Let the formal education of Braxton Miller begin

Matt Hinton

Three games into the 2008 season, Ohio State responded to an embarrassing offensive effort in a lopsided road loss by benching a pedestrian fifth-year senior in favor of a hyped true freshman, and never looked back. Almost exactly three years later, three games into the 2011 season, the Buckeyes are re-staging the takeover: Hyped true freshman Braxton Miller was officially named the starting quarterback today for Saturday's visit from Colorado, supplanting pedestrian fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman on the heels of an embarrassing offensive effort in a lopsided road loss. Such symmetry.

Fortunately for OSU fans, that's where the historical reenactment ends. When Terrelle Pryor took over in 2008, he was overtaking veteran Todd Boeckman, who'd led the Buckeyes all the way to the BCS title game as a full-time starter in 2007, before he imploded in an early non-conference loss at USC. This time, there's just the implosion: Senior Joe Bauserman was 2-of-13 passing for 13 yards and didn't complete a pass for a first down at Miami, much less a touchdown, more or less ending any hope that he's the steady, veteran hand "Tressel Ball" requires. Sans Jim Tressel on the sidelines, there was nothing steady about the offense last Saturday except the intervals between punts.

Not that Miller was much better: Prior to completing a pair of easy, meaningless throws in garbage time, he'd only attempted two passes over the previous 59 minutes, one of which was intercepted.{YSP:MORE} He also contributed the Buckeyes' only other turnover on a fumble at the end of a scramble for a first down. But Miller is an athlete, opening up opportunities for running out of the shotgun that Bauserman definitely does not, and more importantly, he qualifies as an investment. If the offense is going to be a one-dimensional sinkhole, anyway — and there is every indication right now that it is — the suffering might as well come in service of developing an heir apparent who will pay off the patience down the line.

If Miller is really the man, the question is: How far down the line are we talking here? Unlike Pryor, Miller isn't inheriting a team that harbored serious BCS title hopes, and no one reasonably expects him to extend Ohio State's streak of six consecutive Big Ten championships with a first-year head coach and an attrition-ravaged defense. His first four conference games, against Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin, pit him against arguably the four best teams in the league. But the offense will be getting reinforcements soon in the form of three senior starters returning from five-game suspensions, and the November schedule lightens up a bit just in time for Miller to begin hitting his stride in time for the Nov. 26 trip to Michigan. If he shows up in Ann Arbor, the growing pains in the meantime will be worth it.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.