News of Braxton Miller's reinjured shoulder, which will keep Ohio State's senior quarterback out for the 2014 season, has altered the college football landscape in a couple important ways. It changes the outlook of the Big Ten, the College Football Playoff and the Heisman Trophy races.
Official Statement: Braxton Miller will miss 2014 season Sr/QB re-injured right shoulder Monday throwing short pass http://t.co/JSrMNpCn2a— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) August 19, 2014
Miller is the twice-reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and was listed in August as the No. 3 favorite to win the Heisman, per Jack Randall of Oddsshark.com. Only last year's winner, Jameis Winston, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had smaller odds.
Miller's absence thins the field of contenders, eliminating a player who was valued at 15-2 to win. In theory, that means he would have taken home the award once every 7.5 times this season was played. For obvious reasons, his lack means other players have a better shot.
But who—if anyone—jumped up the odds board most in the wake of this injury? How might the new Heisman landscape look?
Let's take a quick preview:
|Player||School||Previous Odds||Updated Odds|
|1. QB Jameis Winston||Florida State||9-2||4-1|
|2. QB Marcus Mariota||Oregon||6-1||11-2|
|3. QB Bryce Petty||Baylor||12-1||11-1|
|4. QB Brett Hundley||UCLA||14-1||13-1|
|5. RB Todd Gurley||Georgia||14-1||14-1|
|5. RB Melvin Gordon||Wisconsin||16-1||14-1|
|7. QB Nick Marshall||Auburn||16-1||15-1|
|8. QB Trevor Knight||Oklahoma||18-1||18-1|
|9. QB Everett Golson||Notre Dame||20-1||20-1|
|9. RB T.J. Yeldon||Alabama||20-1||20-1|
|11. RB Derrick Henry||Alabama||25-1||25-1|
|11. QB Connor Cook||Michigan State||40-1||25-1|
|13. RB Mike Davis||South Carolina||28-1||28-1|
|14. RB Ameer Abdullah||Nebraska||33-1||30-1|
|15. RB Duke Johnson||Miami||33-1||33-1|
|15. Karlos Williams||Florida State||33-1||33-1|
Source: Oddshark.com / Author Projection
The Group of Five Becomes Four
Their odds reflect it only slightly, but four of the biggest beneficiaries of Miller's injury are the other front-runner quarterbacks, who now have one less strong candidate to contend with.
Before this, there were a discernible top five candidates on the Heisman ballot, all quarterbacks: Winston, Mariota, Miller, Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley. Now, there are only four of them. And each of their odds improve a little bit because of it.
That is not just for statistical reasons, either. Florida State, Oregon, Baylor and UCLA all now have a slightly bigger margin for error with regard to making the CFP. Ohio State was the type of team that could have easily run the table and forced a quality one-loss team out of the playoff. Without Miller, that seems much, much, much less likely.
Other favorites rising include Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, who was rated just outside that top five and now slides into Miller's spot. He's now the fifth-most likely quarterback to win the Heisman, and Auburn's odds of making the CFP increase a slight amount.
The top running back candidate, Todd Gurley of Georgia, also sees a small boost because there's one less blue-chip quarterback to compete with, although this news effects him less than that core four.
If a running back were to win this award—something that has happened only twice (counting Reggie Bush) in the past 14 years—he would have needed a huge season even before Braxton's injury.
Now? Well, not much (if anything) has changed.
The Biggest Riser
You don't want to call anyone a "winner" when a player gets injured, especially a player such as Miller who is so fun to watch and good for the sport. We are all sort of losers in his absence.
On paper, though, no one benefits from this news more than Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, whose team now becomes the favorite to win the Big Ten and make the CFP. His Heisman odds should see a considerable uptick because of that.
Not that he "needed" the boost, per se. Cook was a fast-rising candidate even before Miller's injury. Bleacher Report's Michael Felder called him a Heisman dark horse—in his own words: "I'll tell you…this dude's a bro"—and Dane Brugler of CBS Sports had him going in the top 10 of his first-round mock draft for 2015.
Everybody wants a piece of Cook after his hot finish to 2013-14, which included a pair of superb games in the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl, and now everybody is going to get it.
Also rising because their Big Ten Championship odds go up are running backs Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska. Chris Huston of HeismanPundit.com, who thoroughly understands the politics that go into regional Heisman voting, thinks Gordon will be the Midwest voters' new champion (so to speak):
Braxton Miller's injury helps Melvin Gordon's Heisman hopes as he now becomes the most visible candidate from the Midwest.— Chris Huston (@HeismanPundit) August 19, 2014
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg also gets a slight bump, albeit one that doesn't land him in the top 15. Fair or not, his team's postseason ineligibility will make it tough for him to win this award.
2016 is more likely Hackenberg's year.
The Long-Shot Riser
There are favorites, there are dark horses, there are long shots, and there are long long shots. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds probably registers as the latter. But if he leads an upset of Ohio State in the first week of the season, he'll start to creep up the hierarchy.
Of course, beating the Buckeyes with Miller and without Miller are two very different things, the former being much more impressive. Still, Ohio State's defense remains just as scary in Miller's absence (if not scarier now with a chip on its shoulder), and the offense has enough pieces to keep from imploding.
If Navy starts the season 1-0, Reynolds will be put on the map.
Not that he necessarily prefers that. When asked in August if he belongs in the Heisman conversation, Reynolds calmly told reporters, "I'll let you worry about that," per Gene Wang of The Washington Post.
Reynolds' numbers, however, speak much louder than his words.
He finished last season with 1,346 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns, a year highlighted by an NCAA record eight total touchdowns in a triple-overtime win over San Jose State.
If he keeps posting ridiculous lines like that, and he has a signature win over Ohio State on his resume, is there any reason (other than "he plays for Navy") to keep Reynolds off Heisman ballots?
That Week 1 game in Baltimore just became a huge one.