After suffering a tough defeat to Miami two Saturdays ago, the Ohio State Buckeyes returned to their winning ways this past Saturday, defeating Colorado 37-17. In his first collegiate start at quarterback, true freshman Braxton Miller, led the Buckeyes’ offense.
In the first three games of the season, senior Joe Bauserman was the starting quarterback, but he performed very poorly, completing only half of his pass attempts (30 of 60), highlighted by a dismal game against Miami in which he only completed 2 of 14 pass attempts. Braxton saw playing time against both Akron and Miami, but certainly, it is difficult for a quarterback to establish a rhythm when his offense coming off of the bench.
To date, Miller has not been significantly better than Bauserman statistically. Through the Colorado game, Miller has only completed 15 of 29 pass attempts, and although he is 1-0 as a starter, Bauserman won two of his three starts. However, going forward, this season, the Buckeyes are in a much better position to continue winning games with Miller than with Bauserman.
OSU’s passing offense has been horrendous so far this season. This cannot be blamed entirely on the two quarterbacks. The team’s best receiver, DeVier Posey, is suspended, leaving the Buckeyes with a lack of playmakers at wideout. The receivers have had many drops, which has made the quarterback’s completion percentages look worse than they actually should be.
Given that the passing offense has found no rhythm, Miller’s ability to make plays running with the football is critical to OSU’s offensive success. Against Colorado, Miller actually ran for the exact amount of yards that he passed for, both for 83 yards. Miller’s ability to run helped to move the chains and will continue to do so, even as the Buckeyes go up against tougher defenses entering Big Ten conference play.
Miller’s ability to get outside of the pocket and run the football for positive yardage, gives the OSU offense an extra dimension, which is desperately needed, given the Buckeyes’ inefficient passing. Not only can Miller’s ability to run drive the offense down the field, it also forces the defense to plan accordingly. As long as Miller shows that he is a serious threat and can run the ball successfully, teams are likely to bring extra defenders to the line of scrimmage in order to limit his running. In turn, that will make it easier for OSU receivers to get open, and make it easier for Miller to complete passes.
In many instances, it is smart to start the experienced quarterback. However, when both quarterbacks are struggling, going with youth, in this case Miller ahead of Bauserman, is the smart choice. Miller is an 18-year-old true freshman, a special athletic talent who came to OSU this year as the #4 quarterback in the high school class of 2011, according to ESPNU. Miller has the talent to be a superstar quarterback, and it did not make sense to continue playing a struggling senior over a young player who should only get better as he gains experience.
Miller has struggled thus far this season, and fans should expect him to continue to struggle over the course of the season. However, Miller has shown flashes of his potential as a playmaker, both as a passer and a runner. Opposing defenses will be aware of Miller’s talents, and play him cautiously, making it easier for the OSU offense to gain rhythm and efficiency. Against Bauserman, opposing defenses know what they are getting, and shut down short passes and running backs, knowing that Bauserman doesn’t threaten to complete deep passes and run out of the pocket.
Chances are good that the Buckeyes will lose games this season with Miller as the starting quarterback, and that fans will grow frustrated with Miller’s play at times. However, Miller should also be able to make plays and force defenses to adjust, which can enable the Buckeyes to win some games that they may not have won with Bauserman as the starter.