Not many athletes get that storybook ending to their career. At the beginning of the year, if you told J.T. Barrett he’d be ending the season with a blowout win in the Cotton Bowl, he probably would consider it a bit of a disappointment.

Expectations were high for Ohio State this season. The Buckeyes were suppose to win a B1G championship, get back to the College Football Playoff and redeem themselves for an embarrassing 31-0 loss to Clemson in last year’s national semifinal game. It was national title or bust in Columbus, and Barrett was leading the charge.

Compared to that national championship standard, Ohio State’s 24-7 win over USC in Friday night’s Cotton Bowl comes off as a bit underwhelming. This team was too talented to settle for a standard bowl victory without a chance to compete for a title. And for Barrett — who helped guide the Buckeyes to a championship as a freshman in 2014 — this wasn’t the ideal circumstance to end his career.

Or maybe it was.

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Barrett returned to his home state to round out his magnificent college career, playing in one of the most historic bowl games in college football history. He helped the fifth-ranked Buckeyes trounce No. 8 USC to claim his 38th win as a starter in the Scarlet and Gray. Barrett passed Drew Brees to become the B1G’s all-time leader in total offense to go along with dozens of other records he’s set throughout his career.

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Friday night didn’t mark the best game of Barrett’s career, not by far. He completed 11-of-17 passes for 114 yards and rushed for 66 more on 16 carries. He was able to reach the end zone twice on the ground, thanks in large part to his defense setting him up with great field position. It was a ho-hum kind of night for one of college football’s most decorated and accomplished signal callers.

Maybe this wasn’t how Ohio State fans envisioned Barrett’s career would come to an end. It probably even fell short of the goal he set for himself. And yet, it served as the perfect sendoff.

Had the Buckeyes elbowed out Nick Saban and Alabama for that final spot in the College Football Playoff, they would’ve wound up in a rematch of last year’s Fiesta Bowl, pitted against a Clemson team that might be even stronger than it was a season ago. Sure, Barrett would’ve been presented with an opportunity redeem himself for that 127-yard, two interception performance and avenge last year’s blowout loss.

Or, Ohio State could’ve been blasted again by one of the nation’s best defenses, embarrassed on the national stage for a second straight season.

Barrett deserved the opportunity to have his final game in the Scarlet and Gray end in a celebration of his incredible achievements and unmatched success as a college quarterback. That’s what he received at AT&T Stadium on Friday night.

Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State fans didn’t have the opportunity to ridicule Barrett for his (very few) shortcomings in his career. His stint in Columbus didn’t end on a sour note and he didn’t give his doubters a final drop of fuel before exiting the stadium doors.

As Urban Meyer said after the game, Barrett “has a home at Ohio State for the rest of his life.”

The bar was set a lot higher for the Buckeyes this season. A victory in the Cotton Bowl isn’t exactly the type of ending anyone had in mind for this team when the 2017 season kicked off in late August. Ohio State was suppose to get back into the College Football Playoff and Barrett was expected to prove he was that championship-caliber quarterback that he demonstrated he could be back in 2014.

Barrett and the Buckeyes may not have cleared those hurdles, but none of it mattered on Friday night. All that mattered was that a college football legend ended his career as a winner, and he did it in his home state.

Barrett got his storybook ending in the Cotton Bowl. It just came with a slightly different cover.