Ohio State QB Braxton Miller should be among the Heisman Trophy front-runners, and the postseason ban for which he was not responsible shouldn't affect his bid for college football's most prestigious individual award.
After Geno Smith's West Virginia Mountaineers imploded on the road, Miller and a host of other names were suddenly right back in the Heisman conversation.
According to ESPN's panel of experts, Miller ranks second behind Smith in the Heisman voting.
But if the award goes to college football's most outstanding player, Miller should be the recipient especially if his team winds up undefeated.
In terms of what he does as an individual, there is no question who is more valuable to his team between Smith and Miller. It's Miller, because not only does he shoulder the load as the quarterback—he is also the team's leading rusher. In fact, he is sixth in the entire nation with 912 rushing yards.
Should the NCAA stop penalizing programs retroactively?
Ohio State's super sophomore is the second most efficient quarterback in the Big Ten, even more so than his similarly styled Michigan Wolverines rival Denard Robinson. That is despite a very raw supporting cast of receivers.
Meanwhile, Smith has Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey at his disposal, arguably the best wideout duo in the nation this side of USC's Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
There is merit to the assertion that the Big Ten is rather weak this season and that Miller is capitalizing on the inferior competition. While that may be true to an extent, an undefeated season in the unpredictable college football climate is a staggering achievement no matter the circumstances, particularly in a prominent conference.
The actions of Miller's quarterback predecessor Terrelle Pryor have also contributed to what taints this current Ohio State season. Ranked No. 7 in the AP poll and seemingly rolling to a perfect year, the Buckeyes aren't eligible for postseason play.
This was due to bad decisions by a select few players and neglect by the previous coaching staff.
Miller has no stake in this whatsoever, yet he will likely be penalized for it. Awards are handed out before the big bowl games are played. But something about the NCAA celebrating a player's season to the extent of a Heisman Trophy while still penalizing the program for rules violations seems contradictory.
That's not fair to Ohio State or to Miller. Such an awkward dilemma would not have risen if not for more accountability at the top of the Buckeye football institution.
There is a serious problem with accountability at the top of most big institutions, and the Ohio State football program has proven to be no exception.
If the perception is that Miller deserves the trophy and doesn't get it, the storyline will likely hark back to the transgressions committed by his alumnus peers, which will further inhibit the program's ability to move forward despite the new coaching staff and players.
Barring a severe dip in play from Smith, Miller's chances for the Heisman Trophy may be dashed because of nothing of his own doing. The ban from the bowl games shouldn't diminish Miller's season. But even if it does, it will provide food for thought for OSU, other football programs and the NCAA.
Better discretion by the leaders of big-name football programs in how they treat prized players will obviously not lead to as many of these sorts of occurrences in the future.
In the same vein, the NCAA should consider not inflicting punishment on programs not directly affiliated with the sanctions at hand.
The bottom line is, players and coaches no longer a part of the Ohio State football family are directly effecting Miller's Heisman bid in a negative manner. Fingers can be pointed in many directions should Miller be denied an award that could very rightfully be his by season's end.
All the people involved in orchestrating Miller's magical season, though, are not to blame. What's to blame is the retroactive blowback from NCAA violations by players and coaches no longer there.