If Braxton Miller is a Heisman Candidate, We Will Find Out Saturday
By Tony Gerdeman
Regardless of how Urban Meyer feels about it, quarterback Braxton Miller is being talked about as a Heisman candidate. Miller's name isn't atop any Heisman Watch lists, but it is certainly on them. Whether his name moves up on those lists or not depends on how he does this weekend.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Now nobody at Ohio State, including Miller, is even thinking about the Heisman trophy right now. They're not good enough to lose focus on their next most immediate obstacle. But that hasn't stopped everybody else from bringing up Miller's name on their various watch lists.
So why is this particular game against the #20 Michigan State Spartans so important in Miller's present Heisman candidacy? Because of the last ten Heisman-winning quarterbacks, the last nine are 9-0 against the first ranked team they played in their respective winning seasons. And not only were they 9-0, but they were almost all very impressive in their wins.
The lone loser among the group was Chris Weinke in 2000. And all he did was throw for 496 yards and three touchdowns against the #7 Miami Hurricanes.
The worst game of the ten winners came in 2001 when Eric Crouch led his team to a 27-10 win over #17 Notre Dame. Crouch threw for 88 yards and rushed for 31 yards. Not exactly a dominating performance.
In 2002, USC's Carson Palmer went 22-30 for 244 yards and a touchdown in a 40-3 win over #18 Colorado. The following year, Sooner quarterback Jason White completed 17-21 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns in 65-13 win over #11 Texas. It was as strong a statement as White could have possibly made.
In 2004, Matt Leinart led his Trojans team to a 23-17 win over #7 California, but only threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Troy Smith in 2006 moved to the top of the heap after leading his Buckeyes to a week two win at #2 Texas. Smith threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns in the Buckeyes' 24-7 win.
In 2007, Florida's Tim Tebow threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 61 yards and two more touchdowns in Florida's 59-20 win over #22 Tennessee. The next year saw Sam Bradford throw for 411 yards and four touchdowns as the Sooners defeated #24 TCU 35-10.
In 2010, Auburn's Cam Newton came out of nowhere to walk away with the Heisman Trophy. His first game versus a ranked opponent came against #12 South Carolina, and all he did was throw for 158 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 176 yards and three more touchdowns in a 35-27 win.
Last season, Baylor's Robert Griffin III burst onto the scene in the season opener against #14 TCU when he threw for 359 yards and five touchdowns in a 50-48 shootout win.
Basically, a Heisman winner rarely leaves any doubt that they are a Heisman candidate following their first matchup against a ranked opponent.
On Saturday, Braxton Miller will be facing the #20 Michigan State Spartans, but more specifically he will be facing the nation's sixth-ranked defense.
Miller is currently averaging 189 yards passing and 110 yards rushing per game. If he can reproduce those numbers against the Spartans, then both he and the Buckeyes could be on their way to something special.
For comparison's sake, when Cameron Newton won the Heisman, he averaged 204 yards passing and 105 yards rushing per game. To bring it back home a bit, when Troy Smith won the Heisman, he averaged 196 yards passing and just 16 yards rushing per game.
If Miller is going to spend 2012 as a legitimate Heisman possibility, then his candidacy kicks off at 3:30 pm this Saturday afternoon.
A big game on national television against a respected defense would go a long way towards Miller's future. He is still a year away from having a shot at winning the Heisman, but that doesn't mean he can't put his hat in the ring a year early.
Of course, there is also every possibility that Ohio State will have to shelve Miller's campaign following the Spartans' rigorous vetting process.
But if he does get the "all clear" following Saturday's game, then Miller and Urban Meyer might want to clear their calendar for a weekend trip to New York City in early December.
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