The Big Ten Conference’s best Heisman Trophy candidate has virtually no chance to actually win the award next month.
It’s been that kind of year in the league, whose last remaining hope for the Heisman — Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller — will arrive today at Camp Randall Stadium with no guarantee that he’ll even make it to New York as a finalist despite a decent resume.
Miller has completed 124 of 218 passes (56.9 percent) for 1,753 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions, good for a 140.1 passer efficiency rating. He also has rushed for 1,166 yards on 184 attempts — a 6.3 average — with 13 touchdowns.
Compare that to the Heisman favorite, Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein, who has completed 145 of 208 passes (69.7 percent) for 2,020 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, good for a 167.4 rating. He has 748 rushing yards on 154 attempts — a 4.9 average — with 19 touchdowns.
Both the No. 2 Wildcats and the No. 6 Buckeyes, who are ineligible for postseason play, are 10-0 heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
But Chris Huston, who operates the highly respected HeismanPundit.com website, says three things are dragging down Miller in the Heisman race.
“One, he hasn’t played in any meaningful games on a national level yet this year and hasn’t been able to make an impact in that regard,” Huston said. “Two, while his numbers are very good, they’re not blowing people away, (especially) on a passing level. And three, (Ohio State’s) probation itself doesn’t hurt as far as what the voters think, but it does prevent him from playing in that 13th game, the Big Ten title game, which would be another chance to improve his numbers and play in a game of consequence.
“So those three things are probably the biggest factors, although he’s still on the periphery of the race and has a good chance of getting to New York as a finalist.”
In a straw poll Huston conducts for CBSSports.com, Klein got six of 11 first-place votes and was the overall leader with 26 points. Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel was second with three first-place votes and 18 points overall, followed by USC sophomore wide receiver Marqise Lee, who got the two remaining first-place votes and had 10 points overall.
Miller and Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te’o were tied for fourth with four points apiece.
Huston doesn’t think Miller can win the Heisman even if a perfect storm of events occurs for him and the Buckeyes.
Let’s say Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame all lose a game in the next three weeks and Ohio State wins out, leaving the Buckeyes as the only unbeaten team in the country. And let’s say Miller has huge games today against the Badgers and next week against Michigan.
Even then, Huston says, he can’t picture Miller holding the Heisman Trophy on Dec. 8.
“I don’t think he can win it,” Huston said. “It would take a lot of extremely unlikely things to happen. He does have some advantage in the race as far as playing for Ohio State — you get more credibility in that regard — but being a sophomore, he’s only had a year to kind of build up name recognition.
“I think this is more of a setup for next year. He should be one of the front-runners for next year, if not the front-runner.”
UW senior tailback Montee Ball knows a thing or two about being a Heisman front-runner. That’s the company he was in heading into the 2012 season after finishing fourth in the Heisman voting as a junior, when he finished with 1,923 rushing yards and 39 total touchdowns.
Ball has 1,226 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns through 10 games this season — he had 1,242 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns at this point last year — and is a non-factor in the Heisman conversation, according to Huston.
“I think he’s pretty much on the outside looking in,” Huston said. “HA national pundit says Ohio State’s QB has solid numbers, but hasn’t starred on a big stage.