Braxton Miller's Knee Injury Should Not Impact Heisman Trophy Campaign

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIISeptember 7, 2013

Sep 7, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) is tended to by team medical staff after being injured on a play against the San Diego State Aztecs at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller is widely considered a prominent contender for the 2013 Heisman Trophy.

That status was threatened on Saturday when the junior signal-caller was carted off the field in the AP No. 3 Buckeyes' game against San Diego State with a knee injury.

It turned out to be a mild setback, though, and not one serious enough to derail what should be an extremely successful season for Miller.

As B/R's Lead Writer for Sports Medicine Will Carroll alluded to, Miller suffered a sprained MCL but was still able to test its limits on the sidelines:

Miller was hit on a five-yard run up the middle in the first quarter against the Aztecs in Ohio Stadium. His helmet popped off, too, which only added to the scare.

However, head coach Urban Meyer stated that Miller could have played through the slight sprain if he had to, the Buckeyes just decided to sit him the rest of the game, per's Tom Fornelli.

That was a wise decision from a coaching standpoint—and it works out perfectly with regard to the short-term and future scope of Miller's Heisman pursuit.

Putting up big numbers is a big part of what earns a player the accolade. Doing so in the face of top-notch competition, though, is of optimal importance.

Before leaving Saturday's contest, Miller had completed his only two passes for 30 yards and had the aforementioned rushing attempt. The meat of the Big 10 schedule will be what truly determines Miller's Heisman fate.

Backup QB Kenny Guiton entered the game and led four touchdown drives on his own to give the Buckeyes a 35-0 lead at halftime.

As good of a player as Guiton is—he could start for many other teams across the country—it became clear after that barrage that San Diego State's defense was never going to put up much resistance in the first place.

Sure, if Miller had put up big numbers and remained in the game, he could have inflated his overall statistics for the season. The Buckeyes, though, held him out to spare him from any other physical punishment.

Playing underwhelming football early in the season against lackluster opponents, when focus perhaps isn't quite as razor-sharp, can also hurt one's Heisman stock.

Look no further than Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who led a magnificent season-opening win against Georgia but wasn't all that sharp against South Carolina State on Saturday. Boyd completed 14-of-23 passes for 169 yards and carried it six times for 10 yards and a one-yard touchdown.

Miller's other top Heisman competition hasn't dominated against a ranked team yet, either.

The conference schedule doesn't begin until Sept. 28, when the Wisconsin Badgers travel to Columbus to open the slate.

In that game, and in the remainder of Big 10 play thereafter, there will be plenty of watershed moments for Miller to truly prove whether or not he's Heisman-worthy.