We have to emphasize candidate, because at this point in the season, the overwhelming favorite has to be West Virgina QB Geno Smith. Sure, Smith's eye-popping yardage and TD numbers are boosted somewhat by the Air-Raid playcalling and a schedule that isn't chock full of exceptional secondaries (Baylor just gave up another touchdown), but Smith's superlative accuracy (he's completing 81% of his passes. eighty freaking one percent) and strong performances against Baylor and Texas have to put him at the top of voter lists right now.
Buuuut after a slew of upsets over the weekend, you can't really ignore Braxton Miller, as much as Urban Meyer might like to temper the hype machine. Aaron Murray is out of the race for now after getting mowed over by South Carolina. EJ Manuel is likely out too after Florida State choked against the Notorious TOB's Wolfpack. Collin Klein is just a worse version of Braxton Miller. After De'Anthony Thomas and Manti T'eo, the picking start to get a little slim.
Miller has thrown for 1060 yards, 9 TDs and 3 picks, while completing 61% of his passes. He's also 7th in the COUNTRY in rushing yards with 763 and 8 TDs, and only trails Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch in QB rushing yards. Most importantly though, the Buckeyes are undefeated. Few good teams in major college football rely on one player for offensive production like Miller and the Buckeyes, which may not be great for the team, but it does give Miller lots of chances to shine.
What are Miller's chances of overtaking Smith and making a run at the actual trophy? I'm not high on them. Not only does OSU lack a chance to play in a conference title game or a bowl game, but thanks to the well-documented suckitude of the Big Ten, they could potentially play the rest of the season without facing another ranked team. Being on probation isn't necessarily a problem by itself (Andre Ware won when Houston was on probation), but the fact that other teams can play later in the calender could hurt Miller's chances. Miller also doesn't have the receiving weapons to put up the same gaudy passing stats that other leading QBs can, although the Bucks certainly don't need Miller to throw for 350 yards to win a game.
Baring injuries and some significant changes, I don't think Braxton Miller is going to win the Heisman Trophy this year. The fact that, despite what Urban Meyer thinks, he's a bonefide part of the conversation is a testament to Miller's work ethnic and improvement, and to the coaching staff. Remember, the kid is only a sophomore. Getting a free trip to New York would be a great goal for Miller, and bode well for making a serious run at the trophy next season.
One of the nice things about not being a coach is that I am under no obligation to repeat the "every team is dangerous one game at time Indiana has a running back that is 7 feet tall and can shoot lasers" business. I freely admit that as a fan, I am struggling a little bit to get excited about the Indiana game this weekend, and have unabashedly looked ahead at the schedule. I have mentally tallied a W next to this week's game. I am doing this because Indiana is bad at football.
Since 1951, Indiana has beaten Ohio State exactly three times. 1951 (Saint Woody's first year), 1987 and 1988 (Cooper's first year). That means that most of the guys who write for this website can't remember a time Indiana actually won. The Hooisers kept it close against one of the worst OSU teams in recent memory last season, but still lost by two TDs. This year's version of Hoosier football is a little bit better: Cameron Coffman has stepped up well in relief of the injured Tre Robinson. He's 5th in the B1G in QB rating (133.7), and the team is 4th in total offense. Facing a stiff Michigan State defense, they gave the Spartans the scare of their life before fading down the stretch 31-27. They're playing under the lights in Bloomington, and that ought to be enough to craft some sort of whoa whoa don't sleep on the Hoosiers narrative, right?
Wrong. First, Bloomington is less than 4 hours from Columbus and will be hopping with Buckeye fans. Second, Indiana's defense is more than terribad, especially their rushing defense. They are dead last in the Big Ten in total defense, give up 257 yards rushing a game (and that includes giving up more than 200 yards rushing to some guy playing for Indiana State), and 300 yards a game passing, worst in the Big Ten. That sounds like the sort of team that is going to match up poorly with a squad that just scored 63 on a ranked opponent. Indiana may be able to score a few points by picking on a OSU secondary that is vulnerable to the Big Play, just like Miami and Cal did, but the Buckeyes can and should win this game in a route. Penn State and Purdue are trap games. Indiana is not. Look for the Bucks to roll something to the tune of 49-20.
I don't think there has been too much movement in my Mid Major Power Rankings, but here is an update anyway:
1) #23 Louisiana Tech (5-0) The Bulldogs have two BCS scalps in Illinois and Virgina, and get a chance at a big third when they host Texas A&M. I'm going to go ahead and pick the Bulldogs to win that game in a points bloodbath. LA Tech is averaging over 50 points a game, and if they can get past the Aggies, they've got a great shot at going undefeated. Even if they slip up, here is hoping they get a good bowl matchup at 11-1, because these guys are fun to watch.
2) Ohio (6-0) Just so you know, there are three schools in Ohio that are undefeated, and your Ohio Bobcats were the first school to become bowl eligible this season. That victory over Penn State looks a little better now that the Nittany Lions have pulled themselves off the mat, but the Bobcats also struggled to put away Buffalo and Umass, two terrible MAC teams. Ohio should be 9-0 heading into their matchup with Bowling Green, but you never know. Weird things happen in the MAC. Tyler Tettleton is awesome though, and deserves your praise and attention.
3) Nevada (5-1) You could go Western Kentucky here, but the Wolfpack are a flukey game against South Florida from being undefeated and sitting in the top 25. They boast the nation's top rusher in Stefphon Jefferson (955 yards, 11 TDs), and already beat Cal on the road. The Wolfpack have an easy game with UNLV next, but it isn't unreasonable to think they could head into their season finale with Boise State with only their one loss.
Finally, your weekly listening comes from a band straight outta Chicago, Filligar. I had a DC musician friend tip me off on these guys a few months ago, and I've been a big fan since they sound, well, think the very best of college rock/very Black Keys-ish, and hey, who doesn't like the Black Keys? Give 'em a listen here or here.