Cobb scored three touchdowns for Minnesota, but Ohio State's J.T. Barrett set three program records and scored four total touchdowns while leading the Buckeyes to a second consecutive road victory over a ranked team.
The temperature was 15 degrees at kickoff, coldest in stadium history, and the fans dressed for the occasion. The game was so cold, in fact, that a Minnesota coach could eat ice cream on the sideline without fear of it melting.
Coming into the game, the big question was whether Minnesota would be able to keep up with Ohio State's athletes. The Buckeyes attempted to provide an answer to that question early with two big touchdown plays from Barrett. The freshman's 86-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter was the longest play of the year for the Buckeyes and broke Braxton Miller's program record for longest run by an Ohio State quarterback.
Later in the quarter, Barrett's 57-yard touchdown throw to Jalin Marshall tied Miller's single-season touchdown record at Ohio State.
Suddenly down 14-0, Minnesota came charging back on the legs of Cobb. The senior carried the Gophers down the field all by himself, running five straight plays for 39 yards and a touchdown. Ohio State nearly put it away when Jalin Marshall appeared set for a rushing touchdown, but he fumbled it into the end zone. The Buckeyes were unable to fall on it, giving the Gophers the recovery and the touchback.
Later in the second, Cobb broke away for another big play, charging through an arm tackle en route to a 30-yard score to tie it up. That tie didn't last long, however -- the Buckeyes kicked a field goal before the end of the half, and then Barrett found a wide-open Michael Thomas for the 30-yard score and Miller's touchdown record.
Ohio State was finally able to put the game away in the fourth quarter after Mitch Leidner's second interception of the day. Barrett found Evan Spencer on a screen pass to the left side, and the receiver took it up the middle 22 yards for the score. Cobb scored another touchdown later in the fourth, but it was too little too late for the Gophers.
Three things we learned
1. Ohio State is still in the Playoff hunt. The Buckeyes were able to go on the road and beat a ranked team, and while Minnesota may not be the kind of quality win some of the other Playoff contenders have, Ohio State now sports two straight fairly commanding road wins over ranked opponents. Those two wins also come over teams that fellow Playoff contenders claim as big non-conference wins: Michigan State also lost to Oregon, while Minnesota fell to TCU.
They'll need help in the form of some combination of Big 12 chaos, SEC chaos, Pac-12 chaos and a possible Florida State loss, but if Ohio State keeps playing like they have been they might just get a shot. The Buckeyes got some help elsewhere, as well. Virginia Tech, the only team to beat Ohio State this season, beat No. 21 Duke on the road.
2. Ohio State's quarterback situation will be one to watch this offseason. When Braxton Miller returns (if he returns to Columbus), what do the Buckeyes do? Barrett had another fantastic outing Saturday, breaking Miller's program record for single-season touchdowns, and looks like the perfect fit for what Urban Meyer wants to run with Ohio State.
Marcus Mariota is the heavy favorite, but Barrett is still very much in Heisman contention and could work his way into a New York City invite if he's able to keep up this pace. Can Ohio State justify a quarterback competition when their returning starter was a Heisman finalist? When you have two of the top quarterbacks in the nation, it's possible.
Barrett completed 15 of 25 passes for 200 yards with three touchdowns against one interception, running 17 times for 189 yards (the most ever for an Ohio State quarterback) and a touchdown.
Buckeyes in the Playoff?
Buckeyes in the Playoff?
3. Minnesota may grab one of those last tough games. The Gophers opened the season 7-2 and grabbed a top-25 ranking, but the season-ending schedule against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska looked like a recipe for a disastrous finish. Minnesota did their best to battle those assumptions Saturday, taking the best of those three teams (by far) to the wire in a close one.
The Gophers didn't get much help from their passing game, but they were able to run the ball effectively against one of the nation's best defensive lines. Cobb carried the ball 27 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Leidner contributed with 56 rushing yards on 12 carries.