The Heisman Trophy probably was the last thing on Braxton Miller's mind when paramedics loaded him into an ambulance in the fourth quarter of last week's Purdue game.
Now that we know the Ohio State quarterback's injury was apparently not that serious -- Urban Meyer said Monday that Miller has a sore neck but should be able to play this week -- we can look at how the injury nearly derailed his Heisman chances. Even before he got hurt, Miller had his worst statistical game of the season versus the Boilermakers, completing just 9 of 20 passes for 113 yards and rushing 12 times for 47 yards and one touchdown. The Buckeyes were also losing the game when he went down late in the third quarter.
A loss and an injury that forced Miller to miss significant time would basically have ended his Heisman hopes. Fortunately, Kenny Guiton helped saved the day, and it looks like Miller will return to start this weekend at Penn State in a big matchup. We'll have to see whether the injury causes Miller to alter his running style or play with less abandon. But the most important thing is that he's OK.
Kansas State's Collin Klein has assumed the lead in the Heisman chase, and the Wildcats' drubbing of West Virginia pushed Geno Smith back into the crowd. Because there are no clear-cut No. 2 choices at this point and Ohio State is undefeated, Miller's candidacy absorbed a rough outing. But it can't take too many more.
As we pointed out last week, the numbers between Miller and Klein aren't all that different:
Klein (7 games): 551 rushing yards, 1,397 passing yards, 24 total touchdowns, 278.3 total yards per game
Miller (8 games): 959 rushing yards, 1,354 passing yards, 21 total touchdowns, 292.9 total yards per game
The biggest difference? Klein has won more high-profile games. Miller gets a chance to answer on Saturday.
My ESPN.com Heisman Watch ballot for Week 9:
2. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
3. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
5. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama