The race to stay in the chase features players like Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, USC’s Marqise Lee and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, among others. You also can put Ohio State’s Braxton Miller in that group, too.
Here’s how I shakedown the Big Ten’s Top Three Heisman contenders.
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State. He was off last week, so Miller didn’t get a chance to buff his resume. But the last two weeks of the season will offer two high-profile games. This week, Miller and the Buckeyes play at Wisconsin in a battle between arguably the top two teams in the Leaders Division. Then, Ohio State finishes at Michigan in a contest that the Buckeyes may need to win to punctuate a perfect season. If Miller excels in each game—and the Buckeyes emerge victorious—he could have a shot to get to New York City for the Heisman ceremony, and maybe—maybe–win the Heisman, depending on how others do down the stretch. Miller is No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing efficiency, hitting 57 percent of his passes for 1,753 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. The sophomore also is No. 5 in the league in rushing (116.5 ypg) with 13 touchdowns. Best of all: Miller is the leader of a 10-0 team, one of just four unbeatens in the FBS ranks.
2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska. No quarterback in the Big Ten may be hotter than Martinez, who has won four in a row. He has done most of his heavy lifting, as Martinez has games left vs. Minnesota and at Iowa. He already has engineered victories over Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Northwestern, among others. The Huskers should beat Minnesota and Iowa—and Martinez should have a good chance to post some big numbers to enhance his dossier. The junior is No. 1 in the Big Ten in passing efficiency, completing 63 percent of his passes for 2,112 yards with a Big Ten-high 19 touchdown throws and eight interceptions. Martinez is 10th in the conference in rushing (77.0 ypg). But best of all: He has the Cornhuskers in control in the Legends Division.
3. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State. I keep going back and forth between the bruising Spartan back and nifty Northwestern back Venric Mark. It’s tough to ignore the accomplishments of Bell, who paces the Big Ten in rushing 1,249. The junior also has 10 rushing scores to go along with 29 receptions for 145 and a touchdown. Bell’s numbers are all the more remarkable when you consider he is the focal point of opposing defenses each week, given the inconsistency of the passing game. Plus, Bell often has had to work behind a banged up line. The guy is a flat-out stud, a true workhorse whose 283 carries rank second in the nation. Just think of where the Michigan State offense would be without Bell. Scary, isn’t it?
|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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