With the fate of next year's quarterback position already being fiercely debated; I wanted to take a look at how Braxton Miller fared against That Team Up North during his three-starts. Miller isn't fortunate enough to claim undefeated against the bitter rival, but you can't tell which year he lost based on just his stats.
The inconsistencies throughout Miller's career at Ohio State were highlighted during the biggest game each year; switching coaches after year one can certainly rattle some players, but the stats paint an interesting picture.
Braxton Miller's first season as a starter came on the heals of Jim Tressel resigning and Terrelle Pryor running to the pros; as interim head coach Luke Fickell took the reigns, his expertise on defense didn't do enough to bolster Miller's natural ability behind center. As the Buckeyes boarded the bus to Ann Arbor in 2011, they held their worst record since 1999, and were hoping to at least continue their winning streak over the Wolverines.
Miller started off strong with a 54-yard pass to Corey Brown, but finished with a potentially game-winning long ball that sailed right over DeVier Posey nearly 76-yards down field. Despite his attempt to spike the ball and get in one more play, his last stitch effort resulted in a turnover that sealed the Buckeyes fate. For a freshman though, Braxton showed heart and a skill set to build on (by a coach with quarterback experience, not Luke Fickell).
As soon as Urban Meyer was hired in 2012, Buckeye Nation knew he was the right man to turn Braxton Miller into the next Heisman winning quarterback. Following in the footsteps of Tim Tebow, Miller wanted to be a beast in the air and on the ground. His running game has never been a problem; he always finds holes and can force missed tackles all day. The main issue has always been with his decision making when it came to when and how to throw the ball. As much as he was urged to, he had a hard time going through his progressions and would quickly tuck the ball and run at the first sign of trouble. Meyer hoped with time, that he would get more experience in the pocket and wait a little longer before running.
Based on the stats, you can tell that Urban Meyer pushed Braxton out of his comfort zone and truly tried to work on his passing game. With a running back like Carlos Hyde, there isn't as much of a need for the quarterback to be put in situations that could get him injured. The 2012 game is remembered for it's critical defense; while Miller had a better game statistically than the year before, it wasn't a particularly memorable performance.
Last year's nail-biting game was Miller's best showing yet against The Team Up North. Buckeye Nation may remember Tyvis Powell's interception of the Wolverines two-point conversion attempt, but Braxton had a career-high day. He matched his former record with five touchdowns; he rushed for 153-yards and three touchdowns and had 133-yards passing with two touchdowns. While this was one of his better, more well-rounded performances, he fumbled in the fourth quarter and let the Wolverines come close to tying or winning the game. Fortunately, for Buckeye fans everywhere, TTUN wasn't able to take the lead, and their pride prevented them from tying the game too.
This Saturday marks the first time in the Urban Meyer era that Braxton Miller won't be under center to lead the team; if J.T. Barrett can stay consistent and produce in the air and on the ground, the coaching staff may have an easier decision to make about the starting position next year.