LITTLE ROCK — Lost in the Ohio State blahs is quarterback Braxton Miller’s low-key campaign to earn a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy award ceremony.
The start times for the four major conference championship games line up in such a way that Miller will make his final push in front of a large TV audience. Auburn vs. Missouri in the SEC title game will be over before games in the Pac-12, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the Big Ten kick off.
Choosing between those three, 12-0 Ohio State vs. 11-1 Michigan State is the most compelling. Add in two two-loss teams on the West Coast and Florida State being a big favorite over Duke and channel-surfing fans will gravitate to the Big Ten game. For sure, fans of either Missouri or Alabama will be tuned to Fox, begging Michigan State’s No. 1 defense to shut down Miller and running back Carlos Hyde.
In May, Miller was my favorite for the Heisman but once he was slowed by injury — he missed two games and threw two passes in another — he was dismissed because he would be playing catch-up statistically. With little fanfare, he has completed almost 66 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions and has averaged seven yards per carry while running for almost 900 yards and and eight touchdowns.
Healthy all year, Miller’s stats would have compared favorably with those of Florida State’s Jameis Winston, who will win the Heisman on Dec. 14 unless he throws in a clunker tonight.
Until state attorney Willie Meggs of Florida announced Thursday that no charges would be filed against Winston in an investigation into rape allegations, I thought Heisman voters might shy away from the redshirt freshman to the point that the vote would be splintered and that Miller or Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois or A.J. McCarron of Alabama might win.
Now, the question is who will join Winston in New York. Miller will get a bump tonight.
OHIO STATE 21, MICHIGAN STATE 14
My Heisman vote will not be cast until Sunday, but I expect Winston to throw for more than 290 yards for the eighth time this year. Although Duke is a four-touchdown underdog, I will not be surprised if the game is competitive at the half. Eventually, the Seminoles’ talent will prevail.
FLORIDA STATE 38, DUKE 13.
If Missouri beats Auburn, I don’t want to hear that the Tigers from the Western Division left everything on the field against Alabama. Keep in mind that Missouri was also in an must-win situation for two straight weeks. Before beating Texas A&M to reach Atlanta, the Tigers handled Ole Miss in Oxford.
Last week, Henry Josey’s winning 65-yard run occurred with 3:34 to play — not in the league with Chris Davis’ 108-yard return, but pretty darned dramatic.
I don’t believe in the team of destiny thing, but I do believe that Auburn will be successful running the ball. Missouri’s defensive front is supposed to be better than Alabama’s so Tre Mason and Nick Marshall might make two or three yards at a time instead of five or six as they did against the Crimson Tide. But, they are more apt to break a long one against Missouri’s back seven.
AUBURN 24, MISSOURI 21
These picks courtesy of the man who predicted Auburn and Arkansas to tie for sixth in the Western Division and Missouri to tie Tennessee for fifth in the East.
STANFORD 21, ARIZONA STATE 17
Ten weeks removed from Stanford 42, Arizona State 28, ASU is favored in the rematch. The first time around, Arizona State had two passes intercepted and two punts blocked and those who believe in the Sun Devils cite ASU’s maturity since Sept. 21 and the fact that this evening’s contest is in Tempe, Ariz.
Give me coach David Shaw.