OSU: Hoping for One More Shot at Wisconsin

Medically cleared after missing the last two games, Buckeyes junior quarterback Braxton Miller is hoping to play when No.4 Ohio State hosts No.23 Wisconsin Saturday, considering the fact that he's a perfect 2-for-2 in a rivalry that's going off the schedule.

MADISON - Between the talks about being a Heisman favorite, the 2012 undefeated season and the questions surrounding his team playing for a national championship in 2014, Ohio State junior quarterback Braxton Miller was understandably preoccupied during his roundtable discussion at the Big Ten preseason meetings.

So when it was asked about his thoughts about the Wisconsin rivalry going away after this season, a rarity happened for Miller – he was blindsided.

"Wow, that's really too bad," said Miller. "The game with Wisconsin has always been good since my freshman year."

It's been good for Miller and no so much for Wisconsin, since the Buckeyes quarterback has had a significant hand in Ohio State pulling out a pair of much-needed victories.

Two years ago, Miller only had seven completions, but his last one – a 40-yard pass to Devin Smith against busted coverage - was the game winner and one of the few bright spots in a season marred by off-the-field scandals before it even began.

Last year in Madison, Miller led the Buckeyes with 145 all-purpose yards in a 21-14 overtime victory. That victory propelled Ohio State to a perfect 12-0 campaign in the first season under Urban Meyer and helped Miller, who finished with a school-record 3,310 yards of total offense last year, to a fifth-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.

"It's always a big game (with Wisconsin)," said Miller. "You have to take advantage of big games and make it out to be a big game."

Starting next season, however, Wisconsin and Ohio State will part ways. With Maryland and Rutgers entering the Big Ten, the Badgers will move to the West Division and the Buckeyes will reside in the East, meaning the regional rivalries with Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern will take more of a center stage.

That means Saturday's primetime game between No.23 Wisconsin and No.4 Ohio State at the Horseshoe will be the last regular season meeting between the two schools until 2016, putting a hold on a series that has Ohio State holding a slim 7-5 edge since 1999.

"I was here a long time ago and it was not a rivalry," said Meyer, as Ohio State won 21 straight games from 1960-80. "You have to give credit to Wisconsin. It all started with Coach Alvarez and the following coaches have done a great job doing it. It's one, if not the, best program in the Big Ten right now and because of that, it's become a great rivalry."

Miller entered the season as one of the Heisman Trophy favorites, but expectations have tempered the past three weeks after suffering an MCL sprain in his right knee early in the week 2 win over San Diego State.

Senior Kenny Guiton has started the last two games for Ohio State in Miller's absence, and led the offense to consecutive 600-yard performances, not to mention throwing a school-record six touchdown passes – all in the first half – in a 76-0 blowout over Florida A&M last weekend. Since coming in for Miller, Guiton has thrown 12 touchdown passes.

Meyer was hopeful to get Miller back last week, but said Miller still felt hobbled. Now he'll go through practice this week seeing how Miller responds before naming him the starter.

"I don't want to name him a starter yet because I don't know," said Meyer. "I want to make sure I am doing right by Kenny Guiton. Those decisions will be made later in the week.

"I'd like to get them both in the game. It's a blessing to have two quarterbacks that you are really confident in … We have to manage it the right way."

The injury was a blow to Miller, considering he spent most of the offseason improving his team leadership, his footwork and getting a quicker release.

"I feel confident in (the receivers) and they feel confident that I am going to get them the ball after their third step," said Miller. "The game is close to slowing down. I have a lot of room for improvement, so I am just taking it day-by-day."

No matter who is under center, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, a former Meyer assistant at Utah, doesn't see a big change within the offense.

"One guy might do this a little better than the other, but you don't look in there and say, ‘okay, here comes this guy or that guy or let's expect this offense or that offense,'" said Andersen. "It's still the same offense regardless."

Ohio State went 5-1 against Wisconsin with Bret Bielema as the Badgers' head coach, but the Badgers can boast their 31-18 victory in 2010 when the Buckeyes were ranked number one in the country. Wisconsin also can stake claim to the last three conference championships, although Ohio State contributed to that by being ineligible for the postseason last year.

So with the rivalry going off the schedule and a high-stakes divisional game, Miller is hopeful he can have one more shot at Wisconsin under the lights.

"I always look forward to night games," he said. "It's a different type of atmosphere than the afternoon games. Getting prepared for it, it's not easy to overcome it, especially in the Big Ten."

Badger Nation Top Stories