Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
No. 9 Ohio State travels to Penn State this weekend for a battle between the conference’s two teams ineligible for postseason play. OSU coach Urban Meyer and PSU coach Bill O’Brien weighed in on the status of Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller at the weekly Big Ten football coaches teleconference.
Preparing for Miller Time
Miller was injured in the third quarter of last Saturday’s overtime win against Purdue, and Meyer said that the sophomore quarterback is still nursing a very sore neck.
Meyer confirmed that Miller has been cleared to practice, but said backup redshirt junior Kenny Guiton will be prepared to play.
“We’re going to have two ready,” said Meyer of his quarterbacks.
Nonetheless, O’Brien said his team is preparing for OSU’s typical offense, in which Miller is the team’s leading passer and rusher.
“Obviously, we’re preparing for Braxton Miller,” O’Brien said. “He’s one of the top players in the country, at the end of the day that’s the guy that we have to prepare for.”
High Praise for Heuerman
Buckeye fans might be celebrating Jeff Heuerman for his receiving skills right now – the sophomore tight end caught the game-tying two-point conversion last Saturday – but Meyer has been impressed with a different aspect of Heuerman’s skill set.
“He might be the best blocking tight end that I’ve ever had in my head coaching career,” Meyer said.
Heuerman’s contributions might not jump off a stat sheet, he has six receptions this year for one touchdown, but Meyer said that Heuerman’s blocking has been extremely important this season.
“He’s giving us a component that we’ve never really had at that spot,” Meyer said. “He’s a point guy that can really block a defensive had. That’s really great to have.”
Better left unsaid?
Michigan has not won a Big Ten title since 2004, and coach Brady Hoke said that he uses the program’s conference championship drought to motivate his players everyday.
“Let’s face it,” said the second-year Michigan coach. “Besides graduating and honoring your name, the expectations are to win Big Ten Championships. We embrace it and we are not going to shy away from it.”
Hoke’s approach is fundamentally different than that of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who said he just tries to keep his team focused on getting better every day.
“I don’t talk about (winning the conference) daily,” Pelini said. “Our players understand what’s out there and what the challenges are.”
Michigan (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) and Nebraska (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) meet this weekend, and whether the coaches want to talk about it or not, the game has major implications on the conference championship picture.
To maintain its undefeated conference record, Michigan will have to do what it’s failed to do twice this season – win a night game away from home. The Wolverines were handled, 41-14, on a neutral field against Alabama on Sept. 1, and fell to Notre Dame three weeks later.
“We haven’t played our best football,” Hoke said. “We are going to need to this week.”