Ask most USC fans, and they’ll tell you that the No. 1 reason Matt Barkley didn’t get an invite to New York last season for the Heisman Trophy ceremony was simply his team was on probation. After all, how could the upstanding voters of such a prestigious award as the Heisman, reward a player whose school had done so much wrong in the eyes of the NCAA? They couldn’t, at least according to ‘SC fans. And whether you agree with them or not they did have a point, you know, since Barkley did set a Pac-12 record with 39 touchdown passes last year and all.
Well, the folks at the Downtown Athletic Club may have a similar challenge on their hands when they cast their votes this year. That’s because as we begin to wrap up a quarter of the 2012 college football season, Ohio State (who like USC last year will not be eligible for postseason play this season) has a Heisman candidate of its own. His name is Braxton Miller, and right now it’s hard to argue that anyone is more deserving of the trophy than he is.
Granted, there’s a long way to go, but Miller again proved Saturday why right now he is the front-runner to take home the award. Miller finished the Buckeyes victory over UAB completing 12 of 20 passes for 143 yards, while also rushing for another 64 yards and two scores. In the process, he carried his mostly average teammates to an otherwise unimpressive 29-15 victory.
And when reflecting back, the difference between Ohio State and their opponent was the same as it’s been every Saturday this fall: They had Braxton Miller and the other team didn’t. That seems like it could be a recurring theme going forward.
As for the “big picture” of Miller’s Heisman campaign there are his other numbers, which now include seven touchdowns and seven rushing touchdowns, courtesy of the two additional ones he put up today. Miller’s 441 rushing yards are also far and away the most on Ohio State, numbers that are even more impressive when you remember that Urban Meyer has gone out of his way to limit his carries.
If anything though, what’s most impressive about Miller is that he masks the deficiencies of a mostly average team around him. An easy argument could be made that with anyone other than Miller at quarterback, Ohio State could now have at least one, if not two losses.
The simple truth is that for as good of a coach as Urban Meyer is, he wasn’t left very much talent from the previous coaching regime, specifically on offense. The defense is more than adequate with playmakers on every level (John Simon, Etinne Sabino and Travis Howard are as good at their positions as anyone in the Big Ten), but the wide receivers, running backs and offensive line simply aren’t to par with Jim Tressel’s best teams of a few years ago, and certainly not of Meyer’s elite teams at Florida.
What will be interesting now is to see if Miller can keep things up as Ohio State enters Big Ten play next week.
Now granted, you don’t need me to tell you that the conference as a whole has been a little underwhelming this year, but even as bad as they may have looked so far, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan will still provide a step up from UAB, UCF and even the Pac-12’s Cal, who Ohio State played last week. Not to mention Michigan State, which will not only be Ohio State’s first conference game next Saturday, but also their first road game of the year as well.
And whether Miller stays in the Heisman discussion or not, what is clear is that this team will only go as far as their quarterback takes them.
For all his opinion, analysis and insight on college football, follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.