DALLAS — “I do expect Braxton to return.”
With six little words, Urban Meyer did more to darken the Sunday of LSU football fans than anything he has said since calling that jump pass for Tim Tebow in the 2006 LSU-Florida game.
“Braxton” would be Braxton Miller, the Ohio State senior quarterback who has been the missing man in the Buckeyes’ offensive formations since injuring his shoulder making a simple throw in a preseason practice.
Miller’s injury begat J.T. Barrett, whose injury against Michigan begat Cardale Jones. It is the former third-stringer turned risen star — he hasn’t risen to the superstar level of Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota, but he’s coming on — who will start for Ohio State in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
LSU, and just about every other football program in North America (including Oregon, interestingly, if Mariota goes pro), is desirous of having Miller transfer into its program next season. He could be the biggest free agent in the college game since Russell Wilson left N.C. State for one last campaign at Wisconsin. Even though, according to some folks who cover Ohio State whom I spoke to Sunday, no one really knows for sure whether his shoulder will be ready for action by next season.
But Miller is a graduating senior, and as such he has the chance to transfer somewhere and play right away if he chooses to do so.
Let’s assume for the moment that Miller is healthy enough to play, and that he does indeed decide to stay in Columbus this fall. That leaves Ohio State with an embarrassment of quarterback riches that should send Pope Urban scurrying to his local priest for absolution.
Three quarterbacks, all with the ability to lead teams to championships. Forget the old saying, “When you have two quarterbacks, you really have none.” That doesn’t apply at Ohio State. Apparently if you’ve got three, it’s just as good as having one. Maybe better.
By the way, Ohio State has a commitment from four-star quarterback Torrance Gibson out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida — a consensus top-100 prospect.
The rich get richer.
Realistically, they’re not all going to line up in August practice like planes taking off at DFW, waiting for the passing reps to be parsed out. Someone is going to leave or move on or take up skydiving. Gibson, for example, is an athlete prospect and, as we’ve seen at LSU over the years, athlete prospects can be recycled into all sort of position players.
But if Miller does decide to leave and can regain his former level of play, he’d be a lottery ticket for any program. If he went to LSU, he’d immediately transform the Tigers into a preseason national contender.
Remember that lottery ticket reference, though. The chances of Miller transferring to LSU, like anywhere else, are lightning-strike slim.
The point, however, is that LSU needs better quarterback play in 2015. If a football program can have a New Year’s resolution, that has to be it.
On Monday, the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium will host the inaugural CFP title game. On Dec. 31, Jerry World will serve as host to one of the two CFP semifinals in the Cotton Bowl. (The Orange Bowl will be the other.)
LSU could be ringing in the new near on the familiar Texas turf in nearby Arlington. Everything about the Tigers screams a top-10 team.
Everything except its quarterback play.
Now, back to the present.
Oregon, a fashion statement and a football program all rolled into one, is in the unprecedented spot of being the favorite to win its first national championship.
Why not? It has the best quarterback in the country in Mariota, and he keeps the pedal floored on a Ducks offense that can best be likened to a top-fuel dragster or a fighter plane being catapulted off a flight deck.
Ohio State’s quarterback troubles should have decked the Buckeyes’ championship hopes long ago. Yet here they are, hoping to add another trophy to Ohio State’s already-overflowing case despite having been an underdog all season.
“I don’t know that Ohio State has ever flown under the radar as a program or as a team, so this is kind of new territory for them,” said former LSU coach Gerry DiNardo, an analyst for the Big Ten Network. “Everyone picked Michigan State to win their division, picked Wisconsin to beat them in the (Big Ten) championship game. So I think they’ve taken on this personality.
“I thought going into (the Sugar Bowl against) Alabama, both teams had about the same amount of talent. Going into this game, I think Ohio State is the more talented team.”
At quarterback, in terms of sheer numbers, it’s no contest.