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Published: Tuesday, 9/24/2013

SPORTS COMMENTARY

No debate: Miller must start for OSU

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Any suggestion that there is or should be a quarterback controversy at Ohio State — and, yes, there have been some suggestions — is absurd.

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller watches from the sidelines as Ohio plays against Florida A&M. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller watches from the sidelines as Ohio plays against Florida A&M.
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There is no controversy. There is only a healthy, able Braxton Miller.

Yes, Kenny Guiton filled in admirably. He passed for 13 touchdowns while playing most of three games.

But San Diego State ranks 103rd in total defense, and Cal is 121st, and there are only 123 FBS teams. As for Guiton’s school-record six TD passes against Florida A&M, well, that was like playing against air.

We mean no disrespect. Guiton, a senior, stepped up when his job was to step up. And he did so with flying colors.

“Why didn’t he play two years ago … why didn’t he play last year?” OSU coach Urban Meyer said of Guiton. “Because Kenny Guiton wasn’t good enough. Why is playing this year? Because he is good enough.”

Not to mention because Miller got hurt, a shot to his left knee, early in the Buckeyes’ second game against San Diego State.

But Meyer’s point is taken. Guiton is good enough.

“He is an efficient player right now,” Meyer added. “He is an incredible [game] manager, [a] coach on the field. So, you know, his time came.”

And now it is Miller time.

The real season begins Saturday night when Wisconsin visits Ohio Stadium.

The exhibition games are over. The Buckeyes have defeated four teams that, combined, have yet to win a single game against FBS competition. It may not have been the worst nonleague schedule among power conference schools, but it’s sure in the discussion.

That’s why Meyer didn’t even wait until The Horseshoe was empty after Saturday’s 76-0 flogging of poor Florida A&M before making it clear that Miller, if healthy, would be the starter. And all signs since are that the junior will be ready to go.

Don’t forget that one month ago, even less, we were mentioning Braxton Miller and the Heisman Trophy in the same breath. Whether the injury and missed playing time alters that remains to be seen, but nothing Guiton did should change that general theme.

Would Miller have done less against the same opposition? There’s no way of answering that question other than hypothetically. But there’s also no way you should want anyone other than Miller to play against the opposition to come.

Guiton is a natural on the read-option, may be a better decision-maker and, in the locker room, a better leader than the introverted Miller. Meyer has suggested as much.

But Miller, the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year last season while leading OSU to a 12-0 mark, has the big arm and the game-changing speed and athletic ability.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder may well be the best dual-threat quarterback in the nation. He puts any and all defenses under stress.

So Meyer’s decision on which quarterback to start against Wisconsin and the rest of the Big Ten slate was an easy one.

The next decision may not be.

What happens if Miller comes out rusty, makes an early mistake or two, and the Buckeyes fall behind the 8-ball, not to mention the Badgers, early?

Meyer had hoped Miller could play a couple series against Florida A&M to prevent such a scenario. That didn’t happen, so now it could.

Does OSU ride it out with Miller or risk rattling his confidence by turning to Guiton, who carries the hot hand and a ton of confidence?

Meyer makes the ridiculously big bucks, and he’d earn them by making that call.

But if the Buckeyes are to meet their grandiose goals — a second straight undefeated season, a Big Ten championship, and a BCS bowl game — there are a lot of hurdles to jump. It starts with the Badgers, then with outpointing a pretty slick Northwestern offense on the road, and then stringing together conference wins before finally visiting the Big House.

Kenny Guiton may well be the best backup quarterback in the country. He’s an awfully good ace in the hole as a security blanket.

But Braxton Miller is the one OSU wants taking the snaps in those games.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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