The quarterback is expected to be the leader of a football team. One of the best examples of this being true in college football must be Braxton Miller, quarterback of the Ohio St. Buckeyes.
Only a sophomore, Miller has shown the kind of leadership skills and play on the field that generally comes from a junior or senior ready to win the Heisman Trophy or lead his team to a national championship. Maybe it was coming into a rough situation as a freshman for the Buckeyes last year as the scandal involving former Buckeyes’ coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrell Pryor was dying down that helped Miller grow up quick in the college game. Whatever the reason, Miller seems to be a player that the Buckeyes’ offense can not completely function without.
The Buckeyes are one of the few remaining undefeated teams in college football, currently at 9-0. An undefeated season where you are ineligible for post-season play would be a statement, but the Buckeyes wouldn’t be undefeated if not for the play of Miller in a few specific games.
Against the California Golden Bears, the Buckeyes got one of the lesser efforts out of their defense, and a back-and-forth offensive battle ensued. Miller countered the Golden Bears’ successful rushing attack by going to the air and throwing four touchdowns. Two of those touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter when the teams went score-for-score during a series of drives that resulted in the Buckeyes ahead after a 72-yard touchdown pass from Miller to Devin Smith. That score ended up winning the game for the Buckeyes.
Against the Michigan St. Spartans, it was Miller’s runs at the end of the game that sealed a one-point victory, but his play near the end of the first half finally got a sputtering offense into gear. Though no points came of it, the offense continued to play well in the second half and included another big touchdown pass from Miller to Smith.
And this past weekend on the road against the Penn St. Nittany Lions, it was Miller who helped start the Buckeyes’ charge that turned a close game into a runaway. The Buckeyes were actually looking at being down 7-0 at halftime before a few big runs by Miller set up Carlos Hyde‘s one-yard touchdown run that tied the game. From there, Miller and the Buckeyes offense didn’t stop, scoring four touchdowns in the second half. Miller had something to do with three of the four, running in two and throwing a 72-yard touchdown to Jake Stoneburner in the fourth quarter.
While the Buckeyes’ defense has only gotten better as the season has gone along, their offense simply cannot work if Miller isn’t on his game. Even with the helpful assistance of Hyde this year in the backfield, it’s still Miller’s show and his performance dictates the offense’s performance. In the tougher games the Buckeyes have had thus far, the story has gone pretty much the same: Miller and the offense start slow while the defense gets going right away, Miller and the offense catch up to the defense, and the Buckeyes end up with the victory.
The Buckeyes’ offense has only had to deal with life without Miller for a few possessions this season as the only time he has missed was the end of the Buckeyes’ win over the Purdue Boilermakers because of an injury Miller suffered at the end of a long run. During that time and other instances where he got some playing time, second-string quarterback Kenny Guiton has performed well. He has also shown no trouble when he’s been thrown into the game for a play or two here and there. However, he’s only played sporadically and because of that, this point of the season wouldn’t be a good time for Guiton to get his first taste of a full college football game.
The Buckeyes are three games away from perfection, and this is the absolute worst time for something to take Miller out of the lineup. To lose your best player and leader this late would be devastating for the Buckeyes’ offense, but more importantly, it would be devastating to the psyche of the team. And this would likely mean an end to the undefeated season.