There is no good time for an injury in college football. But if you care about the game, it breaks your heart to see what happened to Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. Miller, a senior, injured his right shoulder on a routine throw during practice on Monday. He had a MRI on Tuesday after which he was pronounced out for the season. Miller said he plans to take a redshirt year and return for his senior season in 2015.
Ohio State is ranked No. 5 in the preseason Associated Press poll. With Miller, the reigning two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year, Ohio State had a chance of going 12-0 in the regular season for the third consecutive year and being among the four teams in the first College Football Playoff.
Without Miller Ohio State could still win the Big Ten championship but winning at No. 8 Michigan State on Nov. 8 with a redshirt freshman at quarterback (J.T. Barrett) would be a tall order. Still, if Barrett turns out to be another smart, efficient game manager like Craig Krenzel, who led the Buckeyes to the BCS Championship in 2002, they could still have a big season.
But here is what makes the Miller injury significant and why you should pay attention for you’re an SEC fan. In the New World Order that is the College Football Playoff, we’re going to spend much more time this season talking about who get’s left out rather than who gets in.
What does that mean? Just do the math: Five major conferences. Four slots. A major conference champion is going to get left out.
How does the 13-member selection committee determine who gets left out if there are multiple one-loss teams competing for the final one or two slots?
Example: What if Ohio State loses at Michigan State but still wins the Big Ten championship with a 12-1 record? What if there were three undefeated conference champions in the playoff (ACC, SEC, Big 12) and the last slot comes down to a 12-1 Pac-12 champ (say Oregon and Marcus Mariota) and 12-1 Ohio State which has played all season without its starting quarterback?
The easy answer would be that the team that had the best strength of schedule would get the edge. But remember that the selection committee has been given a number of factors to consider when it comes to deciding between teams. Strength of schedule is one. Winning a conference championship is another one.
And so are injuries. It is within the discretion of the committee to consider how injuries impact the quality of a team as compared to other teams.
“We are to consider injuries so we will,” Arkansas AD Jeff Long, the chairman of the selection committee, told CBSSports.com.
This injury could really be devastating to the Big Ten. No. 8 Michigan State, the defending champions, now becomes the league’s best hope of getting into the playoff. But the Spartans go to No. 3 Oregon on Sept. 6. Lose there and now the Spartans have only two games left against ranked teams: No. 22 Nebraska and No. 5 Ohio State. The Buckeyes could likely be undefeated and ranked in the Top 10 when they go to Michigan State because there are no ranked opponents in their first eight games.
But the reality is that a win over Ohio State, which has only one ranked team on its entire schedule (Michigan State) and doesn’t have its starting quarterback, simply won’t carry as much weight with the committee. They have to use some metric to pick this team versus that team. The injury to Braxton Miller, as cruel as it is, could be the deciding factor.
Bottom line. And this comes under the “Life Isn’t Fair” umbrella: A 12-1 Ohio State team with Braxton Miller will be evaluated differently than a 12-1 Ohio State team without Braxton Miller.
This much we know: The Braxton Miller injury will be a talking point in the first College Football Playoff for the entire season.