Ohio State Buckeyes: Jameis Winston

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller began the season as a top Heisman Trophy candidate. He could end it the same way.

[+] EnlargeJason Mowry/Icon SMI
Jason Mowry/Icon SMIBraxton Miller probably can't win the Heisman Trophy, but he can earn an invitation to New York if he has a big game against Michigan State.
Miller likely can't win the Heisman on Saturday night against Michigan State in the Big Ten championship -- Florida State's Jameis Winston appears to be a lock -- but he could earn an invitation to New York for the trophy presentation. Who will join Winston in the Big Apple? Candidates such as Alabama's AJ McCarron, Fresno State's Derek Carr and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch all have had their teams lose critical games in recent days.

Miller hasn't lost a game in two seasons, and he collected his second consecutive Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award on Tuesday. Although a knee injury and some shaky play took him off of the Heisman radar in September, Miller has been brilliant for most of Big Ten play, leading the league with 295 yards of offense per game. He has four runs of 40 yards or longer and has completed 65.7 percent of his passes, ahead of Troy Smith's team record of 65.3 percent set during his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2006.

Although Ohio State always garners some of the spotlight, the Buckeyes haven't played an opponent this good, or been on a stage this big. If Miller performs well, he will get noticed.

"He'll be as prepared as he's ever been," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said this week. "He's been in some big stages, maybe not a championship game or a BCS bowl game yet. I just would anticipate he'll handle it great because usually the brighter the lights, the better he plays."

Michigan State's top-ranked defense will do what it can to subdue Miller and prevent him from having a Heisman moment at Lucas Oil Stadium. But the Spartans are wary of how dangerous Miller can be.

"I see a magician, a guy with a sixth sense, a guy that can take a bad play and make it a very good play, a guy that can create," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "You can know what Ohio State is doing, be right on top of it, do what you do to stop it that particular time, but he can create and make it a good play."

Someone needs to sit alongside Winston in Times Square. Miller's opportunity to do so comes Saturday night.

3-point stance: Lesson for Winston

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
5:30
AM ET
1. Here’s what we know about Jameis Winston: he’s a very talented athlete with a gift for leadership. That’s all we know. He is young and likely to be on the national athletic stage for many, many years. If, as expected, he is not charged with a crime Thursday, it is likely this incident will become a footnote to what looks like a remarkable career. But that’s up to Winston. He has been exposed to the scrutiny that he will undergo with any misstep. Here’s hoping he decides that missteps carry a price too high to pay.

2. The Big Ten Championship Game is a classic matchup of strength against strength, Michigan State’s old-school defense and Ohio State’s explosive offense (when the Spartans have the ball, make a fridge run). The Buckeyes rank in the top 10 in seven offensive categories. Michigan State ranks first or second in five defensive categories. Ohio State has played only one top-30 defense: Wisconsin. But the Buckeyes played well against the Badgers, scoring 31 points with a balanced attack. I don’t think Ohio State needs to score 31 to win Saturday night.

3. Marques Tuiasosopo is a 34-year-old assistant coach with a pedigree as a Huskies hero. He led Washington to a Rose Bowl victory in the 2000 season. He has done good work with current quarterback Keith Price. Under different circumstances, it’s conceivable that Tuiasosopo, whom Washington named as interim coach, could be seen as a genuine candidate to replace Steve Sarkisian. But the Huskies have closed a huge gap in the Pac-12 North. It seems as if athletic director Steve Woodward would want a veteran to help Washington catch Stanford and Oregon.

Big Ten Week 13: Did you know?

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
10:00
AM ET
Because knowledge is power!

  • Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has praised Braxton Miller for being a complete quarterback this season, and the numbers certainly bear that out. He's attempting 84 percent of his passes inside the pocket -- an increase of 18 percentage points compared to last season -- and he's completing 71.3 percent of those passes, which is the best in the Big Ten.
  • Both Indiana and Ohio State are tied for second in the FBS with 18 touchdowns on drives lasting 1 minute or less. But the Hoosiers haven't been able to piece together sustained drives. The Buckeyes have eight touchdown drives lasting five minutes or longer. Indiana? Zero.
  • Michigan State's defense is arguably the best in the nation. And here are some numbers to chew on that might just back that up: The Spartans have allowed 13 runs of 10 yards or longer, which is seven fewer than any other FBS team. They lead the BCS with 122 total pressures (hurries, knockdowns, sacks). And they've allowed a BCS conference-low 29.1 yards-before-contact per game on designed runs.
  • [+] EnlargeConnor Cook
    AP Photo/Al GoldisConnor Cook is among the best in the country on third down.
    Just how good has MSU quarterback Connor Cook been in the clutch? On third downs, he's statistically the best quarterback in the conference. In Big Ten games, he has a QBR of 93.2 on third downs. He's converting 49 percent of those downs, completing 64.7 percent of his passes and averaging nine yards every pass attempt.
  • Northwestern's penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory has been pretty well documented this season, and no other team has really experienced as much heartbreak. The Wildcats have an FBS-high six losses when it has a lead in the fourth quarter in the last two seasons. And they've lost four games this year when tied or leading in the fourth quarter, which is tied for the most such losses in the country along with Temple, South Alabama and Utah.
  • In some respects, Wisconsin's rushing attack has been the most dominant in the nation. The Badgers average 4.3 yards per rush before first contact, the most in the BCS. It's averaging a BCS-best 9.4 yards per rush outside the tackles. And it leads the nation in rushes of 30 yards or longer (20) and 50 yards or longer (9).
  • Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson obviously has made some long strides since the beginning of the season, but he's really been on top during Minnesota's four-game winning streak. His 90.5 opponent-adjusted QBR ranks second-best in the FBS since Week 8, behind only Florida State's Jameis Winston (94.3). (He's a full point above Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.)
  • Nebraska has shown, again and again, its ability to win the close games. As a matter of fact, Nebraska has won seven games in a row that were decided by seven or fewer points. That's the second-longest streak in the country, behind only Arkansas State's eight wins. And the Cornhuskers also have won six Big Ten games in the past two seasons after trailing in the fourth quarter.
  • Iowa's defense doesn't get as much credit as the Spartans, but it's still a top-10 unit -- and it's especially good in the red zone. The Hawkeyes have allowed just nine red-zone touchdowns, which is tied for the lowest total in the nation. And they haven't allowed a first-quarter touchdown since Week 1.
  • Illinois sophomore tailback Josh Ferguson is quite the balanced player. He leads the Illini in rushing yards (554), but he's also a big part of the passing game. He has 498 receiving yards on 43 receptions, which puts him at second in the nation in terms of receiving yards by a running back. And he needs just six yards to break Kameno Bell's single-season school record for receiving yards by a running back.

Miller-Guiton combo worthy of Heisman

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
9:00
AM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Heisman Trophy campaign was effectively over before it could even really start.

With the starter and a preseason awards favorite on the sideline, the backup made his own push for some hardware and was seemingly well on his way to making a case as the next-best quarterback in the Big Ten when given the stage.

Like Braxton Miller’s bid for the biggest prize in college football, Kenny Guiton’s run for individual glory was short-lived as well when the centerpiece of Ohio State’s spread offense returned from a nearly three-week absence due to a knee sprain. But imagine voting committees having the option to put them together, and there might not be a bronze statue safe from the one-two punch the Buckeyes have unleashed this season.

Certainly the contributions of both have been integral in the 21-game unbeaten streak Ohio State has put together, and the two friends have gone out of their way to praise each other and stress that team goals come first. And while Guiton’s recent cameos in the same formation as Miller and increased playing time in blowouts may have improved his chances of sneaking onto an All-Big Ten team in some capacity, if it were possible to put the production of the two together, a combined resume with nearly 2,800 yards of offense and 36 touchdowns would stack up with just about any quarterback in the country.

“We’ve not seen all the teams yet,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “But I’ve got the two that I like.

“I have a lot of respect for the other quarterbacks in the league, but if we’re drafting, I’ve got the two that I like.”

Meyer would almost certainly need two pretty high picks if he was going to keep his tandem together in a hypothetical Big Ten draft, with Guiton again receiving some chances to show how valuable he is to the Buckeyes and how useful he might have been to a large handful of teams around the league as a full-time option.

After more than a year of kicking around the idea, Ohio State has also finally found a way to put Guiton and Miller on the field at the same time, with the former taking the snap and the latter lining up as a receiver. That package has already produced a pair of touchdowns in the last two games, with Guiton scoring on a designed rush against Penn State and then throwing a jump pass for a score in the blowout last weekend of Purdue.

But with Miller sitting out the entire second half of the laugher against the Boilermakers, Guiton also had a chance to pad his stats outside of the red zone, rushing for 98 yards, throwing for 59 more and picking up right where he left off during his unforgettable September. Both the absence due to injury and the recent lopsided scores have impacted Miller’s personal numbers, leaving him on the outside of the Heisman conversation despite clearly playing the best football of his career.

But assuming Miller would have been able to match the statistics Guiton has put up when he was on the sideline, imagine an awards contender who has completed more than 71 percent of his passes for 2,065 yards with 29 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions, rushed for 717 yards and 7 more scores and also guided a team to a perfect record and a No. 4 ranking.

Those stats would match up quite well with current Heisman front-runners Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston, even if they don’t really mean much and there’s no such thing as splitting an individual honor like the Heisman among two players at the same position. But they can at least offer another reminder of just how prolific the Buckeyes have been at quarterback, regardless of which one is actually on the field.

“I haven’t watched enough of the other [Big Ten] guys, so it would be too hard for me to say,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. “I like our No. 1 guy, and I’d put our No. 2 guy up against anybody.

“Now, whether he’s better than them or not, I’m sure there are other guys that may do certain things better than him, but when it comes to managing the game and being a leader and all that, you’d have to do a lot of convincing, a lot of lobbying for me to say there’s a better one out there in this conference.”

Put the two together, though, and that lobbying might have to go to the national level.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

New ESPN 300 Top 10 Revealed
National recruiting analysts Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert count down the top 10 recruits in the latest ESPN 300 player rankings update. The complete ESPN 300 will be released April 16.Tags: Tim Settle, CeCe Jefferson, Torrance Gibson, Mitch Hyatt, Terry Beckner Jr., Byron Cowart, Josh Sweat, Kevin Toliver II, Martez Ivey, Trevon Thompson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Tom Luginbill, Craig Haubert
VIDEO PLAYLIST video