COLUMBUS, Ohio -- J.T. Barrett has accomplished everything he could ever want at Ohio State.

With an asterisk.

The redshirt junior's career checks all the boxes. Become Ohio State's starting quarterback? Yup. Become the Big Ten's best quarterback? He was named that twice.

Win a Big Ten title? That too. Compete for a Heisman Trophy? Check. (He was fifth in the 2014 voting.).

Win a national championship? Yeah, well about that ...

Barrett has the ring from the 2014 natty but not the experience of playing in the game.

Two years ago seems like 22 when Barrett reflects back to 2014. A broken ankle that day against Michigan ended his season but in a weird way jump-started Ohio State's run.

The Buckeyes kept on rolling without him that day, over the next month and into 2015 winning the first College Football Playoff.

Ultimately, Barrett was a champion, but he didn't participate in those playoff games for the championship. That was left up to Cardale Jones, who became a third-string legend.

What complicates any perception of Barrett's career now cannot be touched, hit, thrown to or audibled out of. It's just a question of checking that final box, erasing that asterisk.

"It's just a different approach, really," Barrett said as the Buckeyes get ready for Saturday's national semifinal against Clemson. "Now I'm at the point where I'm getting myself together, preparing for the game."

In a way few of us can understand, Barrett's absence in 2014 hangs over Ohio State's latest College Football Playoff run. The program's second playoff appearance in three years is Barrett's mulligan of a lifetime.

Does fate, circumstance, providence -- whatever you want to call it -- owe him that missed national championship?

"I don't think life works out that way," Barrett said. "I just feel like, you put the time in, the work in, you're on the better half of things. As far as fate owing me anything, it doesn't work out that way."

Outspoken All-American guard Billy Price put things more succinctly.

"I don't think fate or karma has anything to do with it because college football is a nasty animal," Price said emphatically. "You can go down like that. But he's going to be prepared and actually be part of it this time."

If continued health has anything to do with it.

"I know why he came here," Urban Meyer said of his quarterback. "He was very clear about that. It wasn't for the Buckeye tradition. It wasn't for the College of Medicine. It was an opportunity to go compete for a national title."

The black-and-white world of college football doesn't allow an easy answer to whether Barrett deserves a title. You put enough of that time in and good things are supposed to happen -- except when your right ankle gets trapped under a 250-pound Michigan defensive end.

"I was standing over J.T. going, 'Oh man, his ankle is on the ground,' Price said. "This doesn't look good. Coach, we need somebody!"

That somebody was Jones -- basically a three-game wonder. Barrett morphed into the world's most decorated student assistant -- a glorified quarterback coach riding around with his leg propped up on a scooter that allowed him to be mobile.

"It was a love-hate relationship," Barrett said of the device. "I loved it because I wasn't crutching. I hated it because some people would say, 'Man, J.T., you must be having a lot of fun.' I was like, 'No, really I can't walk right now. You can go walk to wherever you want to go.' "

If the Buckeyes are going to win that second title this decade, there will have to be a different surprise. Two years ago, Ohio State got into the Football Four, then rode Jones and Ezekiel Elliott to wins over Alabama and Oregon.

If there was such a thing as a Cinderella backed by the nation's second-highest athletic budget, the Buckeyes were it.

This time there is an asterisk of a different kind. This time they are the first team in the playoff era that can win the national title without so much as winning its division. This time they are more tightly centered around Barrett and a dominant defense.

"He got us there in 2014," Elflein said. "It's definitely his time to shine now."

Barrett continues a long line of dual-threat quarterbacks for Meyer, who since the turn of the century is one of those mainly responsible for revolutionizing the position.

Going back to Bowling Green in 2001, Meyer's seven starting quarterbacks have accounted for 482 touchdowns (rushing and passing). Only Tim Tebow and Barrett have at least 100 total touchdowns in their career under Meyer.

"I've always been that guy to give it to my best player," Meyer said.

"I've been lucky. My quarterbacks, for the most part, have been those type of guys. [Bowling Green's] Josh Harris was that guy. [Utah's] Alex Smith -- without question people don't give him enough credit -- he was that guy. Obviously, Tim Tebow was that guy over and over.

"Braxton Miller was that guy. Cam Newton would have been that," Meyer joked.

Newton transferred to Auburn after legal and academic run-ins at Florida.

"J.T. is -- if not 1A, 1B -- that guy," Meyer added.

About 13 years ago, when Meyer was at Utah, he visited Cal's camp. This was when coach Jeff Tedford was transforming a JUCO transfer named Aaron Rodgers into a future NFL star.

Meyer found that Tedford stressed intangibles for his quarterbacks like competitiveness, toughness, leadership and intelligence. Last thing on his list: Tedford's quarterback had to keep plays alive with his feet.

Wait, asked Meyer, what about the technical aspects of reading a defense? Those can be taught, Tedford said.

The two coaches had a common bond.

"Quarterback is the most unique position, in my mind, in all of sports," Meyer said. "There's no other position where 10 guys are always looking at him and he's got to choreograph and trigger the movement of those other people."

It's been complicated, though, to get to this point in Columbus. Barrett himself owes the starting job in 2014 to misfortune. Miller was injured a week before the season started.

It's possible Barrett peaked, statistically, in 2014 when he was first named Big Ten quarterback of the year. He is now having only the second-best season of his career.

"I watched closely," Meyer recounted from two years ago. "J.T. was still a leader. We still had Cardale Jones to prepare, because there's always a little of a lower lip shake, 'Man that could be me.'"

More complications: Barrett lost the starting job to Jones over injury in 2014, then with his performance in 2015, before regaining it in the second half of that season.

This year, the Buckeyes have run the ball better than in 2015 when Elliott was the Big Ten offensive player of the year.

Ohio State has two All-Americans in the offensive line for the first time in 42 years. Yet one of those, Elflein, said this about his unit: "At times we are inconsistent. At times we are consistent. Sometimes we look like the best offensive line in the country. Sometimes we look the opposite of that."

Michigan sacked Barrett eight times. Ohio State is in the middle of the pack nationally in protecting its quarterback.

"I tell [left guard] Michael Jordan and [right tackle] Isaiah Prince, 'J.T.'s your mom. Don't let your mom get hit,'" Price said.

And it's no secret Barrett/Ohio State have a difficult time throwing downfield. The Buckeyes are tied for 86th in completions of 10-plus yard, tied for 97th in 20-plus completions and tied for 105th in completions of 30 yards or more.

But there's no question what Meyer is going to do if the Clemson game becomes close. The contest will be on Barrett's back much the same way it was Tebow's back at Florida. In the Michigan game, Barrett rushed or threw the ball on 19 of Ohio State's last 22 plays.

Barrett's fourth-and-1 lunge for a first down in the game might be the only reason the Bucks are still playing. Meyer's quarterbacks, the coach stressed, will never be known as gunslingers.

"Is a gunslinger just loose with the football?" Barrett said. "That's my thing: really make good decisions."

So good that Meyer gestured to the empty chair behind his desk.

"I think J.T.'s going to sit here someday."

Wait, you mean be Ohio State's coach?

"I'd love for him to play in the NFL for a while and then sit right here," Meyer added.

There's a long way to go before that day. Barrett has another year of eligibility. There is already the natural speculation that he could leave for Texas as a graduate transfer. That would reunite him with his old offensive coordinator Tom Herman for 2017. (Barrett is a Wichita Falls, Texas, native.)

But that would be a massive test of who J.T. Barrett is and what he wants. For now, it's a case of what he has missed.

"He kept telling me when he got this scholarship offer and started looking around at other schools, 'Could I ever stand watching Ohio State play for it and not be there?'" Meyer said.

Don't we already know the answer?