By Will Vandervort
If Clemson fans think South Carolina’s Conner Shaw was difficult to handle, then they have not seen Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller play.
“First of all, he is a great winner. The guy has lost only one game in two years,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney chuckled. “That’s the number one thing that jumps out at me, he wins.”
In his two years as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, Miller has led them to a 22-1 record, including back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior has done it with both his legs and his arms, too.
This year he has thrown for 1,860 yards, while throwing 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions. But like Shaw, his strength comes in his legs. He has run for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns, while averaging 6.8 yards per carry. All three numbers rank second on the team.
Miller is a big reason why Ohio State averages 317.5 yards per game on the ground. This more than anything is what Clemson fans can look forward to in the 80th Annual Discover Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 in Miami, Fla.
“He is a very capable thrower, but he is like having a running back that can throw the football,” Swinney said. “He is fast. He is powerful.
“I have had opportunities to see those guys play on several occasions. He is an outstanding football player that can beat you a lot of different ways and that is why they have rushed the football so well this year. That quarterback going along with that big back they have, they are a very potent combination.”
Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde has run for 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games this season, while averaging 7.7 yards per carry. The Tigers, who are giving up 152.6 yards per game on the ground, have done a fairly decent job of stopping the big running backs this year.
Though Todd Gurley rushed for 154 yards in the season-opener for Georgia, Clemson held the nation’s leading rusher and Heisman Trophy Finalist, Boston College’s Andre Williams, to a season-low 70 yards on 24 carries and the SEC’s regular-season rushing leader, South Carolina’s Mike Davis, to 22 yards on 15 carries.
“Clemson has a very good run defense, especially with its front four. It’s been hard to knock them off the ball,” ESPN analyst David Pollack said.
But the Tigers have had their issues with running quarterbacks. Though Davis and the other South Carolina running backs got little against the Clemson defense, Shaw rushed for 94 yards on 22 carries and single handedly led the Gamecocks to victory.
Throw in Pharoh Cooper’s 18 yards from the Wildcat formation, and the quarterback position rushed for 112 of USC’s 140 yards that night. Comparatively speaking, Miller is averaging 93.9 rushing yards per game.
Miller has also rushed for 520 more yards than Shaw and scored five more touchdowns, too.
“He is just a great winner,” Swinney said.
Obviously a great runner, too.