Bolta: Buckeyes need some luck in keeping QB Miller healthy

Ryan Bolta
9/12/2013 9:53:23 PM
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The Ohio State Buckeyes own the longest winning streak in the NCAA at 14 games. To continue that streak through the end of the season, they'll need a healthy Braxton Miller. 

The reality of playing in the BIG 10 is that anything short of a perfect record come bowl season means any hopes of a national title can be kissed goodbye.  Despite the conferences impressive showing through two weeks; it's likely one loss would be one loss too many in the eyes of the BCS.

So when Miller went down with a sprained MCL on the Buckeyes first possession against San Diego State on Saturday, it's understandable the fans at The Horseshoe held their collective breath.  Backup Kenny Guiton performed admirably in the 42-7 victory, but the opposition was never going to pose a challenge.  When the Buckeyes open their BIG10 slate 3 games from now, it'll be a much different story.

Head coach Urban Meyer hasn't lost a game since taking over in Columbus, and much of that success can be attributed to his play caller being a perfect match for a fast paced offence that blends running and passing.  Meyer has made a career out of molding quarterbacks into the best the NCAA has to offer - just ask Alex Smith and Tim Tebow.  The only thing he can't guard against is injuries.

Miller was unable to play parts of the Buckeyes Week 1 victory over Buffalo due to leg cramps, something that has happened in the past.  This past week it was the knee sprain.  Last year he left a game against Purdue in an ambulance, but was cleared to start the next week.  The downside of being a dual-threat quarterback is the sustained punishment put on the body, and never knowing when a hit will cause an injury.  Ohio State has made a concerted effort to add more passing plays to the playbook in an effort to protect Miller, but they'll need some luck in keeping a player that seems to be injury prone upright for a dozen more games.

Miller is on a long list of Heisman hopefuls who hasn't started the season exactly as he had hoped. Luckily for him his team still came out with two victories.  Having returned to practice, it's expected Miller will play on Saturday at Cal. Two things to watch for will not only be his ability to run the offence successfully, but also if he can do so for a full 60 minutes for the first time this season.

Some other quick hits from around the NCAA:

- When Bret Bielma left Wisconsin for Arkansas many wondered how the Badgers program would respond.  Turns out they hit a home run hiring former Utah State coach Gary Anderson.  Wisconsin hasn't allowed a point in its two games so far, outscoring their opponents 93-0.  The schedule gets tougher with Big 10 heavyweights Ohio State and Northwestern on the horizon but all seems to be going well down in Madison.

- If the Badger defence doesn't get you excited, how about the Baylor Bears offence? They've amassed 1,470 yards and a combined 139 points through two games.  QB Bryce Petty and RB Lache Seastrunk are two dynamic players worth watching as the Baylor program proves it isn't just the former home of Robert Griffin III.

- BYU rushed for 550 yards against Texas.  Two teams in the FBS didn't have that many all of last season.  Longhorns Head coach Mack Brown responded by firing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.  If the team doesn't respond, it's only a matter of time before Brown is the next one run out of Austin.

- Another big program head coach on the hot seat is Lane Kiffin at USC.  The Trojans passed for 54 yards in a 10-7 loss to Washington State despite having the nation's top NFL WR prospect in Marqise Lee.  The lost scholarship sanctions are starting to catch up to Kiffin, and in the tough Pac-12 it'll be difficult to turn things around with a lack of depth at key positions.  Upset alert this weekend when they host Boston College.

- Bobby Petrino is back in the NCAA, coaching at Western Kentucky, and he noticed a considerable drop in talent.  His offence managed to turn the ball over on five straight possessions in the first quarter against Tennessee.  The turnovers came on only six plays from scrimmage.  The Hilltoppers have four interceptions and five fumbles in the first two games.

- Michigan QB Devin Gardner's game looked great against Notre Dame. His jersey, however, was another thing.  The Wolverine pivot wore number 98 to honour Tom Harmon, a Heisman trophy winner in 1940.  A cool note from the game - it set the NCAA record for attendance with 115,109 on hand.  It broke its own record from the rivalry game back in 2011.

Braxton Miller (Photo: Canadian Press)


(Photo: Canadian Press)
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