Only three players will be in attendance at the Best Buy Theater for this year's Heisman Trophy presentation. Ohio State's Braxton Miller will not be among them. Did the sophomore star get snubbed?
Maybe the most surprising thing about Monday's announcement of Heisman Trophy finalists, at least to the loyal denizens of Buckeye Nation, was that Braxton Miller will not join Collin Klein, Manti Te'o, and Johnny Manziel for the award presentation on December 8th. After all, the Heisman Trophy is the award typically awarded to the most outstanding player in the nation, usually with a healthy amount of back story helping his campaign.
Braxton Miller was an incredibly important cog in Urban Meyer's first year in Columbus, to be sure. His play was filled with .GIF-able moments, impressive statistics, and his growth from a 6-7 freshman starter to an undefeated sophomore team leader is a wonderful narrative. Not to mention the fact that adding an Ohio State player to a broadcast typically lends more eyeballs to the screens. The telecast is, of course, an ad-supported television show, and ESPN, who will broadcast the award presentation, typically acts in the interests of that pursuit.
But when the stiff-arm trophy is awarded, you, me and Braxton Miller will all be doing the same thing: watching the show on television, not spiffed up in a ludicrous suit on national television. This begs the question: Did Braxton Miller get snubbed?
The easy, homer answer is yes, and for all the reasons mentioned above. Miller, for a good portion of the season, was an offensive juggernaut, showing able maturity in the face of adversity throughout the year. This is due in large part to the offense spearheaded by Meyer and Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman. Miller, despite his gains in the passing game, is fleet-footed, and can use that ability to torch defenses focusing on stopping the pass, or on stopping the very capable Carlos Hyde.
Given these rushing situations, Miller used his abilities to amass 1,271 rushing yards (leading the team) and rushing for 13 touchdowns, at a clip of 5.6 yards per carry. These are gaudy statistics for a quarterback of any class, and for Miller to do this with a first year head coach and OC as a sophomore is certainly head-turning, if not eye-popping, considering his statistics of 715 net yards and only seven scores the year before.
But Miller improved as a passer in 2012 as well. Despite lacking a mature receiving corps (and remember, his best receiver at the start of the year was supposed to be Jake Stoneburner, who was altogether "meh" all year), Miller beefed up his statistics in the 11 games he was featured in. Passing for over 2039 yards, and with 15 touchdowns against only six interceptions, Miller improved by almost 1,000 passing yards from his 2011 numbers when he was splitting time with Joe Bauserman for half the season, and increased his completion percentage by over 4% (54.1% last year to 58.3% this year).
Statistically, his numbers are great, but compared to the two quarterbacks invited to New York next week, you can start to see why Miller wasn't included on the guest list.
Miller's numbers are very good, but they really do pale in comparison to his quarterback brethren. Both Klein and Manziel have more rushing scores (despite fewer yards) and both have the same or more touchdowns (and more yards passing). The only claim Miller can make to being compared to Klein and Manziel is in the interception department, and even then the numbers are almost too close to compare favorably one way or another, and the positive stats for the other players are simply that much better than Miller's.
The other main argument that likely took away Miller's shot at attending the ceremony was his performance down the stretch of Ohio State's undefeated season.
In a game pitting two teams with no postseason ambitions, Ohio State went into Happy Valley and beat Big Ten Coach of the Year Bill O'Brien's Penn State squad, 35-23. The game wasn't that close, and Miller led the charge for the Buckeyes, throwing for 143 yards and a score, and leading the rushing attack with 134 yards and two scores. Great running numbers, decent passing numbers, and a good win over a good opponent. His numbers would spike again against Illinois, but the fans, pundits and everyone else knew his best opposition would show up in the season's final two weeks.
Against Wisconsin, in a 21-14 OT win, Miller came well back down to Earth, passing for only 97 yards, and rushing for only 48, scoring no touchdowns, and looking less than average in running the offense that had looked nigh unstoppable in the weeks before. And in the win in The Game, Miller was outshined on the ground by Hyde, and took four sacks in an efficient if not slightly underwhelming 14-18, 189 yard, 1 touchdown performance.
The final argument as to why Miller's invitation was not delivered could be because of a situation far out of his control. All year, Ohio State was handled at a distance due to their postseason ban. A team that is now ranked third in the AP poll only got that high on a week where they didn't play. SB Nation's own blogpoll doesn't even have the undefeated Buckeyes in their top five. Ohio State as a team was at an arm's length from everyone this year, players included.
In all reality, however, Braxton Miller wasn't at the mercy of the media staying away from him, rather he was at the mercy of two quarterbacks (and a linebacker) playing better than him. The numbers don't lie, and those are the clear reasons why Miller won't be in New York in the next few days.
But if the growth he showed this year is any indication, he should probably book his tickets for next year as soon as possible.