- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Contrived or not, there’s officially no controversy now.
The conversation about whether Kenny Guiton had done enough to take over as Ohio State’s starting quarterback had drawn on with Braxton Miller defenseless, unable to make his case while recovering from a sprained knee.
Finally able to play again, Miller made it abundantly clear that he’s not only the best option for the Buckeyes, he’s among the most dangerous players in the entire country.
In case anybody had forgotten how lethal he is with his legs or improved he is with his arm, Miller provided a refresher course in a 31-24 win over No. 23 Wisconsin and its stout defense that should silence any remaining skeptics over who should be taking Ohio State’s snaps.
“I don’t really look into how the media deals with that,” Miller said. “It doesn’t bother me at all.
“I was proud of Kenny and the way he led the team while I was out, and I look at him as a big brother. So, no controversy with that.”
There was never really any to begin with inside the program, and despite the bracketing of his top two quarterbacks on Urban Meyer’s depth chart earlier in the week, the Buckeyes coach made it clear again after knocking off the Badgers that Miller solidly remains his first choice.
After missing the past two games and nearly all of another one, Miller wasted little time proving why. He rifled bullets all over the field in one of his most efficient passing performances, steadily took on more of a workload as a rusher and showed few signs of rust after the layoff.
He dropped in a 25-yard strike to Evan Spencer on the opening drive of the game. He delivered a gorgeous, driven, back-shoulder throw to Devin Smith for a 26-yard touchdown. Then, after one of his worst tosses of the night, Miller capped the first half with a 40-yard bomb to Philly Brown that sent the Buckeyes into the locker room with all the momentum before going to work on the clock with his legs down the stretch.
In all, Miller completed 17 of his 25 passes for 198 yards and 4 touchdowns and tacked on 83 more yards on the ground, turning in exactly the kind of versatile performance that made him a preseason favorite for the Heisman Trophy and the Buckeyes a threat in the national title race.
“No [doubt about the starter], not if he’s healthy,” Meyer said of Miller. “When I saw Braxton on Thursday, there was no doubt who was going to be our starter.
“The team we played is very good, should be undefeated except for some ridiculous call. ... I think he played very well. Braxton did have a heck of a day.”
Miller has had more than a few like it before, though the fresher memories for the Buckeyes have been of Guiton after a prolific touchdown binge while filling in over the past three games that rewrote the school record books.
Ohio State has brainstormed for ways to get both quarterbacks involved in the offense, either together in one formation or through some sort of rotation. But that never looked to be a realistic option against the Badgers, particularly when Miller started darting all over the field, using his elusiveness and acceleration to escape pressure in the pocket and pick up yardage in a way that few quarterbacks can.
And as long as a left knee that was covered by a thin brace under his pants and long, black socks can hold up, the stage will continue to belong to Miller.
“I’ve been working really hard these last couple weeks because I’ve been hurt,” Miller said. “I felt good, my legs felt good. Energy-wise, I wasn’t out of shape and felt good.
“I’ve been in there [working] all day. I felt like I had a job without getting paid.”
After all that rehab was done, his real job for the Buckeyes was waiting. There was never any question who it belonged to.
10hAndrea Adelson and Austin Ward