2013 Heisman Watch: Braxton Miller Just Made It a Two-Man Race with Geno Smith
Geno Smith is the favorite for the 2012 Heisman Trophy. He is a heavy favorite at that, and his numbers are beyond dominant—they're purely absurd. It will take an enormous collapse for him to win the Heisman Trophy.
That said, if that collapse comes, it's going to be Braxton Miller first in line to take that Heisman Trophy away, because Miller is having an unbelievable season of his own—and he's now putting some distance between himself and everyone else not named Geno Smith in the 2013 Heisman race.
It's been remarkable to watch the job Braxton Miller has done adjusting to his new offense here in year one of the Urban Meyer era. True sophomore quarterbacks aren't supposed to be rocking the world when they're already on their second offensive system of their collegiate careers, after all. But here we are.
As a pure passer, no, Braxton Miller doesn't deserve All-American hype. That's not to say he's not a good passer, and he's miles ahead of where, say, Denard Robinson is—both in his sophomore season and now as a senior. But at the end of the day, Miller's 38th in the nation in passing efficiency at this point. If all he did was stand still, he'd be an honorable mention All-Big Ten QB.
But lordy, lordy, Braxton Miller does not stand still.
As a rusher, Miller is 11th best in the nation through six games and his highlight reel on the ground is probably the best in the nation—better than Denard Robinson's or anyone else's. Moreover, he's been a life-saver for an Ohio State rushing attack that just can't stay healthy and would be hurting for an every-down threat right now if it weren't for Miller's ability to rush the ball—both on the edges and between the tackles.
Who's the best non-Geno Smith Heisman candidate in college football?
Most of all, though, this comes down to a pure lack of other viable Heisman candidates. KSU quarterback Collin Klein is a beast, but this year he's getting by on reputation from his mammoth 2011 season more than anything else; his per-game averages are down in both rushing and passing, and he's nowhere near the pace of the 27 rushing touchdowns he registered last season.
E.J. Manuel is still a strong quarterback, but his Heisman hopes took a major hit when he and the Seminoles were held scoreless in the second half of last weekend's shocking 17-16 upset loss at North Carolina State. That 102-yard rushing game he had against Clemson looks like more of an anomaly than anything else now, and two total touchdowns against South Florida and NCSU in the last two games signals that his season's slowing down.
Matt Barkley is having a good season, but "good" isn't nearly good enough when you've got the weapons on the outside that Barkley has. Let's say you can pick one player from USC's offense to take to your team.
A.J. McCarron is putting together a stellar junior season from an efficiency standpoint (fifth in the nation thus far), but he's throwing for fewer than 200 yards a game and is a non-threat on the ground. Alabama may be the best team in the nation, but its best offensive player won't be going to New York this year.
Then there's Tajh Boyd, and his stats (1,748 yards passing, 14 TDs in six games) are fine, but at no point does anyone ever think, "Tajh Boyd just did something nobody else can do." It doesn't help that he plays for Clemson, which is always good for three Heisman-submarining losses a year.
De'Anthony Thomas is the most exciting player in the nation, but voters love workhorses and Thomas just doesn't touch the ball enough to be a serious threat for the Heisman. We may see him get a nod as a Heisman finalist at the end of the year (thanks, West Coast voters!), but let's not kid ourselves.
In terms of tailbacks, here's a list of the leading rushers in college football this year. Find a running back who deserves any Heisman hype. No offense to Beau Blankenship, but it's pretty barren at the top.
So this eventually and essentially comes back to Miller, leading his team on an undefeated charge and showing game in and game out that he is the best player on the field whenever he's out there. He might need Geno Smith to fly off the face of the earth in a freak gravitational mishap in order to get to the top of the Heisman conversation, but if we're picking a runner-up, it's Miller, easily.
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