Football

August 22, 2014

Joe Giglio: Too much made of Braxton Miller’s injury

Ohio State lost its star quarterback, but guess what: Ohio State also lost to Michigan State last year. It’s the Spartans, not the Buckeyes, who represent the Big Ten’s best chance to reach the final four.

Cancel the season, Ohio State’s quarterback is hurt.

In case you missed the news of the earth-shattering variety earlier this week, star Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller suffered a shoulder injury and will miss the season.

It’s August and we’re all hungry for football, and we all tend to overreact to any piece of injury news in the absence of real games to digest. But the overreaction, especially by the national media, to the news about Miller has been off the charts, even by August standards.

Look, Miller’s injury is not good for the No. 5 Buckeyes or their national title hopes (Thank you, Captain Obvious). Miller, twice the Big Ten offensive player of the year, ran for 1,068 yards and threw for 24 touchdowns last season and led Urban Meyer’s team to 24 consecutive wins from 2012 until the Big Ten championship game last December.

But let’s not get carried away with the significance of Miller’s injury. The Buckeyes could still easily go unbeaten against a schedule that can kindly be classified as garbage-on-a-stick. (Save the bandwidth and refrain from e-mailing, Virginia Tech fans.)

Heck, if redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett is half as good as some of Meyer’s other quarterbacks (Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton anyone?) then the Buckeyes can use said super-soft schedule to get ready, and likely be undefeated, for a Nov. 8 showdown with Michigan State.

Ah, Michigan State. Talk about a team that has been summarily dismissed. The Spartans, not Meyer’s more celebrated squad, won the Big Ten title last (knocking off Ohio State 34-24 in the process). The Spartans – who return their quarterback, their top rusher and one of the best defensive lines in the country – won the Rose Bowl and finished with 13 wins.

So did the Big Ten’s best chance at putting a team (one of four) in the College Football Playoff really go by the wayside with Miller’s injury?

No. The Big Ten’s best national hopes still are, and always were, contingent upon what the Spartans do on a Sept. 6 trip to Oregon.

No one can exactly predict how the 13-person selection committee will choose the four teams for college football’s first playoff. What we do know is there are five major conferences and only four slots. So the math says someone is not going to be happy.

For the ACC, getting left without a seat when the music stops seems like a remote possibility. No. 1 Florida State has significantly upgraded its schedule – Wake Forest was even kind enough to bow out of a date with Notre Dame to let the Seminoles and Irish reprise one of the best games in college football history – but the odds are against FSU losing one of its first 13 games.

The Big 12 has a fairly clear path to produce an unbeaten champion, likely the Baylor-Oklahoma winner on Nov. 8, and grab one of the four playoff spots.

There is no scenario I can imagine (Nick Saban retires at midseason? Gus Malzahn punts on every third down? The plague?) where the SEC champion – Alabama? LSU? Auburn? Georgia? – gets left out.

That leaves the Big Ten winner or the Pac-12 winner potentially scrambling. Hence the real value of the Michigan State-Oregon game. The Pac-12, which arguably has more depth than the SEC this year, might just knock itself out of contention because it has too many good teams.

But that will be for the committee to decide in December. Ohio State’s season changed with Miller’s injury but there’s still plenty at stake for the Buckeyes and the rest of the Big Ten.

On second thought, let’s just play the games and cancel the Twitter hysteria instead.

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