Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Ohio State Buckeyes are the fourth- ranked team in the nation, cruising along after beating each of their first three opponents by more than 24 points, with another blowout expected this weekend when they host Florida A&M.
Things are going as anticipated for the Buckeyes, a serious national championship contender, but could a quarterback controversy potentially derail the whole thing?
"Dilemma" is the word head coach Urban Meyer used to describe his situation between Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton before correcting himself and calling it a luxury. It's true that a team can never have too many playmakers, especially at the disposal of Meyer's creative offensive mind, but there's an old adage in football that says if you have two quarterbacks, you really have none.
Coming into the season, Miller was the unquestioned starter, and rightfully so. During OSU's undefeated 2012 campaign, Miller threw for 2,039 yards and ran for 1,271 more, while accounting for 28 total touchdowns and throwing just six interceptions. He was off to a great start here is 2013 as well, completing nearly 71 percent of his passes before exiting the Buckeyes' second game against San Diego State with a sprained knee.
Guiton was simply expected to hold down the fort until Miller's return, but the fifth-year senior did much more than that. After finishing the SDSU game 19-of-28 for 152 yards and a pair of scores, Guiton shined in last week's triumph at California in his first career start, completing 21-of-32 passes for 276 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors as a result.
Miller is nearly ready to go -- he is listed as probable for the Florida A&M matchup -- and while there's plenty of intrigue at the quarterback position, Meyer has tried to squash any questions about a potential controversy, at least as far as the starter is concerned.
"If (Braxton) is ready, he'll play this week," Meyer said. "I know the MCL injury very well, and he had a great one, grade two, which means those things heal. It can linger, and I'll have to evaluate that as we go."
But just because Meyer will is expected to go with Miller as his starter doesn't mean that he won't squeeze in some playing time for Guiton. Miller has been outstanding throughout his career, especially as a runner where he's averaged 5.1 ypc and has accounted for 20 rushing touchdowns. He is a smart decision-maker in the passing game too, with an impressive 30-to-11 touchdown- to-interception ratio, but his accuracy (.575) has been modest at best.
Like Miller, Guiton also has the ability to take off and run (181 rushing yards, TD this season), but he also has the height (6-3) and arm strength of a more prototypical signal caller. His passing acumen was sensational against Cal, getting wide receiver Devin Smith involved vertically to the tune of three receptions for a career-high 149 yards and two scores.
"(Guiton) is a distributor. That's not easy. There are quarterbacks I've had that's not so natural to them," Meyer said, who admitted that Guiton is more well-suited to run the offense in certain situations. "I think Kenny is a natural option quarterback. Braxton is not quite as natural pitching the ball. I would say that's probably the one area that Kenny excels at. In the last two games, we've ran more option that we've run in a long time."
Getting Guiton in for a series here and there is one thing, but what Meyer is certainly licking his chops about is the prospect of having both of his athletic QBs on the field at the same time.
"We're in conversation about that right now," he said. "If (Guiton's) one of the best 11, you have an obligation to get him on the field a little bit. And if I haven't said he's one of the best 11 yet, but that's something we are in the process of as coaches to identify that. It's a great issue to have, good players that need to get on the field."
Meyer is no stranger to successfully managing the talents of two quarterbacks on a great team. During his 2006 BCS National Championship run at Florida, he used Chris Leak (.636, 2,942 yards, 23 TDs, 13 INTs) as his starter, but he also found plenty of playing time for a freshman named Tim Tebow, who threw for 358 yards, ran for 469 yards and accounted for 13 total touchdowns.
In theory, the more playmakers Meyer has at his disposal, the better equipped the Buckeyes will be to make a run at the Big Ten title, but there are a few drawbacks to having more than one quarterback. Miller could show some rust coming off the injury, and if his performance is sub par, the fans in Columbus are sure to voice their opinion on a changing of the guard. And if Miller happens to lose one of OSU's tough games against Wisconsin or Northwestern in the coming weeks, then those voices will become even louder.
However, at this point, Buckeye Nation has every reason to trust Meyer's reasoning and decisions going forward. After all, the head coach has yet to lose a game during his tenure at Ohio State, and Guiton, for one, has put all his faith in the program and will accept whatever role comes his way.
"I'm happy with whatever they decide to do," Guiton said. "I'm all with the team. I've been like that for four and a half years. Why change now?"