Should Ohio State's Braxton Miller win the 2014 Heisman Trophy, that would give the Buckeyes eight total Heisman Trophies in their collection, which would be the most in NCAA history. Miller is a +800 third-favorite on NCAA football odds.
Troy Smith 2.0?
Miller was among the Heisman favorites entering the 2013 season, and he probably had thoughts of leaving school for the NFL Draft after the year. However, any thoughts of both likely ended in Week 2 against San Diego State. Miller left that game early with a sprained left knee and wouldn't play again the next two weeks, wins over California and Florida A&M. Backup Kenny Guiton was outstanding in the final three quarters against SDSU and the wins over the Bears and Rattlers. There was never any doubt Miller would start when he returned, which he did with a big win against Wisconsin, but Guiton showed that maybe it's the Buckeyes' system under Urban Meyer and not the player.
Miller is a mid-round NFL pick at best and probably won't play quarterback. He's still wildly inaccurate at times. In the regular-season finale 42-41 epic shootout win over Michigan, Miller was only 6 of 15 passing for 133 yards, two scores and a touchdown. He killed the arch-rival Wolverines with his feet, rushing 16 times for 153 yards and three scores. The next week in the Big Ten title game against Michigan State, Miller was 8-for-21 for 101 yards passing but rushed 21 times for 142 yards and two scores. The Buckeyes were upset, ending their national title hopes. Miller finished with a so-so game in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, throwing for 234 yards and two scores but also two picks. He rushed for two scores but gained only 35 yards on 18 carries.
The Ohio native finished the year completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 2,094 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He rushed 171 times for 1,068 yards and 12 scores. Miller was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year for a second straight season. That was a first.
The upcoming season for Miller reminds me of Ohio State QB Troy Smith. He came back as a senior in 2006 after a very good '05 campaign but not quite Heisman-worthy. The '05 Buckeyes also lost just two games and played in a BCS bowl (beat Notre Dame in Fiesta). Smith won the 2006 Heisman with numbers that all were better than the previous season and the Buckeyes reached the national championship game, losing 41-14 as a big favorite against Florida.
Looking Ahead To 2014
Only five players are due back on offense for Ohio State but that might benefit Miller because one of the guys who has moved on is running back Carlos Hyde, who stole plenty of touches from his quarterback. Both of Miller's leading receivers are due back, but the offensive line will undergo an overhaul. Miller's backup is now untested Cardale Jones so the Buckeyes better hope Miller stays healthy.
The schedule looks very manageable, missing Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin the Big Ten regular season, except for one game. The Buckeyes are 19.5-point favorites on NCAA football odds for their opener against Navy in Baltimore. That won't be close. Virginia Tech visits Columbus the next week but the Hokies lost a lot of key guys from last year when they were only 8-5. It shouldn't be too close. The other two non-conference games are a joke: Kent State and Cincinnati.
OSU welcomes Maryland to the Big Ten on Oct. 4 in the conference opener. The Terps are mediocre at best. Then the Buckeyes get two weeks off before hosting the other new Big Ten team, Rutgers. The first major test is Oct. 25 at Penn State. But OSU had little trouble with the Nittany Lions last year in Columbus, winning 63-14. That was PSU's worst loss in 114 years. So realistically Ohio State should be unbeaten entering the Nov. 8 showdown in East Lansing against Michigan State. That could be Miller's Heisman game. If he torches the Spartans and gets payback for last year, he will have the national momentum. The Buckeyes should roll their final three opponents: at Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan.
Ohio State is -105 to win the Big Ten title game, +105 to reach the College Football Playoff and +1250 to win the national championship at sportsbooks. The Buckeyes' regular-season wins total ican be added to your college football picks with a total of 10.5.
NCAA Football Free Picks: I consider Miller the favorite right now. OSU has national cache and the Heisman Trophy is mostly a popularity contest. Hard to see the Buckeyes losing to anyone in that schedule other than Sparty. So if they run the table, Miller should win the award. Certainly take OSU over 10.5 wins at -195 at sportsbooks.