Las Vegas isn't expecting a lot of growth from Braxton Miller this year.
That much became clear when Bovada released its over/under stat projections for a number of collegiate football players this week. Even though Ohio State's star signal-caller has increased his game-to-game output in three seasons with the Buckeyes, the online sportsbook has predicted modest numbers for Miller.
Here's a look at his forecasted stats for the 2014 season.
Is Braxton Miller Headed for a Letdown?
Bovada set Miller's over/unders surprisingly low, projecting 2,095.5 passing yards, 850.5 rushing yards and 32.5 total touchdowns. Comparing those numbers to previous seasons indicates Vegas is expecting Miller to flatline in his final year at Ohio State.
|Braxton Miller's 2012-13 Stats Vs. 2014 Projections|
|2012 Stats||2013 Stats||2014 Projections|
If these numbers hold up, that would actually mean Miller took a statistical step back in 2014.
The passing yards from 2013 and his projection for 2014 are nearly identical, but Miller missed most of three games last year after suffering a sprained MCL in his knee against San Diego State.
During that three-game stretch, backup quarterback Kenny Guiton threw for 643 yards and 12 touchdowns.
While Miller wasn't the polished passer Guiton was in 2013, those three opponents (San Diego State, Cal and Florida A&M) fielded three of the worst pass defenses Ohio State faced. The Aztecs ranked No. 98 in total pass defense, Cal ranked dead last among FBS teams and Florida A&M gave up six touchdown passes to Guiton—a new Ohio State record.
Essentially, Miller missed the three biggest opportunities to pad his passing stats.
Bovada also anticipates Miller's rushing yards and total touchdowns to dip as well. The rushing stats are particularly surprising because Miller has proven to be a lethal runner in Urban Meyer's offense. Miller has eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in each of his two seasons under Meyer.
For Miller, the biggest threat to a career year is injury.
Staying Healthy Is the Key
Miller has been plagued by injury throughout his otherwise illustrious career at Ohio State.
In fact, lingering soreness from a shoulder surgery in February is putting the start of Miller's 2014 season in question. The coaching staff has been easing Miller into full swing during fall camp, but if he's still battling his shoulder when the Buckeyes open the season, that would seriously impact his ability to produce.
Matt Brown of Sports On Earth wrote about the balancing act Meyer has ahead of him.
Ohio State's top priority is preventing [a serious injury] from happening again, through a combination of protecting Miller in the pocket and successfully managing the number of run plays specifically designed for him.
That starts with a change in offensive philosophy. The Buckeyes, who are working to replace Carlos Hyde and four senior starters along the offensive line, are aiming to attack the perimeter in 2014.
The result of that could be a drop in Miller's overall rushing stats, as Bovada projected, but it's safe to assume his passing numbers would spike. The Buckeyes have a host of offensive weapons with the likes of Dontre Wilson, Devin Smith, Jeff Heuerman and Ezekiel Elliott in the fold, but it all falls back on Miller.
If he can stay healthy, Ohio State's offense will be lethal and he will put up big numbers. If he battles injuries in 2014, he could fall short of Bovada's meager projections.
Unless otherwise noted, stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.