Ohio State Football: Braxton Miller Must Be Proficient Passer to Beat Penn State

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 20:  Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs past Landon Feichter #44 of the Purdue Boilermakers during the first quarter on October 20, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

We know that Ohio State is one of the best rushing teams in the nation. We know that Urban Meyer's spread rushing attack is a handful for defenses. And, yes, we know that Braxton Miller is one of the best running quarterbacks in college football.

What we don't know is if Ohio State can win a game if it has to rely on the pass to generate offense. Against Penn State, we might finally learn the answer.

Ohio State is 10th in college football in rushing yards, averaging a gaudy 249.6 yards on the ground per game. Miller alone has 959 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground this season. 

However, Penn State has been pretty darn good against the run this season. The Nittany Lions only allow 110.1 rushing yards (20th in the nation) and 15.7 points (13th in the nation) per game.

Linebackers Michael Mauti (65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three interceptions) and Gerald Hodges (54 tackles, one interception) highlight Penn State's stout front seven, and each are semifinalists for the Butkus Award.

Running the ball against Penn State will be no easy task. If the Nittany Lions stuff the run—much to the delight of the raucous Beaver Stadium crowd—can Miller beat them with his arm?

Miller has done well to limit his interceptions, throwing for 11 touchdowns and just five picks this season to go along with 1384 yards. But he's only completing 58.7 percent of his passes, and that's on limited attempts—he's only thrown the ball 30 times once this year.

We still haven't seen if the Ohio State offense can remain efficient if Miller has to carry the team with his arm rather than his legs.

I'm not the only one who sees this as a major trap game for the Buckeyes. Over at Bet Online, it's the Nittany Lions (-1) that are favored, not an undefeated Ohio State team.

That's a line that says two things: Vegas thinks these teams are pretty evenly matched, and the Lions are probably getting a few points at home (since you would assume Ohio State would be a slight favorite on a neutral field).

The Ohio State defense might not be able to win this game against Penn State alone. Bill O'Brien has the Nittany Lions clicking offensively, while the Buckeyes are fairly beat up. Case in point, they had to play Zach Boren (a fullback) and Nathan Williams (a defensive end) at linebacker against Purdue.

Miller has to be ready to put the Buckeyes on his back and win this game through the air if called upon to do so. We know Ohio State can win on the ground.

Now we'll find out whether Miller is a dual-threat quarterback or just a running back who throws the ball well from time to time.


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