Kenny Guiton is the truth. If the video below (fast forward to the 2:50 mark if you wish) did not do the trick, I told you last week, and then he went out and made me look prescient against Cal.
Last Saturday in Berkeley, Buckeyes fans witnessed a coming out party. Guiton had proven himself in relief many times before—in crunch time against Purdue last season, this year against San Diego State—but coming out as the starting quarterback is a whole different kind of test. Kenny G played his smooth jazz to perfection from start to finish in a wire-to-wire dismantling of the Cal defense.
Granted, that Cal defense is not on par with Alabama. They are a poor defense in the Pac-12—a conference not exactly known for stout defense. Last season, the Golden Bears allowed 33.1 points per game on the way to a 3-9 record. Through three games this season, that same defense is allowing 42 points a game. Nonetheless, Guiton’s performance on Saturday evening was impeccable. He put up 276 yards and four touchdowns on 21 of 32 passing. On the ground he added 92 yards on 14 carries—a 6.6-yard average. He did not turn the ball over a single time. Most importantly, he led the Buckeyes to a 52-34 victory, outscoring a potent Golden Bears offense led by talented freshman quarterback Jared Goff.
Guiton’s performance against Cal has obviously raised questions of whether Urban Meyer now has a quarterback controversy on his hands when Braxton Miller returns to action from a knee sprain. Doug Lesmerises of The Cleveland Plain Dealer hypothesized last week that Guiton would start for 75 of the 124 other teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). His performance on Saturday in his first collegiate start surely won over a few more coaches and could possibly push that number even higher. However, Ohio State should remain firmly on the list of schools where Guiton cannot crack the starting lineup.
Frankly, I’m not even sure why this is a debate. I was always taught that you dance with the one that brought you. University of Texas head coach Darrell Royal—the namesake of the Longhorns’ stadium in Austin—was known to say it frequently and Shania Twain wrote a song about it. Urban Meyer must have been listening, because he has made it clear throughout this week that Miller, who is expected to play against Florida A&M, will still be the starter when he is ready to return to the field.
Miller’s numbers speak for themselves, but they are not even the strongest argument for him to retain his starting job. Instead, just remember the fact that last season, when the Buckeyes put together a perfect 12-0 season, Braxton Miller was the starting quarterback for each and every game. At times, Miller was the only offense the Buckeyes had as they struggled to adjust to Meyer’s spread attack. There’s a reason that Miller opened this season as the Vegas favorite to win the Heisman, and it’s for that same reason that he’ll remain the Buckeyes’ starter unless his play dictates that he is not the best option.
However, the confidence that both Coach Meyer and I have in Miller as Ohio State’s starter does not preclude the use of Guiton outside of injury relief and holding kicks. Meyer told the media this week that he will look to get Kenny G on the field, possibly even at the same time as Miller. “If [Guiton’s] one of the best 11,” said Meyer, “you have an obligation to get him on the field a little bit.” He specifically mentioned running the option, a skill in which Guiton is more proficient than Miller, as a possible method to get his backup in the game. Miller will start assuming his knee is healthy, but Guiton’s lucky number 13 will still be a regular participant on offense.
Everyone, Urban Meyer included, can use the smooth jazz played by Kenny G and his lucky number 13. But in the Ohio State backfield, it is rock star Braxton Miller who will continue to be the headliner. He puts butts in the seats and wins on the board, and this Buckeyes team will only go as far as he can lead them.
What do you think? Is Braxton Miller still the undisputed starter in Columbus? Or has Kenny Guiton played well enough to make this a true quarterback controversy? Let me know in the comments.