Ohio State Buckeyes QB Braxton Miller is building a convincing campaign for the Heisman Trophy, rivaling unquestioned front-runner Geno Smith for college football's most prestigious individual award.
Both signal-callers are dual threats, but Smith is much more of a polished pocket passer and looks to pass far more than run. That is where Miller differs from his West Virginia Mountaineers counterpart, as he is arguably the most agile running quarterback since Michael Vick in his heyday at Virginia Tech.
What must be taken into account, though, is that the personnel surrounding Miller and the stage of development he's in dictates that he needs to run more.
Miller has the arm talent to develop into a stellar passer with more consistent accuracy, but is still picking up the new offense.
As documented by Buckeye blogger Dan Kadar, head coach Urban Meyer famously declared Miller more talented than Tim Tebow, who was Meyer's Heisman-winning, national champion quarterback at the University of Florida. In terms of passing ability, speed, agility and general upside, Meyer is correct, which is why it will be so exciting to see where the true sophomore goes from here.
Based on his play to this point in the season, should Braxton Miller be considered a Heisman Trophy finalist?
Although Miller is still far from a finished product as a passer, grasping a new system hasn't stopped him from improving his accuracy by over seven percentage points, up to a 61.5 percent clip.
Geno Smith, meanwhile, has the versatility and explosiveness of Tavon Austin at his disposal. Austin has caught at least 10 passes in every single game this season, and has the ability to get open on short routes to provide Smith a sure-handed security blanket. The senior caught 101 passes a season ago.
Let's also not forget to mention Stedman Bailey, whose season was highlighted by a 303-yard, five-touchdown performance in the ridiculous 70-63 win over Baylor. Bailey was the Mountaineers' leading receiver in 2011 in terms of yardage and serves as a valuable vertical threat.
As incredible as Smith's numbers have been through the air, he does have two Heisman dark-horse receivers to throw to. The benefit of being in the same offense for two years is also a huge advantage.
Smith makes all the right decisions for West Virginia and hasn't thrown an interception all season. The combination of Miller's arm and legs is just as valuable to what Ohio State tries to accomplish to put points on the board, though.
The Buckeyes don't have nearly the talent on the outside that West Virginia does. Devin Smith made one of the most amazing catches you'll ever see in the opener against Miami (Ohio), but the sophomore still remains a raw deep threat.
Philly Brown has served as Miller's go-to possession target and is the most polished receiver on the Ohio State roster. Big-bodied Jake Stoneburner is a great red-zone target, but he hasn't caught a pass in the past two games.
Both quarterbacks are backed by stellar running games, which is more of a product and secondary compliment to their unique skill sets as offensive catalysts.
It's too bad the Buckeyes are paying for the transgressions of departed players, including their most recent dual-threat QB Terrelle Pryor, who probably would have benefited greatly from Meyer's system. That will most likely undo any shot of Miller winning the award, should Smith somehow slip up down the stretch. West Virginia is a likely BCS bowl team, and giving the award to a player not even in the postseason would feel off.
That hasn't stopped Miller from having a breakout season, though. With nine TDs through the air and eight scores on the ground, he is the true definition of a dual-threat quarterback.
Miller's total of 17 TDs in six games is nothing compared to Smith's average of five per outing, but that number is inflated by the Baylor game in which he threw eight touchdowns.
It's hard to argue against Smith as "the guy," but if Miller can maintain this high level of play and keep pushing the AP No. 8 Buckeyes to victory, he will be in New York City as a finalist for the 2012 Heisman Trophy.