March means the sports-watching nation’s collective attention turns to college basketball, and it begins Friday.
And yet, gracing the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated is a football player.
The Braxton Miller Sports Illustrated cover begins the 2013 Heisman Trophy push in earnest, six full months before his Ohio State Buckeyes kickoff the season against the Buffalo Bulls.
Heck, the Buckeyes still have more than a month until their spring game, slated for April 13. With Major League Baseball spring training camps open around Arizona and Florida, the NFL draft Combine wrapping up and March Madness looming, Miller bursting through the cover of America’s sports magazine of record is a testament to just how much is expected of Ohio State in 2013.
Miller eclipsed 2000 yards passing and approached 1300 rushing in leading the Buckeyes to the only perfect record in all of Division I football. Miller was a Jim Tressel recruit, but looked destined for first-year Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer’s system.
NCAA sanctions kept the Buckeyes out of the bowl picture. Given its struggles with such unremarkable foes as the Cal Golden Bears, UAB Blazers and Purdue Boilermakers, Ohio State may not have made Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide quake with fear.
Then again, with one of just two unscathed regular season slates to its credit, the 2012 Buckeyes would not have had to worry about Alabama, or the SEC Goliath that has twice denied the program BCS championships in the last six years. OSU would have drawn the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Miami, guaranteeing college football at least a one-year reprieve from SEC domination and perhaps winning Meyer his third national title.
There’s nothing Ohio State can gain from lamenting missed opportunities, so Meyer’s squad must tear into 2013 like Miller through that SI cover.
Meyer and Miller make for a formidable pairing. The quarterback’s 28-touchdown campaign only scratches the surface of his capabilities in the spread offense that helped make Tim Tebow a Heisman winner at Florida.
And with the experience gained in his tenure at the Swamp, Meyer has an insight into the SEC style of play few other head coaches can impart to their programs. He’s brought an SEC mindset on the recruiting trail, ruffling Big Ten feathers along the way, but constructing a viable national championship contender.
The silver helmets worn in Columbus might be the silver bullets that finally take down the SEC. Miller’s continued development into a dangerous, dual threat play maker is paramount to the Buckeyes’ chances.
Sports Illustrated is shining a spotlight on Miller the Buckeye quarterback better be accustomed to quickly. Right now, he casts a shadow over America’s Pastime and one of the most popular single sporting events in America — not to mention his own, entire sport. A nation’s eyes are firmly on Braxton Miller for the next six months, and beyond.