Ohio State's big debate: Guiton or Miller?

Kenny Guiton continues to be America’s top super sub. Today, he was at his best yet. The senior captain hit 24-of-34 passes for 215 yards with a school single-game record six touchdown passes—all of which came in the first half—in a 76-0 romp over Florida A&M.

“I had all day,” Guiton said. “The coaches wanted to come out throwing the ball around and I thank them for the trust they had in me to be able to do that.”

Sure, FAMU is a FCS team that got $900,000 for its sacrifice. Still, this was yet another impressive effort for Guiton, who has now started and won the past two games for the 4-0 Buckeyes with Braxton Miller out with injury.

Guiton got his first start at Cal, leading the Buckeyes to a 52-34 win in Game No. 3. In that contest, Guiton hit 21-of-32 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns.

“If you knew where he was in January a year and a half ago — I’m a parent, you go right to thinking — can you imagine being his parent right now, and how cool that would be,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after the Cal game. “If you buy stock, buy stock in Kenny Guiton, because what he’s going to do after football someday, it’s going to be really neat.”

Guiton took over in the first quarter of the second game of the season vs. San Diego State and led the Buckeyes to victory after Miller strained the MCL in his left knee. Guiton completed 19-of-28 passes for 152 yards with two touchdowns and a pick in the 42-7 win over San Diego State.

Leading into each of the last two weeks, Meyer didn’t make a decision on if Miller would play until game day. Well, it hasn’t really mattered. Guiton got the call each of the last two weeks—and excelled in victory.

So, now the question can be asked: Is Miller still the No.1 quarterback when he returns from injury?

“Yes,” said Meyer after the FAMU game. “He is our starting quarterback. Our backup quarterback has earned some time. I can’t begin to tell you I’ve been going through some scenarios in my mind and I don’t know what it is. I’m going to see how we practice this week, but, you know, Braxton is our starting quarterback.”

Fair enough, but I would like to see Guiton continue to start—even when Miller is back, which probably will be this coming Saturday when Wisconsin comes to the Horseshoe. But, it looks like Guiton will have to settle for some type of reduced role.

No doubt, when Miller is healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic players not just in the Big Ten—but in the nation. The junior has continued to get better as a passer. In fact, he ranked second in the Big Ten in passing efficiency last season, completing 58 percent of his attempts for 2,039 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions during a 12-0 season. Miller also ran for 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns en route to winning Big Ten MVP honors. Miller is a stud. But Guiton seems to have something about him.

“I don’t know how many snaps he played before our staff got here, but he probably didn’t play any and it’s not because the staff was screwing him over — he wasn’t very good in a lot of areas,” Meyer said.

“He pushed himself academically and he’s an exceptional guy and he didn’t do things exceptionally and he’s an underachiever. And to an underachiever, that’s fighting words. He’s an efficient player right now, he’s an incredible manager, coach on the field so, you know, his time came. He was prepared and his coach and him did a very good job … it’s not by accident that this thing happened, now. It’s not because he had the buckeye in his pocket or his lucky T-shirt. It’s because he worked hard with the position coach to get ready for his opportunity and boy did he.”

Still, skill-wise, Guiton is no Miller—and never will be. How can a guy with Miller’s skills and credentials lose his job because of injury? And, he apparently won’t. But, the Guiton-Miller debate is worth having, with two of Ohio State’s toughest games on tap.

After Wisconsin comes to Columbus, the Buckeyes play at Northwestern on Oct. 5. The game vs. the Badgers could be a de facto Leaders Division title game. The trip to Evanston could be a preview of the Big Ten championship game. Ohio State will need to stay on a roll. It apparently has great chemistry and mojo with Guiton under center. Is it risky to disrupt that momentum by switching signal callers?

So far in 2013, Guiton has hit 65-of-95 passes (68 percent) for 664 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has run 25 times for 186 yards and a touchdown.

“It was good to see Kenny put up the numbers he did,” said receiver Evan Spencer. “It’s awesome and special to be a part of his record.”

But more than the numbers, Guiton’s intangibles make him special. Not bad for a guy who had offers from places like Houston, Rice, Prairie View A&M, Kansas and Iowa State coming out of high school in Texas. Ex-Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel offered Guiton after he missed out on Tajh Boyd, who opted for Clemson and is now a big-time Heisman contender. Guiton grabbed the scholarship offer and hasn’t looked back.

“I look at teams — and I don’t want to downgrade any quarterbacks in this nation — but I look at teams and think I could probably do something and play for that team,” said Guiton, who first played the role of super sub last year in leading OSU to a miraculous comeback vs. Purdue. “But I’m here, and I’m OK. I’m in my senior year having fun. I’m a leader and a captain. I don’t regret anything.”

Here’s hoping Ohio State doesn’t regret pulling the plug on Guiton as a starter.

“He’s been everything, really, to be honest with you,” tight end Jeff Heuerman said.

And then some.

About Tom Dienhart 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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