Heisman Trophy Watch: Breaking Down Braxton Miller's Case with a Month Left

Cody EContributor IIIDecember 2, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 30: Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates on the field after defeating the Michigan Wolverines 42-41 in a game at Michigan Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Before the Ohio State Buckeyes took the field in Ann Arbor on Saturday, it was widely accepted that Braxton Miller's Heisman candidacy had been all but extinguished. Though the junior quarterback is an exceptional talent, he missed two games, and most of a third, due to injury this season and was a little shaky upon his return.

However, Miller did everything in his power to push his proverbial hat back in the ring Saturday afternoon. The Ohio native demonstrated emphatically what it means to be a dual-threat quarterback. Miller rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns and threw for two more scores en route to 42-41 Ohio State victory. 

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 30: Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 celebrates a third quarter touchdown with wide receiver Philly Brown #10 and offensive linesman Pat Elflein #65 of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Michigan Wolverines during a game at Michigan
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After a performance of that caliber, on a stage of that magnitude, it can certainly be argued that Miller's Heisman hopes, as small as they may be, are still alive. 

Miller has very little time left to improve his chances, but in a Heisman race as wide open as this year's, his name should be in the discussion. He is at the helm of one of the nation's most potent offenses. Ohio State is averaging 48.2 points per game this season, and Braxton Miller is responsible for a lot of 'em. 

In his last five games, Miller has racked up a combined 21 touchdowns, eight on the ground and 13 through the air. 

Entering this season, Miller was considered a Heisman front-runner. However, his injury seriously detracted from his contention. The question remains, then: Should Miller be penalized for something beyond his control?

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 7:  Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes walks off the field at the end of the Buckeyes' 42-7 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs at Ohio Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. Miller left the game
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In fact, had Miller played the games that he missed, his numbers would surely have benefitted. In the three games that Miller spent on the sideline, Ohio State squared off against three of the weakest opponents on its schedule. In those three games, the Buckeye offense outscored its opponents 170-41. We can only speculate the type of clinic Miller would have put on had he been healthy. 

Instead, Miller returned to the Ohio State lineup just as the Buckeyes entered the meat of their schedule. He did not have the same opportunities to pad his numbers that the other Heisman candidates had. 

Another aspect of Miller's game that is not reflected on the stat sheet, but that should be considered in his Heisman portfolio, is his affinity for jaw-dropping plays. Miller is easily one of, if not the most exciting player to watch in college football this year.

At 6'2" and 215 pounds, Miller has the ability to make opposing defenses look downright silly. He makes cuts like a running back and has the speed to break off for huge chunks of yardage. In fact, Miller is reported to have the second fasted 40-yard dash time on the team. 

And the fastest 2013 #Buckeyes are... (The QB is 2nd fastest?) #SpeedKills #OSUtour pic.twitter.com/ADIMdDZm3o

— George Whitfield Jr. (@georgewhitfield) May 30, 2013

Of course this was not this season, but just take a look at his speed in the open field in this run against Indiana his freshman year. 

Braxton Miller will have one more game to make a statement before Heisman ballots are due, and it is Ohio State's biggest game of the season. On December 7, the Buckeyes will square off against No. 10 Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship. 

If Miller can produce a performance that in any way resembles the Michigan game, at the very least, he should get the honor of attending the Heisman ceremony in New York City on December 14. 


(all stats courtesy of ESPN.com)