Each week during the season, BTN.com web editor Sean Merriman and a featured guest will debate a topic related to Big Ten football. This week, Ohio State beat writer Kyle Rowland and I debate the following question: “Assuming Braxton Miller is cleared to play this week against Florida A&M, should he start, or should Ohio State stick with backup Kenny Guiton?”
Sean: Is there a more popular question being asked right now amongst Ohio State fans? Truth be told, both sides have fair arguments. But, I’m going to say that if Miller is cleared to play, which it looks like he is going to be, Ohio State still needs to err on the side of caution and go with Guiton as the starting QB against Florida A&M. Look, Miller is one of the best quarterbacks in the country when healthy, you won’t get any augments there. But this is Florida A&M were talking about here. I could beat Florida A&M if I had Jordan Hall and now Carlos Hyde running the ball behind me. If Miller is a “game-time decision,” that obviously means he isn’t 100 percent healthy at the moment. That MCL injury is clearly still an issue. So, why risk further injury to your star quarterback when you have a talented backup like Guiton, who showed last week that he is more than capable of leading this offense.
Kyle: This quarterback quandary has all of Columbus on the edge of its seat. And it’s going to continue in that direction for at lease one more week, because Braxton Miller is going to play on Saturday, just like he should. Look, I’m well aware that Kenny Guiton has things rolling right now. But whenever I hear about Miller and rest, I find myself taking away the “e” and adding a “u.” That’s rust. Miller has essentially played one game this season. If he sits again on Saturday, that would mean three weeks on the sideline with Wisconsin looming. When you have national championship aspirations, you can’t let your quarterback sit three straight weeks and expect him to return firing on all cylinders. It just isn’t realistic. Wisconsin could be the best defense the Buckeyes face all season. Even if Miller only plays a handful of series against Florida A&M, that is better than zero. He needs some game reps to get back in the flow of things. It’ll rid him of rust and prepare him for the Badgers.
Sean: Valid point Kyle. But with Miller’s injury history, playing in a game like this against an FCS opponent just doesn’t seem worth it to me. Guiton has played under center in six of the Buckeyes’ past nine games, dating back to last season. Many of those appearances are due to Miller’s injury history. I see the point of getting game reps, but are live reps against Florida A&M’s defense really more valuable than practice reps against Ohio State’s first-team defense? In my opinion, this is a perfect chance to rest your starters who are dealing with injuries, let the backups play and get game experience, which helps build your depth. And then, have everyone healthy and ready to go against Wisconsin, as you mentioned. Also, did you know that Florida A&M has lost 15 straight games against FBS teams and has been outscored by nearly 41 points per game in the process? How depressing would it be if Miller played and got hurt against a team with that kind of track record?
Kyle: I understand all the variables, Sean. Yes, Kenny Guiton is a great backup. I know Florida A&M presents virtually zero challenge and health is the top objective for Ohio State with Wisconsin looming. That said, you don’t just rest players because you’re playing a bad team and don’t want players injured. I think coaches, fans, players and Miller himself would be equally devastated over an injury, whether it happened against FAMU or Michigan. There’s something to be said for routines. Coaches and players swear by them. Let the starters, Miller included, get their time. Then get the backups some minutes. Something lost in the discussion is confidence. A quarterback controversy is the last thing Ohio State wants or needs. Even against a lowly opponent such as Florida A&M, another great performance by Guiton could stir the conversation about who should start and shake Miller’s confidence. Do the Buckeyes really want Miller going into one of the biggest games of the season with that cloud hanging overhead? What if he has a bad couple series to open the Wisconsin game – then what direction does this go? Miller needs to go into next week with confidence and swagger. He can do so by playing against Florida A&M and getting a few touchdown passes.
Sean: I agree with you there—Injuries can happen anytime, anywhere, against anyone. But, not everyone has a history of injuries like Miller does. The bottom line is your star quarterback is hurt, and you have a backup that is playing exceptional right now. How exceptional? Well for starters, he totaled 368 yards last week (276 yards passing, 92 yards rushing) and four touchdowns against a good Cal team. But everyone knows those numbers. What matters more are the advanced stats, like how he has performed under pressure. Guiton has completed 65 percent of his passes against the blitz with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. In contrast, Miller has completed just 58 percent of such passes, including a pick-6 against Buffalo in a game that was a lot closer than it should have been. Am I saying bench Miller from here on out and go with Guiton? Absolutely not. I’m simply saying that Guiton is a star, just like Miller. And if I have to choose between the two, I’m going with the guy who is A. Healthy and B. Playing better at this very moment. Miller’s handled pressure situations admirably since arriving at Ohio State. He knows that he’s the quarterback of this team, and shame on anyone who would believe otherwise. I have to imagine that he would understand that if he isn’t starting this weekend, it’s because the coaching staff wants him to be at 100 percent before going out there.
Kyle: All valid points, Sean, and I tend to agree with almost all of them. But these are still college kids with a fragile psyche. Do I believe Braxton Miller is the starting quarterback of this team? Absolutely. And I don’t see that changing if he’s healthy. The wide receivers were already asked this week about which quarterback threw crisper passes, who do you have a better rapport with, etc. All that stuff is non-sense. This is a team that’s competing for a national championship. Get Miller back on the field and end any semblance of a controversy. Stanley Jackson said all the questions about him and Joe Germaine rattled him throughout the 1996 and ’97 seasons. The same could be happening for Miller right now. How about this? Put them on the field at the same time. Give opposing defensive coordinators something to ponder. Urban Meyer has already done that with Ohio State’s swinging gate formation on extra points. Guiton is a master at running the option. Have Miller and Dontre Wilson line up behind him. The Buckeyes are going to win Saturday, but they can “lose” if Miller remains straight-jacketed on the sideline. The future is part of the present. He needs to be on the field getting the necessary reps to be 100 percent against Wisconsin. Not many fans are excited about the Florida A&M game. But a blowout win filled with Miller and Guiton both at quarterback AND on the field together could be a moment that’s recalled in early January.
What do you think?
|About Sean Merriman||BTN.com web editor Sean Merriman covers football and men’s basketball and provides original content for BTN.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BTNSean.|