Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Big Ten Heisman Watch: Week 13
By Brian Bennett
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, the old saying goes. And that was true for Braxton Miller's Heisman Trophy candidacy last weekend.
Miller had his worst game of the season, statistically speaking, against Wisconsin. The Ohio State quarterback threw for a season-low 97 yards and ran for only 48 -- 1 yard more than his season low in that category -- and for the first time all year didn't produce a touchdown. It was the kind of late-season performance, in front of a national audience, that could have easily wrecked his Heisman chances.
But Miller benefited from the problems that other leading Heisman candidates also had on Saturday. Kansas State's Collin Klein, widely viewed as the front-runner going into Week 12, got intercepted three times as his Wildcats were routed by Baylor. Oregon's Kenjon Barner rushed for only 66 yards and no touchdowns as the Ducks lost to Stanford, a result that also damaged Marcus Mariota's rising candidacy. And while USC receiver Marqise Lee had another strong game, his Trojans lost to UCLA for their fourth defeat of the season. That will affect how voters view him.
Miller could have fallen out of the race had Ohio State lost to Wisconsin. But he helped the Buckeyes escape with a 21-14 overtime win, helping set up a touchdown in the extra period with an 8-yard run to the 2-yard line (and ruining Montee Ball's late Heisman surge in the process). One of Miller's main selling points is that he has orchestrated several great finishes and his team is 11-0.
Some other Heisman contenders will get to play in conference championship games or in regular-season games on the first Saturday of December. Miller's season will be over by then, and that inability to make one last impression on voters could hurt. But if he has a big game against Michigan on Saturday and helps his team finish 12-0, he'll have built a strong case. Especially if others keep faltering.
My ESPN.com Heisman Watch ballot for Week 13:
1. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
2. Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o
5. Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch