Big Ten notebook: Replacing Braxton Miller


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Typically, the last few weeks leading up to college football’s opener are dead. Big Ten media days are in the rearview mirror, along with each team’s media day. The first games of the season are on the verge of kicking off.

It’s a time when typically the most newsworthy content comes from roster decisions, but not this year.

Just last week, No. 5 Ohio State’s quarterback Braxton Miller reinjured a shoulder that he originally hurt last year during Ohio State’s Orange Bowl loss to Clemson.

It’s an injury that throws a wrench into the Big Ten landscape and leaves the Buckeyes scrambling for a new quarterback, who now appears to be freshman J.T. Barrett.

“I started to see it before,” said head coach Urban Meyer about when Barrett’s talent was evident. “Braxton didn’t get many reps during spring practice … all those positives are coming out right now.”

Barrett won’t only try to replace more than 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns that Miller compiled last season. He will try to replace a senior leader, former Big Ten MVP, and legitimate Heisman candidate.

Barrett will also be thrust into this situation without a predictable and stable running game because the loss of running back Carlos Hyde to the NFL. To address the current state of the team, Meyer held a team meeting on Tuesday.

“They’ve been trained for one year and a half about how you can’t control events, but you can control your reaction to those events,” he said.

On the road

Season-openers are often classified as “cupcake” games. But often, the little factors can play a role in how well teams play.

Several Big Ten teams will confront the factor of travel come Week One.

Both Rutgers and Penn State will open their respective seasons on the road. Rutgers will open on Thursday against Washington State.

The game is slated as a neutral-site game set to be played in Seattle. 

“I don’t know that I can consider a West Coast trip a neutral game,” Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood said.

Penn State will open its season across the Pond — it is set to face Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland.

“I didn’t think that would be something that would come up,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said about the volcanic eruption in Iceland. “When it was first brought to my attention, I thought it was just a headline, like, ‘Penn State is ready to erupt’.”

Tough openers

Most powerhouse teams play lesser opponents in the first week of the season.

This is not the case for No. 14 Wisconsin, which is scheduled to face No. 13 LSU in Houston on Saturday.

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen noted several pros that arise when playing a team of such caliber.

“The pro is from a recruiting standpoint,” he said. “It definitely helps us; it gets us on the national stage.”

However, there’s a reason why most teams schedule easier teams in the opening weeks. Most teams are still trying to figure their own roster out, let alone another serious contender.

“The cons are the same,” Andersen said. “There are so many what ifs in the first week. What’s your team like? How will they handle themselves?”

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