Friday, January 31, 2014
Big Ten postseason player rankings: No. 1
By Austin Ward
The journey through the most valuable players in the Big Ten has come to a close, and it once again has arrived at a familiar destination.
Even with preseason hype, NFL potential and anything prior to last season tossed aside, the 2013 campaign ended with the same individual building the strongest case and claiming the top spot in the countdown of the league's best performers. And thanks to his decision to return for one more season, he's also got a chance to extend that reign for yet another year considering how much room he seemingly still has left to develop.
That's, perhaps, a conversation for another day. For now, we'll close the book on a season filled with incredible individual efforts by reflecting on the one that beat them all.
Braxton Miller has room to improve as a passer, but he still completed 63.5 percent of his throws and finished with 24 TDs in 2013.
Making the case for Miller: There are flaws that can be picked on, and nobody at Ohio State really denies them. Miller could still become a better passer. There are times he's overly reliant on his legs, and he's not a perfect decision-maker. After missing time with an injured knee in September, the spectacular numbers backup Kenny Guiton put up in his place opened Miller up to some minor criticism because of the suggestion anybody could put up a ton of points leading Urban Meyer's offense.
But in reality that's just nit-picking, because there was never any serious doubt that Miller's incomparable talents always made him the first choice for Meyer and the engine for such an explosive attack -- and there was hardly any reason to question that the junior was still the most dangerous man in the Big Ten.
If he leans on his legs a bit too often, it's understandable given his acceleration, cutting ability and a nasty stutter-step move all combined to produce another 1,000-yard rushing season. He may not be a totally finished product as a passer, but he clearly improved in that department in 2013 as he bumped his completion percentage up to 63.5 and led the conference with 24 touchdown tosses. Even in the middle of some outings that weren't his finest in losses to close the season, Miller dragged the Buckeyes back and into position to beat both Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl before both games slipped away from them.
Make no mistake, even if Miller doesn't duplicate the strides he made in the 2013 offseason and only gives Ohio State what he provided as a junior, the program would gladly take it and had plenty of reasons to celebrate his decision to return. Nobody would turn away the Big Ten's best player, especially when he's got a chance to earn that label for a third straight time.