Heisman watch: Miller further solidifies case

Is anyone gonna catch Braxton Miller as the Big Ten’s top Heisman contender? It may be difficult. The Ohio State quarterback has a great chance to enhance his Heisman dossier playing this Saturday at Indiana, which has the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten (196.8 ypg).

But how much will Miller play if the game gets out of hand? Miller is a legit national contender for the Heisman, with West Virginia’s Geno Smith looking like the clear leader at this point.

[RELATED: More crucial to his team: Braxton or Denard?]

Michigan’s Denard Robinson is back in the picture after that tough game at Notre Dame. The senior will welcome a struggling Illinois squad to Ann Arbor. The Illini are allowing 124.5 yards rushing per game and figure to be hard-pressed to slow “Shoelace.” Illinois has allowed 173 yards rushing in each of the last two weeks vs. Penn State and at Wisconsin.

Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell is a factor again after an off game vs. Ohio State two weeks ago. The junior will face a tough test at home this Saturday vs. Iowa, which is No. 3 in the Big Ten in rushing defense (111.0 ypg) and will have had two weeks to prep after being off last Saturday.

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Northwestern running back Venric Mark? Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez? They are off my radar and have work to do coming off losses last week. Martinez tossed three picks in an ugly 63-38 loss at Ohio State. Mark looked decent at Penn State, running back a punt 75 yards for a score and gaining a team-high 72 yards rushing.

Here’s my look at the top three Big Ten Heisman Trophy contenders:

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State. The sophomore only solidified his status as the Big Ten’s top Heisman contender with a sterling effort in a 63-38 waxing of Nebraska. Miller hit just 7-of-14 passes, but they went for 127 yards and a touchdown. He did his real damage—as usual—with his feet, running 16 times for 186 yards (an Ohio State record for a quarterback) and a touchdown. Miller is third in the Big Ten in rushing (127.2 ypg) and No. 2 in total offense (303.8 ypg).

Passing Rushing
Date Opp Cmp Att Yds Pct TDs Int Long Car Yds Avg TDs Long
9/1/2012 Mia-O 14 24 207 58.3 2 0 44 17 161 9.5 1 65
9/8/2012 UCF 18 24 155 75.0 1 1 15 27 141 5.2 3 37
9/15/2012 Cal 16 30 249 53.3 4 1 72 12 75 6.3 1 55
9/22/2012 UAB 12 20 143 60.0 0 0 25 11 64 5.8 2 19
9/29/2012 @ MSU 16 23 179 69.6 1 1 63 23 136 5.9 0 20
10/6/2012 Neb 7 14 127 50.0 1 0 35 16 186 11.6 1 72

2. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan. It’s time to welcome him back after the sensational effort in a 44-13 victory at Purdue. Robinson ran through, around and basically anywhere he wanted vs. the Boilermakers in notching 235 yards rushing on 24 totes. That comes out to a nifty 9.8 yards per carry. In the process, Robinson passed former Indiana star Antwaan Randle El as the Big Ten’s all-time leading rushing quarterback. Robinson also completed 8-of-16 passes for 105 yards with a touchdown. Oh, and he had no turnovers after committing five at Notre Dame in his last game. Robinson paces the Big Ten in rushing (135.2 ypg) and ranks fourth in the nation. He also is No. 1 in the conference in total offense (323.6 ypg).

Passing Rushing
Date Opp Cmp Att Yds Pct TDs Int Long Car Yds Avg TDs Long
9/1/2012 @ Ala 11 26 200 42.3 1 2 71 10 27 2.7 1 9
9/8/2012 AF 14 25 208 56.0 2 1 30 20 218 10.9 2 79
9/15/2012 UMass 16 24 291 66.7 3 1 66 10 106 10.6 1 36
9/22/2012 @ ND 13 24 138 54.2 0 4 20 26 90 3.5 0 20
10/6/2012 @ Purdue 8 16 105 50.0 1 0 28 24 235 9.8 0 59

3. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State. While the passing attack of Michigan State has had its ups and down, Bell has consistently churned out rushing yards. He has run a Big Ten-high 171 times for 776 yards with seven touchdowns, ranking second in the Big Ten in rushing (129.3 ypg). Bell is coming off a methodical 121-yard effort at Indiana, his third triple-digit rushing game of the season. He also has caught 23 passes for 132 yards. Where would the Spartan offense be without Bell? I know, it’s a scary thought.

Rushing Receiving
Date Opp Car Yds Avg TDs Long Rec Yds Avg TDs Long
8/31/2012 Boise 44 210 4.8 2 35 6 55 9.2 0 20
9/8/2012 @ CentMi 18 70 3.9 2 8 1 0 0.0 0 0
9/15/2012 ND 19 77 4.1 0 15 4 20 5.0 0 7
9/22/2012 EastMi 36 253 7.0 1 40 1 -8 -8.0 0 0
9/29/2012 OhioSt 17 45 2.6 0 8 8 58 7.3 0 13
10/6/2012 @ Ind 37 121 3.3 2 19 3 7 2.3 0 4
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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