COLUMBUS, Ohio — Whether Ohio State can beat Clemson in the College Football Playoff next week could depend on which version of the wildly inconsistent Buckeyes offense shows up to play in the desert.

Will it be the score-at-will unit that averaged more than 53 points through the first five games and blew away Nebraska and Maryland 62-3 on back-to-back Saturdays in November?

Or the bunch that bumbled to an upset loss at Penn State, and looked nearly as off-kilter in narrow wins over Northwestern and Michigan State, with spotty pass protection, receivers who can’t get open and J.T. Barrett running for his life?

Much of that will be determined by Barrett and whether he can help shore up the Buckeyes’ uneven aerial attack and complete passes down the field against a Clemson defense with four All-ACC first-teamers. He and his receivers say that’s been a large part of the focus in practices leading up to the Dec. 31 Fiesta Bowl.

“What I see from J.T. is he’s got his head down and he’s going to work,” wide receiver Noah Brown said. “He knows what he needs to work on, and he knows what we need to work on.”

Make no mistake, Ohio State (11-1, No. 3 CFP) is in the national playoff because of Barrett, the unflappable Texan who’s never the fastest guy on the field and doesn’t have the best arm but time after time has put the team on his back and found a way to win. The fourth-year junior has lost only three times as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.

Barrett’s supporting cast includes a 1,000-yard rusher in freshman Mike Weber, All-American hybrid back Curtis Samuel and one of the best defenses in college football.

But the glaring weakness is the passing game: Receivers struggled to get open, Barrett could be tentative pulling the trigger and pass protection was leaky, often caving in on right tackle Isaiah Prince. A reliable deep threat never did emerge this season from a promising pool of wide receivers.

Ohio State contends it can be fixed by bowl time.

“We’re putting a lot more emphasis on the passing game to continue to develop that, both in protection and routes and quarterback play,” said co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck. “I like what I see.”

BAYLOR: The university has been fined and penalized after an investigation determined assistant football coaches committed recruiting and other NCAA violations.

The NCAA said Wednesday that a $5,000 fine will be imposed and that penalties against the football program include banning two assistants from off-campus recruiting for a 12-week period.

Baylor said the infractions occurred in spring 2015 and that the NCAA adopted the university’s self-imposed penalties.

ELON: Head coach Rich Skrosky has resigned to take a job on Butch Davis’ staff at Florida International.

Elon athletic director Dave Blank announced Skrosky’s decision Tuesday night, calling it “an unexpected development.”

Skrosky was 7-27 in three seasons with the Phoenix, who were 2-9 this season and 1-7 in the Colonial Athletic Association.