It started as a faint whisper, only audible on High Street and Buckeye Alumni bars across the country, but it has grown into full blown rumblings. The Braxton Miller Heisman Campaign has officially started. Adam Jacobi of Bleacher Report and Chris Hudson of CBSSports have floated trial balloons for a Miller candidacy, and Braxton is getting enough attention that Urban Meyer had to weigh on his chances after a few weeks in the season. His response? " I don't believe he is now. He's not playing well enough yet."
I happen to agree. Miller's play, particularly his big play potential while running out of the pocket, has been nothing short of a revelation for Ohio State, but the rise of Miller's stock has more to do with the lack of an obvious frontrunner at this point. Early season favorite Matt Barkley didn't have a great game in USC's loss against Stanford, and Montee Ball and Marcus Lattimore haven't quite lived up to their high preseason expectations yet.
Miller has some great numbers so far. He's accounted for nearly 1,000 yards of total offense and 12 TDs (7 passing, 5 rushing), and he's completed 61% of his passes so far. I don't think the consistency is there yet though. OSU's offense has taken entire quarters off in each game this season (Miller's 3rd quarter completion rate is only 44%), and as the unquestioned star that stirs the drink for OSU, Miller has to take a little responsibility for that. He also hasn't really had a chance to square off against a particularly *good* defense.There will be plenty of time to build up Miller's Heisman credentials later in the season if he continues this standard of play. Ccertainly if he's still accounting for 300 yards combined offense after facing down Michigan State, we can start making Miller yard signs and buttons. For now, I think it's fine for us to enjoy the development of a still very young QB, without putting that kind of extra pressure. For what it's worth, if I had a vote, I'd give it to UCLA RB Jonathan Franklin, who is putting up some obnoxious numbers right now. West Virgina QB Geno Smith is also completing about 104% of his passes right now, and if he can keep up that pace after playing against a real college football team, he'll need to be in the mix as well.
I gotta admit, from reading a lot of the bloggosphere this week, you'd think we weren't undefeated and the highest ranked team in the Big Ten. We've seen some hand wringing on this blog, and 11 Warriors repeatedly asks, "why are we so bad??"
Lets pump the breaks a little bit here. Umass, who got drilled by Indiana, is bad. Kansas, who lost a football game to cheap food, is bad. Colorado, who trailed 35-0 to something called a Fresno State, is bad. Hell, Fresno ain't even a state. Ohio State is not bad. Ohio State's secondary has struggled a little. Ohio State's tackling leaves something to be desired. Ohio State's offense, while a Xbox360 to the Tressel Era 3DO in terms of excitement, has a consistency problem. That doesn't mean they're bad, or that the sky is falling.
There are absolutely some things to be concerned about. Ohio State gave up 512 yards to Cal, and let this Brendan Bigelow guy run for 160 on 4 carries. 232 of Cal's yards came on 6 plays. That Big Play vulnerability, combined with taking the 3rd quarter off (or the 4th against UCF, or the 1st against Miami) are justifiable causes for concern.
Last week, the big worry was that OSU wasn't generating a pass rush. Against Cal, they recorded 6 sacks. Last week, we worried that Braxton was getting too many carries, and that another OSU RB needed to step up. Then Jordan Hall came back from his foot injury to pick up 87 yards on a respectable 5.1 yards a carry. Stoneburner was called out for not being a major factor over the last two weeks, against Cal, he catches 2 TDs.
Why do I bring all that up? To show that its been three freakin' games in a new regime, and the team is capable of looking at weak points and addressing them. You figure OSU's rushing attack will get better at Hyde and Hall get totally healthy. You figure Braxton will be able to improve his consistency and timing so long as he stays healthy. Even if OSU's secondary doesn't get a ton better, whose passing attack in the Big Ten is really that scary? Only Nebraska's poses that much of a threat to me, and Taylor Martinez is just as capable of throwing for 350 and 4 TDs as he completely shitting the bed.
This is a good, not great, football team that is improving, has a manageable schedule, and is built for 2013 anyway. I for one plan to enjoy it. If that makes me a sunshine pumper, then so be it.
(exception: if we lose to the Trogdors this weekend, I give you permission to flip out. I'll probably burn at least two couches myself)
BYU lost the Holy War last week in heartbreaking fashion (apparently field goal kicking is an honor code violation or something), and Louisiana-Monroe lost in OT to Auburn, so it appears that we don't have a chance of seeing a mid-major go on a run and do some damage in the polls. That being said, there are still some great lower conference teams this year that should be watched:
-Ohio (3-0) plays FCS Norfolk State this week, and doesn't really have anything resembling a tough game for over a month. They don't have the schedule to make a BCS game, but they're worth a watch, even if they hadn't beaten Penn State. Tyler Tettleton is having an excellent year (781 yards passing, 7 TDs, 0 INTs), and they're going to provide some sweet, glorious MACtion this season. OU? Oh Yeah.
-Louisiana Tech (2-0). LA Tech had their game with Texas A&M washed away until later in the season, depriving of us of an excellent upset chance early. They're 3rd in the country in scoring though (56 points per game) and 17th in passing (314.5). They don't play a whole lot of defense, but it'll be really tough for Illinois to keep up this week. I think the Bulldogs steal a win there, and should battle with Utah State for the right to be the final WAC champs.
-Western Kentucky (2-1). I think the Sun Belt as a whole is surprisingly salty this year, and in the attitude department, WKU takes the cake. First, coach Willie Targgart trolls the hell out of his own student body by saying students at WKU wearing blue for UK "couldn't get into Kentucky" (Wait, you can get rejected from Kentucky?). Then, he goes out and beats Kentucky (THEY SUPPOSED TO BE SEC) on a balls-out trick play. You're right, red is the new blue coach. Go Hilltoppers.
Unrelated, but if you aren't listening to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, run to Youtube right now and start. Vermont Blues and Folk rockers wielding retro guitars and taking a page out of Janis Joplin's book? Sounds like a winner to me. Your required listening for the week starts here and here. You're welcome.