Can Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller win the Heisman Trophy in 2013?

Last year in early October and the Ohio State Buckeyes were at the halfway point of the 2012 season with a perfect 6-0 record, several major sports news outlets had quarterback Braxton Miller near the top of their Heisman Trophy watch lists.

Braxton Miller

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller tosses the ball to a teammate during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Of course Miller’s head coach, Urban Meyer, was rather subdued when the subject of his quarterback and the Heisman were mentioned in the same sentence.

“I usually don’t even speak of it when I’ve been asked the question until after the season,” Meyer said at his weekly press conference following to the Buckeyes’ 63-38 win over Nebraska last year. “I’ve been lucky to have four Heisman candidates, Josh Harris at Bowling Green, Alex (Smith at Utah), and the left-handed kid (Tim Tebow of Florida) down there.”

I don’t think Braxton’s a Heisman candidate right now,” Meyer continued. “I think he’s certainly one to watch. He’s got the ability. But then again, I don’t know who is. We’re only halfway through the season. In about two or three games I think you can start talking about that.”

Interestingly enough, at the midway point of the 2012 college football season, there was no mention of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who eventually won the Heisman.

The ESPN panel of Andrea Adelson, Edward Aschoff, Brian Bennett, Rece Davis, Heather Dinich, Matt Fortuna, Kevin Gemmell, Travis Haney, Chris Low, Ivan Maisel, Ted Miller, Dari Nowkhah, Adam Rittenberg, Mark Schlabach and David Ubben currently had West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith as the clear-cut favorite with all 15 first-place votes and a total of 75 points. Miller was second with 41 total points, 11 points ahead of Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein.

Chris Huston at the Heisman Pundit as well as Matt Murschel and Brant Parsons of the Orlando Sentinel both shared ESPN’s reasoning with Smith first, Miller second, and Klein third.

Steve Greenberg of Sporting News also had Smith first, followed by Miller and Klein.

Over at CBS Sports, the 11-member panel of Huston along with Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, Tom Dienhart of The Big Ten Network, Michael Lev of the Orange County Register, Bruce Feldman, Dennis Dodd and Bryan Fischer of CBSSports.com, Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News, Lenn Robbins of the New York Post, Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman and Dave Hackenberg of The Toledo Blade had Smith first, but surprisingly at the time, listed Klein second with Miller third.

Let’s compare statistics at the halfway point of the 2012 season:


 
Passing
Rushing
Total
NAME GP CMP ATT PCT YDS TD INT YPG ATT YDS TD YPG PLAYS YDS YPG
Geno Smith 5 166 204 81.4 1996 24 0 399.2 27 65 1 13.0 231 2062 412.4
Braxton Miller 6 83 135 61.5 1060 9 3 176.7 106 763 8 172.2 241 1823 303.8
Collin Klein 5 63 94 67.0 887 7 2 177.4 73 405 7 81.0 167 1292 258.4
Johnny Manziel 5 104 150 69.3 1285 11 3 257.0 72 495 7 99.0 222 1780 356.0

As you can see, Smith was certainly the clear-cut favorite to win the Heisman midway through the 2012 season based on the stats above. West Virginia was 5-0 and had just defeated Texas in Austin. But then the bottom fell out for the Mountaineers, who would go on to lose the next five games and Smith was no longer a viable candidate. In fact, Smith didn’t even make the top 10 once the votes were tabulated in December.

Klein, who most experts had third on their Heisman watch lists at the halfway point ended up finishing third behind Heisman winner Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. Those were the only three invited to New York for the trophy presentation. USC wide receiver Marquise Lee was fourth and Miller finished fifth.

Here are the final regular season stats:


 
Passing
Rushing
Total
NAME GP CMP ATT PCT YDS TD INT YPG ATT YDS TD YPG PLAYS YDS YPG
Johnny Manziel 12 273 400 68.3 3419 24 8 284.9 184 1180 19 98.3 584 4599 383.3
Collin Klein 12 180 272 66.2 2490 15 7 207.5 194 890 22 74.2 466 3380 281.7
Braxton Miller 12 148 252 58.3 2039 15 6 169.9 227 1271 13 105.9 479 3310 275.8

As you can see from the final stats above, it’s easy to see why Manziel won the Heisman because he was head and shoulders ahead of anyone else.

Te’o, even with the inspiration of his imaginary girlfriend, managed only 113 total tackles with 55 solos, 1.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and seven interceptions. But Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier had better numbers with 115 total tackles with 70 solos, 17 tackles for loss, five sacks and one INT that he returned for a touchdown against Penn State. Both players played for undefeated teams. But I digress.

Miller, the 2012 Big Ten offensive player of the year, is one of the leading candidates in the race for the 2013 Heisman Trophy. According to the online sports book, Bovada, the odds of Miller winning the award are at 7-1. He’s just behind Manziel at 4-1. In all, Bovada lists 23 players – 14 quarterbacks, six running backs, two wide receivers and one defensive end with odds ranging from 4-1 to 40-1. Only three Big Ten players made the list with Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez (15-1) and Ameer Abdullah (18-1) along with Michigan’s Devin Gardner (40-1).

One thing is for certain. For Miller to win the Heisman, he has to work on his accuracy and improve his completion percentage. In the offseason to improve his mechanics, Miller was under the tutelage of George Whitfield Sr., the founder of Whitfield Athletix, who has trained and developed quarterbacks from all levels including Heisman winners to No. 1 overall NFL draft picks.

Another thing that I’m hoping for during the 2013 season is that Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman open up the offense. Manziel averaged 33 passing attempts per game, Miller averaged 21. Defineltly like to see the Buckeyes throw the ball more this year.

But Miller has plenty of talent. Now with spring practice underway, it’s time for him to hone his skills to elevate himself to another level, the rare air of the elite and become a great passer to go along with his superb running ability.

So the question is, can Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller win the Heisman Trophy in 2013?

Unequivocally, yes.