COMMENTARY | Senior quarterback Kenny Guiton has become quite the folk hero in Columbus throughout the past year.
First, Guiton saved Ohio State's undefeated season last October when he led the Buckeyes to a comeback 29-22 overtime victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. Then he threw four touchdown passes in the Buckeyes' 52-34 road win over California on September 14. Finally, Guiton set a school record for touchdown passes (six) in the first half of the fourth-ranked Buckeyes' 76-0 victory over Florida A&M last weekend.
Guiton's performances in these games have enabled Ohio State fans to relax as starting quarterback Braxton Miller continues to recover from a sprained knee. However, given Miller's injury concerns, it's fair to ask if Guiton is capable of leading this Buckeyes squad to the Big 10 championship. I think the answer is complicated.
The Ohio State roster is loaded with some outstanding players, but most of them are young and inexperienced. The starting defense is almost completely rebuilt from last season, and the unit still needs plenty of seasoning before it can be counted on every week. For example, the Buckeyes have alternated between disappointing and dominating performances all season.
Ohio State's defense controlled San Diego State and Florida A&M, but the unit struggled against Buffalo and California. The Golden Bears, in particular, gave the Buckeyes a lot of problems. California rolled up 503 total yards of offense, including 371 passing yards. The defense will improve over the next few weeks, but I'm not sure how much it will improve by next Saturday's home game against No. 23 Wisconsin. The pressure will be on Guiton to lead Ohio State against one of its biggest rivals just two weeks removed from the California game if Miller isn't back.
It's also important to note that Guiton has yet to play a team of Wisconsin's caliber. California was a tough opponent, but the Golden Bears don't have the defensive depth that the Badgers have.
Wisconsin isn't the only problem. The 17th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats are next on the schedule. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has put together a solid program in Evanston, and his team is dangerous on both sides of the ball.
On the other hand, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has quickly put together the deepest roster in the Big 10. Guiton has an incredibly deep backfield of running backs and a strong receiving corps to back him up. He doesn't have to carry the team on his shoulders; Guiton has the weapons to succeed even when he doesn't play his best.
It's also worth noting that Guiton has become an incredible leader. He stood on the sidelines and waited while Terrelle Pryor, Joe Bauserman and others got their turn ahead of him. Now Guiton is a senior captain who chose against transferring to another program in search of playing time. He worked hard at his craft and became a solid quarterback in his own right. Guiton's teammates respect him, and there is no doubt in my mind that he can lead them to glory if given the opportunity.
Yes, there are issues that stand in Guiton's way if he has to lead the team, but I have to believe that his leadership and the talent around him make it possible for the Buckeyes to win the Big 10 with him at the helm. Guiton is a winner, and if Braxton Miller spends significant time on the bench, he's more than capable of leading Ohio State to the conference title.
Derek Ciapala has been following Ohio State athletics since childhood. He has been published on Yahoo Sports, RamsTalk.net and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or Twitter @dciapala.
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