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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive The Week That Was: Braxton & Terrelle
Written by Jesse Lamovsky

Jesse Lamovsky

Although this Ohio State football season is replete with backstories and subplots- probation, the first year for Urban Meyer, the surprise undefeated streak that reached ten in Saturday’s 52-22 rout of Illinois at the Horseshoe- perhaps the main storyline is the emergence of Braxton Miller as a transcendent player in program history. Though the true sophomore is a work in progress as a passer, his spectacular playmaking ability has lifted his team all season. He’s the biggest reason why Ohio State, with an otherwise somewhat ordinary team, is 10-0 for only the ninth time in program history.

All of Miller’s talents- active and latent- were on display Saturday against the overmatched Illini. Although he finished with a modest 73 rushing yards on 17 carries, he made his usual eye-popping plays with his legs. But where Braxton really shone was in the passing game. Looking comfortable in the pocket and firing strikes downfield, he went 12-of-20 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. In the 24-point second quarter that blew the game open, Miller completed 4-of-8 for 128 yards and fired a 51-yard scoring bullet to Rod Smith off a wheel route.

The natural comparison is to the man Braxton should have been backing up last season, Terrelle Pryor. There are similarities in their arcs: both began their careers as backups, both were made starters on the fourth game of their freshman years; both were fulltime, franchise-level starters as true sophomores. It’s interesting to see how they stack up at the same point in their careers.

At this time in 2009 the Buckeyes were 8-2 and winners of three straight, the latest an impressive 24-7 victory over Penn State in Happy Valley. Coach Tressel had shackled Pryor a bit as a passer after losing to Purdue earlier in the season, leaning on one of the nation’s best defenses and his usual conservative offense to pound out victories. Miller is in a different situation. With a defense that has only recently begun to play well and injuries at running back, he’s had to carry the offense and to a certain extent the entire Buckeye team.


2009 Pryor: 120-for-223, 53.8 PCT, 1,661 yards, 7.45 YPA, 15 TD, 9 INT

2012 Miller: 124-for-218, 56.9 PCT, 1,753 yards 8.04 YPA, 14 TD, 6 INT

The passing numbers are similar, although Braxton has the advantage in yards-per-attempt and fewer interceptions. It really comes down to the eye test here, and Braxton passes that more than Pryor did as a passer. He just looks like a much more natural thrower of the football. Terrelle probably had the edge in arm strength, but he also had that awkward delivery which resembled a man flinging dog-crap off of his hand.


2009 Pryor: 115 attempts, 604 yards, 5.25 YPC, 7 TD

2012 Miller: 184 attempts, 1,166 yards, 6.34 YPC, 13 TD

The numbers don’t lie- Braxton Miller is on another level from Terrelle Pryor as a runner. Maybe he doesn’t have Pryor’s straight-line speed but in terms of instinct, moves, making people miss, big plays, he’s superior in every way. Pryor really wasn’t that great of a runner, frankly. He had size and speed but didn’t have the shake-and-bake or the willingness to take punishment. He had that Franco Harris game- bounce it outside, stiff-arm a cornerback and angle out of bounds. Braxton Miller, on the other hand, might be one of the most talented runners in the history of the program already.

Team Record

2009 Pryor: 8-2 (5-1 Big Ten)

2012 Miller: 10-0 (6-0 Big Ten)

One of Ohio State’s losses in ’09 came to a USC team that was better than anyone the 2012 Buckeyes played out of conference. I don’t put that loss on Pryor anyway- I put it on Jim Tressel. That might have been his worst coaching effort at Ohio State, including the ’07 BCS title. Pryor stunk out the joint in the loss to Purdue; then again, Miller stunk out the joint against Purdue as well and got knocked out of that game.  

Braxton’s biggest edge might lie in his demeanor. Pryor could be somewhat of a brat when things went south, stomping around the sidelines, throwing his arms in the air and barking at teammates and coaches. Miller, on the other hand, is the picture of icy composure, his only change of expression being the Mona Lisa smile he puts on after a big play. The quarterback is like an airline captain- he’s the last guy you want to see losing his cool. We haven’t seen Braxton Miller lose his cool yet.

To be fair, Pryor had two things working against him when it came to big numbers: a great defense which took the pressure off of him and put him in more of a game-manager role; and Jim Tressel, who wasn’t exactly an innovative or aggressive offensive mind. It’s fair to believe that Urban Meyer would have gotten more out of Pryor statistically than Tressel did, although Pryor wouldn’t have matched Miller’s rushing totals in any system.

Pryor finished 2009 in a rush, compiling 338 combined yards passing and running in taking game MVP honors in Ohio State’s Rose Bowl win over Oregon. We’ll see how Miller rounds out 2012, although he won’t get an opportunity to play in a bowl game. At this point, though, it looks as if Braxton has it over Pryor in just about every way. Hopefully that leads to the one thing Pryor wasn’t able to win at Ohio State- a BCS Championship.

Around the Nation

Game of the Week- Alabama/LSU: We won’t have an actual BCS Championship Semifinal until 2015, but Saturday night’s clash between the Tide and Tigers was as much a de facto semi as anyone could want, and it lived up to its advance billing. Although LSU dominated statistically, outgaining the visitors 435-331 and holding a two-to-one time-of-possession edge, Alabama had the champion’s mettle in the end. Trailing 17-14 late in the fourth quarter the Tide drove 72 yards and won it on a marvelously timed screen play to T.J. Yeldon with 51 seconds left.

LSU should have won this game. The Tigers owned a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession and drove into Crimson Tide territory nine separate times. They scored on only three of those nine forays. After holding Alabama one first down in the entire second half, Les Miles turn off the defensive pressure on the final drive and the Tide took it right down the field to the game-winning score. When the Hat finally dialed up a blitz from the LSU 28 Alabama was ready with the perfect call to beat it.

But that’s why the Crimson Tide is the best in the land. They can go on the road at night against one of the best teams in the country, not be on their A game and still win. And now it’s a matter of holding serve- home games against Texas A&M, Western Carolina and Auburn plus an SEC Championship Game in which the Tide will be a prohibitive favorite. One semifinal is in the books. The other remains to be played out.

BCS At-Large Bids: With a little more than three weeks left before the BCS bowl pairings are announced, it’s a good time to break down the field for the four at-large berths. The Big Ten will not be a factor here, but pretty much every other major conference is.

SEC: Assuming Alabama gets God’s Conference’s automatic bid, the at-large will come down to LSU, Florida or Georgia. The Gators rate the edge; they defeated LSU on the field and as likely East runners-up will avoid an SEC Championship Game loss that would drop them behind the other two candidates.

ACC: With Florida State and Clemson both in the top 15 of the BCS poll there’s a very good chance the Atlantic Coast will score multiple bids for the second year in a row. The ideal scenario for the conference is the Seminoles winning the Championship while the Tigers sweep their final three games- all in Death Valley- to finish 11-1.

Pac 12: This Saturday’s battle on the Farm between Stanford and Oregon State shapes up as a BCS elimination game. Both teams are in the top 15 and have a probable loss left on the schedule in the form of Oregon.

Big 12: Texas still has a ghost of a chance but the Big 12’s most legitimate at-large contender is Oklahoma, the only conference member aside from Kansas State in the top 15.If the Sooners win out and finish 10-2 they’re a virtual lock.

Independents: Notre Dame has both hands on a BCS bid and need only beat Boston College and Wake Forest to lock it up, regardless of what happens in the regular-season finale at USC.

My picks for the four at-large berths: Notre Dame, Florida, Clemson and Oregon State, which will make its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1965.           

On the Coming SEC Coaching Massacre: While the top of God’s Conference gathers in a circle and passes the crystal football around like a three-foot Grafix bong at a college party, the bottom sharpens knives thirsty for the blood of underachieving coaches. One SEC head coach has already lost his job; as many as three more may follow in the next several weeks:

Arkansas: Starting with Louisiana-Monroe the Hogs have suffered several embarrassing losses on the way to a lackluster 4-5 record. John L. Smith isn’t winning games and has off-the-field issues- a bad combination. To me, Gus Malzahn makes too much sense here.  

Auburn: Two years after winning the BCS title the Tigers are 2-7 and Gene Chizik’s career is in mortal danger. Assuming there will be a change, Bobby Petrino is the right choice here. When you’re as oily as Auburn’s program has been, might as well get the oiliest head coach you can find. And say what you want about Petrino- he wins football games.

Kentucky: The Wildcats are already on the lookout for a new head coach, as Joker Phillips will not return for 2013. The announcement came after a 40-0 loss to Vanderbilt that dropped Kentucky to 1-9. I’m guessing Butch Jones of Cincinnati would be a candidate, among others- but UK, like Kansas, Duke and other basketball schools, is a tough job.  

Tennessee: Derek Dooley barely escaped a potentially career-killing loss last Saturday when the Volunteers came from behind to beat Troy, 55-48. Tennessee is 0-5 in the SEC and hasn’t beaten an opponent with a pulse in forever. The gap between the Vols and the cream of God’s Conference is just as wide as it was three years ago. You can win at Tennessee, unlike at Kentucky, and the right hire can bring this program back to power status.

Winners of the Week

Notre Dame: The Irish may have the defense to beat anyone in the land, but they also have the offense to lose to anyone. Three turnovers and several blown red-zone opportunities almost doomed them Saturday against mediocre Pitt. But a fourth-quarter rally combined with a little luck in the form of a shanked 33-yard field-goal attempt that would have won the game for the Panthers in the second overtime made for a 29-26 triple-OT victory that moved Notre Dame to 9-0, their best start since 1993. 

Miami: The Hurricanes are a middling 5-4 and have been outscored, but they’re also in the driver’s seat of the weak ACC Coastal Division after a surprisingly decisive 30-12 win over Virginia Tech Thursday night. Miami beat the Hokies by turning Frank Beamer’s favorite weapons- turnovers and big plays on special teams- against him. A blocked punt and an 81-yard kickoff return set up an early 14-3 lead for the Hurricanes, and they were never headed from there.

Texas A&M: Johnny Manziel has been spectacular all season, but he outdid himself in A&M’s 38-13 rout of 15th-ranked Mississippi State in Starkville. “Johnny Football” completed 30-of-36 for 311 yards, ran for 129 on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns as the Aggies rolled up 693 total yards. Next week we’ll really see what this freshman sensation is made of, as he takes his 7-2 team into the lion’s den known as Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

San Diego State: The Aztecs notched their fifth consecutive win by going up to Boise and doing very few visiting teams do- beating the Broncos on the Smurf Turf, 21-19. Colin Lockett’s 100-yard return of the opening kickoff got SDSU started right, and they finished right by denying Boise’s game-tying two-point conversion attempt with 5:35 to play. 

Indiana: Thanks to their 24-21 win over Iowa Saturday in Bloomington, the Hoosiers actually control their own destiny in the Big Ten Leaders race. A win over Wisconsin next Saturday- they’re only a game behind the Badgers, believe it or not- would put them in the driver’s seat for a berth in the title game at home-away-from-home Indianapolis. With his team having lost four games by four points or less, Kevin Wilson has to be wondering what if. A few plays here and there and the Hoosiers would be making postseason plans regardless of what happens in the division.

Losers of the Week

Arizona: So much for building on a big win. Fresh off their emotional upset of USC, the Wildcats traveled to the Rose Bowl and were dump-trucked by UCLA, coughing up 611 total yards in a 66-10 wipeout. The Bruins scored touchdowns on all six of their first-half possessions against an Arizona defense that isn’t making anyone forget the glory days of Tedy Bruschi and Rob Waldrop. Next Saturday’s layup against lowly Colorado can’t come soon enough.

Air Force: Just when it appeared the Falcons were on a roll, having won three straight, they laid an egg at West Point. The struggling Army Cadets racked up 314 rushing yards and forced five turnovers in defeating Air Force for the first time since 2005. Good thing this wasn’t a conference game, as the Falcons are still very much in the thick of the Mountain West race.

Western Kentucky: Two weeks after falling to Louisiana-Monroe in overtime, the Hilltoppers suffered another agonizing loss that damaged their chances in the tightly packed Sun Belt race. Middle Tennessee’s Reggie Whatley put his team ahead for good on a 96-yard kick-return touchdown with 6:03 to play, vaulting the Raiders into a three-way tie for first and dropping Western into a tie for second. Even if the Hilltoppers don’t win the Sun Belt they still have a decent shot at a bowl bid, provided they handle business in their final two home games against Florida Atlantic and North Texas.

O.G. Miami: A week after bouncing Ohio from the ranks of the unbeaten, the Artists Formerly Known as the Redskins became Buffalo’s first conference victim, 27-24. This time the last-second magic was on the other side of the field, as Patrick Clarke’s 47-yard boot won it at the gun for the Bulls. To be fair, Buffalo played both Ohio and Toledo tough and probably isn’t the worst 2-7 team in the country.    

Southern Miss: The winless Golden Eagles blew what might have been their best chance to win a game this season. After taking a commanding 16-0 halftime lead over UAB in Hattiesburg, Southern Miss opened the second half with a 56-yard play that carried to the Blazer 23-yard line. Then they fumbled on the next play and promptly fell apart. UAB reeled off five scoring drives in the second half, the Golden Eagle offense shut down and the Blazers ran away to a 27-19 win that brought Ellis Johnson’s team to within three losses of 0-12.  

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