Braxton Miller is the early favorite to win the 2013 Heisman Trophy.
As a sophomore, Miller showed that he was one of the top playmakers in college football. Improvement in the passing game will be needed, but I expect Braxton Miller to take it to a new level in 2013.
Believe me, I know that the general consensus has Johnny Manziel repeating as the Heisman winner. Aggie fans from all over will turn their wrath on me. Heck, Clemson fans might do so as well with their main man Tajh Boyd promising to make his case in 2013.
Having acknowledged all that, here’s why Miller is the favorite.
The Heisman Trophy, nowadays, seems to be an award in which team success is a must. If it was an based on purely individual merit, then why didn’t Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona or Baylor's Terrance Williams of get an invite to New York? No individual player in the nation matched the numbers of the leading rusher (Carey) and leading receiver (Williams) in all of college football.
However, winning the Heisman Trophy doesn’t just mean being on a good team. You also need to be surrounded by big-time players who can protect you and help shoulder some of the load. And, hey, a little media love can't hurt either.
Miller will have an arsenal of weapons returning in 2013. Ohio State returns four out its five starting offensive linemen. With that much experience coming back, Miller will have the continuity that Manziel will be missing. Yes, yes, I know that A&M has three coming back on the O-line, but losing Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel can’t be overlooked.
ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. said it best: "Johnny Manziel will miss Joeckel. He just eliminates good pass-rushers for the most part, even as that's an area he can improve a little. There's very little to not like."
But its his cast of receivers that will give Miller his biggest edge over all other candidates at the quarterback position. Out of the 161 receptions Ohio State compiled as a team, 139 of those were made by guys who will be returning. As a matter of fact, the top two receivers and eight of the top nine receivers on the team will be suiting up once again in 2013. Throw in another offseason of working with Urban Meyer and Tom Herman and it’s amazing to think what this offense will look like.
For Manziel, the Aggies lose two of their top three receivers in Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu.
Finally, there’s nothing more important to a quarterback then a strong running game. Teams will have to account for backs like Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith. Oh, and you can’t forget about No. 5 pulling it down and creating highlight reel runs every week.
The facts are there. Miller has the experience and talent around him to make a run at the Heisman Trophy in 2013. With Ohio State being a potential preseason top three team, the media will have the love fest for Miller going long before the season starts.
Looking at Meyer’s previous teams, we’ve seen what Tim Tebow and Alex Smith accomplished in their second years under his coaching. One took home a Heisman Trophy and one became the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick.
The stars are aligning for Ohio State football to make a splash in many ways in 2013. There is one more thing, though: Braxton Miller is the only quarterback in the nation riding a 12-game winning streak.
I know I’m getting way ahead of myself, but if the wins keep piling up and the numbers are there, it would be awfully hard to shy away from a QB who has a 25-game winning streak going...right?