As the dog days of summer arrive, the longing for football becomes all the more intense. Well, we here at CSNChicago.com are here to provide you with a summertime football fix. Over 40 days, CSN's Vinnie Duber will have 40 posts pondering the biggest questions heading into the 2014 Big Ten football season — the B1G 40 questions. Be sure to check out the entire B1G 40 series at csnchicago.com/big-ten.
Will Braxton Miller win the Heisman Trophy?
While there’s no telling what exactly will transpire across the college football landscape in 2014, one thing’s for certain: Miller is certainly among the preseason favorites to take home the game's ultimate prize.
He’s finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting in each of the past two seasons, fifth in 2012 and ninth last year. And it’s safe to say that last year’s rank would’ve been higher had he not missed three games with an injury.
Miller, like Heisman-winning and Heisman-contending Ohio State quarterbacks of the past, is a dual threat in the truest sense of the term, able to throw the ball way downfield and able to tuck and take off running, typically for big gains. He’s thrown for more than 2,000 yards in each of the past two seasons and ran for more than 1,000 in each, as well.
Last season, he accounted for 36 total touchdowns, passing for a conference-high 24 and rushing in for another 12. He eclipsed his 2012 totals in passing yardage, passing touchdowns and QB rating, all while coming close to the rushing numbers he posted as a sophomore. It could be argued he had a better season last year than he did the year before, yet he dropped four places in Heisman voting.
And Miller is also far and away the Big Ten’s best hope at capturing its first Heisman since another Buckeye quarterback, Troy Smith, won the award back in 2006 (the seventh time an Ohio State player had taken the award). The conference, as it was last season, isn’t terribly long on candidates outside Miller. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah would figure to be the next most likely.
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Miller does seem to have all the factors lining up for a top Heisman candidate. He’s coming in with plenty of hype for the award, meaning others will have to be excellent to surpass him. He’ll play for a contender, as the Buckeyes will again be one of the favorites to not only win the Big Ten but make the College Football Playoff and compete for a national title. He’ll have plenty of exposure. And his numbers could potentially see an increase without workhorse running back Carlos Hyde in the backfield. The Big Ten’s top running back from a season ago has since departed for the NFL, drafted by the San Francisco 49ers.
What’s always the great mystery when trying to forecast the Heisman is what other factors will come into play. Will Braxton Miller win the Heisman? It could depend more on what others across America do than what he does individually. Reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston (Florida State) will obviously have something to say about who wins the award this year. So will Pac-12 quarterbacks Brett Hundley (UCLA) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon). So will SEC playmakers Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia), Nick Marshall (QB, Auburn) and T.J. Yeldon (Alabama). So will Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty.
This question, though, has a pretty obvious answer: Is Braxton Miller a Heisman-caliber player? Absolutely.