We like Braxton Miller, Ohio State's wildly talented sophomore quarterback. He puts together highlight reel plays every week, and he showed a lot of heart bouncing back from a scary looking hyper-extended knee to lead the Buckeyes to a win against Michigan State last week. He's a heck of a player.
But he's not better than West Virginia's Geno Smith, at least not this year. However, that opinion isn't unanimous.
Leo Roth of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in New York takes issue with the notion Smith has the Heisman Trophy all locked up. He doesn't admit in his column that he was the lone voter in the USA Today Sports straw poll to pick against Smith, using a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Heisman Trust's request that no voter publicly release who they will vote for, but he makes it clear he's the "knucklehead" who picked Miller this week. Smith got 32 of the 33 votes in the survey.
There's two questions regarding Roth picking Miller over Smith:
Roth says he "once worked for a newspaper outside Cleveland, covered Ohio State, have good friends in Ohio and still like catching Buckeyes games on television," but I don't think that is a legitimate argument -- I shouldn't be making a case for Air Force's Cody Getz for Heisman, for example. But, Roth says Miller has a case, so let's go to it:
But perhaps the knucklehead who presently likes Miller for the Heisman likes football where they still actually tackle and cover receivers. Maybe he's more impressed when a guy has to battle every snap to prove his character, leadership and bronze-statue worthiness.
While nobody is going to defend the defenses for West Virginia or Baylor, part of Baylor looking so bad on Saturday is that Smith was that good. And Miller has had the benefit of playing Miami (Ohio), which is ranked 117th in total defense, Cal (ranked 80th) and UAB (90th) in three of his five games, so it's not like he's put up all his numbers against Alabama and LSU.
While it's quaint to think the Big Ten is still a swashbuckling defensive league, Wisconsin and Nebraska didn't look too stout in last Saturday's 30-27 game, nor did Nebraska giving up 36 points to UCLA. And already this season, Ohio State gave up 28 points at home to Cal, Iowa gave up 32 to Central Michigan, Indiana and Northwestern scored a combined 73 points last week against each other, Purdue gave up 41 points to Marshall, Michigan gave up 41 to Alabama and Illinois has given up 132 points in its three losses. This won't be the SEC, as far as defenses go. And the Big Ten's lack of elite skill position players -- other than Miller, of course, and a few others -- may be a reason the defenses look a little better. It's easier to cover receivers when they have a tough time getting open. It's easier making tackles when the conference is still stuck playing games in the slow lane.
Heisman races change week to week so maybe Miller ends up winning at the end, and we actually do respect Roth, like his humorous approach and appreciate him thinking creatively instead of just following the crowd. In this case though, the crowd is right.
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