In 2014 Ohio State shocked the nation and won the national championship after losing their Quarterback before the season ever started. Returning Quarterback Braxton Miller injured his shoulder before the season even got going.
Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett beat out redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones for the starting job. In their second game, the Buckeyes were surprised at home by the Hokies of Virginia Tech losing on national television.
The Buckeyes bounced back and went on a roll winning the rest of their games. However, in the Michigan rivalry game, JT Barrett was severely injured and every Buckeye fan must have been
worried about the upcoming Big 10 Championship game against Wisconsin.
No problem, as third team Quarterback Cardale Jones came in and led the Buckeyes to a crushing 59-0 blowout over the Badgers. I don’t think anybody saw that coming and the brand new Playoff Committee jumped Ohio State over stunned TCU and Baylor of the Big 12 to grab the last playoff spot.
The rest is history, as they say, and the Buckeyes surprised the nation again by beating Alabama and then Oregon for the national championship. It was not a fluke. The Buckeye Offensive Line was dominating and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott ran for 696 games and 8 Touchdowns in his last 3 games. The most impressive was his 85 yard Touchdown run against a very fast Crimson Tide defense.
Cardale Jones was also a star throwing for 742 yards and 5 Touchdowns.
Coming into the 2015 season, the Buckeyes had maybe the best situation possible with the return of former starters Braxton Miller, JT Barrett and Cardale Jones. All three of them were extremely talented and proven winners.
In the end, Miller chose to move to Wide Receiver and Jones was named the starter. The Buckeye offense surprisingly struggled for much of the season and Jones was finally replaced by Barrett. It took maybe a loss to Michigan State to get the offense finally going and they finished strongly with two big wins over Michigan and Notre Dame.
From an outsider’s point of view, there was the pressure of repeating as champions and too many other distractions. Having too many quality Quarterbacks seemed like a dream come true, but even though the Buckeyes finished with a 12-1 record it was something of a disappointment.
One state to the West, in Indiana, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had chosen Malik Zaire over Everett Golson in the Spring. Golson chose to transfer to Florida State and Zaire went into the season backed up by sophomore DeShone Kizer and freshman Brandon Wimbush.
Zaire opened up the season completing 19 out of 22 passes for 313 yards and 3 Touchdowns against over matched Texas. In game two at Virginia, Zaire was struggling in the passing game, but he ran for 87 yards before being lost for the season with a broken ankle.
DeShone Kizer had thrown one pass during his career which was incomplete against Texas. Kizer was forced into duty against Virginia and completed 8 out of 12 passes for 92 yards and 2 Touchdowns. He led the Fighting Irish to the win with an impressive completion to All American Wide Receiver Will Fuller to win the game.
On the season, Kizer completed almost 63 percent of his passes for 2,880 yards and 21 Touchdowns.
The Fighting Irish seemed like a good shot at competing for a national title, but they wound up losing three games and two of those losses were by two points each.
Not to make excuses for Notre Dame, but they had too many key injuries.
For the 2016 season the Notre Dame Fighting Irish return former starting Quarterback Malik Zaire. DeShone Kizer returns and has actually played more games than Zaire at this point. Also, Brandon Wimbush has some talent to consider as well. At this point in his career, Wimbush has only thrown 5 passes, but he ran for 96 yards on 7 carries.
The Irish Spring practices will be interesting to follow. Will Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly choose Malik Zaire, DeShone Kizer or Brandon Wimbush?
Notre Dame doesn’t really redshirt players and Zaire is going to be a senior next season. However, he could easily get a redshirt for last season because of his injury. Zaire is 6-0, 220 and is equally good throwing or running.
Kizer is more of that NFL prototype Quarterback at 6-4, 230. There is a good chance if Kizer wins the job, he could skip his final season at Notre Dame to enter the NFL Draft.
Wimbush is listed as 6-1, 215.
Tune in for the Notre Dame Spring Game, but this battle could go on until the Fall much like the Ohio State situation of last season.
Brian Kelly has some difficult choices to make.