Ohio State vs. Illinois: Braxton Miller Will Strengthen Heisman Case in Win

Ryan DavenportContributor INovember 2, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 27: Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions in the second quarter at Beaver Stadium on October 27, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, the Ohio State Buckeyes' undefeated season looked like it was in serious jeopardy when Braxton Miller went down with an apparent neck injury against Purdue.

Fortunately, the star quarterback bounced back and led OSU to a big victory over Penn State, snapping the Nittany Lions' five-game winning streak in the process, and continued to build what has become one of the nation's best Heisman Trophy cases.

Now, with the Buckeyes set to take on 2-6 Illinois, it seems all but certain that the sophomore gunslinger will help Urban Meyer's boys to the program's first 10-0 start since the Jim Tressel era.

So far in 2012, Miller has, at times quietly, put together a season to remember, as he's led what was a troubled program to what should be the school's first undefeated season in 10 years, and has looked good doing it.

Last week against Penn State, Miller shook off the injury concerns from the weekend before and threw for nearly 200 yards and a touchdown, while demonstrating he was no worse for wear by running for another 134 and two scores.

Heading into Saturday's tilt against the Fighting Illini, the Buckeyes may not be playing for a national championship, but that won't stop Miller and company from doing everything in their power to prove that they're the best team in the country.

If he can help Meyer and the Buckeyes accomplish that goal, why shouldn't he be a favorite for the Heisman?

NBC Sports' Rusty Miller pointed out a few important factors in Miller's increasingly strong credentials:

Last week in a 35-23 win at Penn State, Miller became the third Big Ten quarterback to top 1,000 yards rushing in a season. He is 11th in the country and first in the conference at 121 yards a game. His passing numbers are nothing special. He has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,527 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions.

A shifty runner, Miller is at his breathtaking best in the open field. He has runs this season of 72, 67, 65, 55, 37 yards, three of 33 yards, and another for 31 yards.

Individual stats are one thing, but Miller's candidacy has gotten another boost because he has been the linchpin of a team with a 9-0 record and is ranked No. 6 in the nation.

And that quest continues against Illinois.

No, they won't be up against a marquee opponent, as Illinois has been thoroughly dominated by virtually every quality opponent its faced, including No. 25 Michigan (the only BCS top-25 team on its schedule), who lit the Illini up for 45 points in a shutout victory.

If he does take home the Heisman, Miller won't look back on the Illinois game as a defining one, but if he can help OSU run the table, every win will count, because an undefeated season isn't something voters will take lightly.

So watch tomorrow as Miller pads his stat line and accounts for a few more touchdowns, as each will be another stepping stone in his quest for Ohio State's first major trophy of the Urban Meyer era.