As if Braxton Miller wasn't facing enough pressure heading into the new season, the spotlight just got a little brighter. The Ohio State quarterback is now viewed as the favorite for the Heisman Trophy with a little more than three weeks until the opener.
The rising star is certainly worthy of the honor after an impressive sophomore campaign, which saw him rack up more than 3,300 total yards and 28 touchdowns. It also helps that the Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 in the USA Today preseason poll.
Miller is currently listed at +250, according to Top Bet. Other top contenders before a single game has been played include South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Chip Patterson of CBS Sports passed along comments from Kevin Bradley of Bovada, who agreed Miller is likely to emerge as the Heisman favorite. He also said the Manziel situation has caused plenty of things to change. Bradley said Monday, per Patterson:
Considering Texas A&M was among the top-5 favorites to win the BCS with Manziel playing, there is no doubt that this investigation has forced us to close down those odds, along with win totals, conference odds and pretty much anything that involves the Aggies or Manziel until we have more information.
Miller was already a solid Heisman choice. Quarterbacks playing for national championship contenders are always among the most discussed players, and getting that attention is part of the battle when it comes to winning the award.
Quarterbacks have come out on top in six of the past seven Heisman votes, with Alabama running back Mark Ingram being the only player to buck the trend in 2009.
Add in the fact Miller will get showcased on a near-weekly basis while playing for Ohio State, and it's easy to see why he's considered the new front-runner for the award. If he lives up to his potential, he's undoubtedly the player to beat.
The junior made major strides during his first two seasons in Columbus. Most notably, he improved his decision-making skills in the pocket as well as his accuracy to make him a true dual-threat quarterback every time he takes a snap.
Despite the progress, his accuracy is still a work in progress. The key to him putting up Heisman-worthy numbers is getting his completion rate above 60 perfect, at the very least. With a better understanding of the offense, it shouldn't be a serious hurdle.
Players like Clowney, McCarron and Bridgewater are all deserving of the preseason hype. There's usually a couple overlooked players who force their way into the conversation over the course of the season to challenge for the award, as well.
As of right now, however, Miller is rightfully viewed as the player to beat.