Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Big Ten Heisman watch: Week 8
By Brian Bennett
It's no secret by now that Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is not only a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, but he's the only one in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes' defensive struggles might actually be doing Miller's candidacy some favors, because he has to keep his foot on the gas. That was the case last week against Indiana, when the sophomore completed 13 of 24 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns (with one interception) and rushed 23 times for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 52-49 thriller over Indiana.
That type of performance has become almost ho-hum for Miller this season. The best development for his Heisman hopes came not in Bloomington but in Lubbock, Texas, where West Virginia went down in flames to Texas Tech. Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith remains the heavy favorite for the trophy at the midseason mark, but his campaign lost a little luster last week.
That opens the door for some other contenders, and Miller is right there. In fact, Ohio State's star is probably one of the top two challengers to Smith right now, with the other being Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
Because Klein and Miller are both so adept at running, let's compare their season stats:
Miller: 96-of-159 passing for 1,271 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions; 129 rushes for 912 yards and nine touchdowns.
Klein: 79-of-118 passing for 1,074 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions; 98 rushes for 510 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Miller has played one more game than Klein, but he's averaging more total yards (311.9 per game) than the Kansas State star (264). They're pretty close in touchdowns, but Miller has more highlight-reel plays.
Both quarterbacks' teams are undefeated, but Klein may get more credit for playing on a team that can contend for the BCS championship. He also gets to face some questionable Big 12 defenses.
Miller gets a slight edge on Klein, in my book. He'll need Smith to falter some more to push for the top spot.
My ESPN.com Heisman Watch ballot for Week 8: