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NATIONAL REPORT: Braxton Miller’s injury scare underscores importance of unblemished record

Ohio State quarterback BraxtMiller left is carted off field after being injured during first quarter against San Diego State an

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, left, is carted off the field after being injured during the first quarter against San Diego State in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

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Updated: October 10, 2013 6:29AM



Ohio State’s Braxton Miller went down with a knee injury early the Buckeyes’ 42-7 victory over San Diego State, and one question immediately followed the other.

First: Will Miller be OK?

And then: Is the Buckeyes’ season ruined?

There’s good news on the first front; Miller’s coach, Urban Meyer, said after the game that his star quarterback might have been able to retake the field if needed and has a good chance to play next weekend at California.

The second question cuts to the core of the stress, strain and exhilaration that comes with being a perceived contender for the national championship. If you’re the Buckeyes, it’s simple: You can’t lose a game — not because your best player is hurt, not under any circumstances at all — or else you’re out of the running.

There’s no mistaking here that the NFL is king, but why is college football just a little bit better on any given weekend from September through November? Because the essence of the college game in its current form is that every week is playoff time.

That won’t change a whole lot next season when the current Bowl Championship Series format is replaced by a postseason model that culminates in a four-team playoff. Yes, it will increase the field of contenders that possibly can lose a regular-season game and still get into the national semifinal. But only by a little.

If and when the official playoff expands to eight teams or beyond, we can have a new conversation about college football’s regular season. Until then, the top story lines every week will be about who’s still in the hunt and who’s already out of it.

The Buckeyes are still in it. Notre Dame? Not so much. After losing at Michigan 41-30 on Saturday night, it’s almost beyond reason to think the Irish can get to the title game in Pasadena, Calif., even if they run the table the rest of the way.

Does that mean Notre Dame’s season is ruined? You’d have to ask Irish fans how they feel about that.

For now, the reality is that — unless a team plays in the Southwestern Conference, which exists, rightly or not, on its own plane — losing a game at any point from September through November is the end of a road.

That must be very stressful. Easy for us to say, but it’s also exhilarating.

HEISMAN WATCH

My top five if I were voting today:

1. QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson: He barely broke a sweat against South Carolina State, but he still has the signature performance of the season, in the opener against Georgia.

2. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon: When he gets moving as he did on a 71-yard run to open the scoring at Virginia, it’s a spectacle of speed and ­gracefulness.

3. WR Christion Jones, Alabama: The Tide didn’t play Saturday, but the video of his Week 1 TDs on a kickoff return, a punt return and a long catch still sings.

4. QB Devin Gardner, Michigan: He’d be higher on the list if not for his ridiculous end-zone gaffe that gave Notre Dame a touchdown. 5. QB Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois:

What, you think this is a joke? (Please don’t ever speak of this again.)

GAME BALLS

QB Devin Gardner & WR Jeremy Gallon, Michigan

They hooked up for three touchdowns in the Wolverines’ breakthrough victory against Notre Dame. This is still a very good Irish defense. Gardner (376 total yards) and Gallon (8 catches, 184 yards) shredded it.

GAMES OF THE WEEK/WEAK

Week: No. 11 Georgia 41, No. 6 South Carolina 30. On a day without many barnburners, this was must-see stuff. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks combined for 990 yards of offense — not very SEC-like, but who’s complaining? Two weeks into the season, both teams now have a loss. Because this is the SEC, both can still aim for Pasadena.

Weak: Miami 21, No. 12 Florida 6. How does a team outgain its opponent by more than 200 yards, pile up more than twice the first downs and win the time-of-possession battle by nearly double — and lose? In the case of the Gators, the answer was four red-zone turnovers, including two interceptions thrown by quarterback Jeff Driskel, who also lost a fumble. “It started with me,” Driskel told reporters. You think?

Week: No. 2 Oregon 59, Virginia 10. There was talk during the week that the Ducks could struggle with the long travel and the early start time. Then America blinked and Chip Kelly’s old team had a 21-0 first-quarter lead on a Cavaliers team that’s hardly a doormat. Lucky Mark Helfrich gets to coach a team that likely would have been Kelly’s best yet in Eugene.

POLLING

Up: No. 17 Michigan. Beating Notre Dame will go a long way with pollsters.

Down: No. 6 South Carolina. The Gamecocks will drop out of the top 10 just like Georgia did a week ago.

In: Miami. A rare moment of semi-glory for an ACC team not named Clemson or Florida State.

Out: No. 15 Texas. Just another loss for Mack Brown, this one at BYU. The heat has officially been turned up.

EXTRA POINTS

• Through two games — against Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech, mind you — Wisconsin has yet to allow a point. Running backs Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement have each rushed for more than 100 yards in both games. All-Big Ten wide receiver Jared Abbrederis is making one play after another. Together, they’re making first-year coach Gary Andersen look very good. What are we to make of all this? Nothing yet. The Badgers still haven’t played anybody.

• Texas A&M blew out Sam Houston State 65-28, but all four of the Fightin’ Sammies’ touchdowns came before ­Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin emptied his bench. Looking even worse for A&M heading into next weekend’s game against revenge-minded Alabama, the Aggies allowed a running back named Timothy Flanders to scamper for 170 yards and a couple of scores. What’s Tide wrecking ball T.J. Yeldon going to do to this defense?

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: SLgreenberg



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