COLUMBUS, Ohio – If it wasn’t for the pending legal situation involving Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy race would be a race for second place.
It still might be, but many of the other perceived contenders have one more chance to make a case for themselves this weekend before ballots are cast.
On Monday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer suggested Braxton Miller should be considered one of those contenders.
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Because he missed three games early in the season, it was easy to assume the knee injury would essentially end Miller’s Heisman campaign. But he’s come back playing his best football, especially late in the regular season, and with Winston really seeming the only sure bet to be on most ballots, Miller could make a further impression on voters this weekend when Ohio State plays the nation’s top-ranked defense, Michigan State.
“I think he’s got to prove it and this is a great opportunity for him,” Meyer said. “He missed some games. It seems like six years ago they hurt his knee, but I think he’s Heisman-worthy. I can’t compare him to the other guys because his stats probably aren’t as good. I haven’t even looked at that.
“But I think (this): I’ve been around a Heisman Trophy quarterback, and certainly Braxton is in that conversation.”
Tim Tebow won the Heisman while playing for Meyer at Florida in 2007.
Miller ranks 32nd nationally at an average of 265 yards of total offense per game. His average of 7.75 yards per play ranks 20th. He has 11 runs of 20 yards or more and has thrown 21 touchdown passes, which places him in the top 30 nationally. Twice, including last weekend at Michigan, he’s accounted for five touchdowns in a game.
He’s been as explosive and as productive as a dual threat as any player in the country, and that he’s done it for a team that’s 12-0 and ranks sixth in the nation in yards and third in scoring suggests that, yes, he should considered for just about any individual honor.
Last year, when Ohio State was putting the wraps on a 12-0, bowl-banned season, Meyer shied away from saying Miller was a legitimate Heisman candidate but said he had that kind of ability. Last summer, Meyer said Miller being in the Heisman conversation was realistic if he continued to improve.
“We haven’t seen the ceiling with Braxton,” Meyer said in July. “He can be so much better. I’m anxious to see it like everyone else. The guys around him are so much better.”
Miller is completing 66 percent of his passes for 1,759 yards this year with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions. Last year, he completed 58 percent for 2,039 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Miller was the Big Ten Player of the Year last year and is probably the big favorite to be a repeat winner when it’s announced Tuesday night. He was named the Big Ten’s Quarterback of the Year on Monday.
Asked during Sunday’s Big Ten Championship Game teleconference if Miller or Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, who also missed three games due to suspension, should be the league’s offensive player of the year, Meyer declined to give an answer.
Both have been very good. It’s interesting that Meyer chose to push Miller for the Heisman on Monday, and he made good points. A strong case could get stronger with so many eyes on Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game and so much at stake for No. 2 Ohio State.