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Ohio State coming around to Miller for Heisman

Ohio State coming around to Miller for Heisman

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio State coach Urban Meyer refused for weeks to even discuss quarterback Braxton Miller's Heisman Trophy chances.

Now Meyer, who coached a Heisman winner at Florida named Tim Tebow, is joining a growing number of those who think the Buckeyes sophomore might just be a viable contender.

``Do I believe he's a Heisman candidate? I do,'' Meyer said this week. ``I didn't say that before. But I do believe Braxton is a Heisman candidate. He has to play much better. However, just from sheer production for a team that's 9-0, it puts him in that category.''

It might not seem like a very bold statement, a coach simply citing his player's chances. After all, every college player in America is technically a candidate.

But Meyer's words also have given others at Ohio State tacit approval to go ahead with a campaign to put Miller in the spotlight more.

``By him agreeing that Braxton Miller is a Heisman Trophy candidate, that's important,'' Ohio State sports information director for football Jerry Emig said. ``From this point forward, we're going to let (Braxton's) play on the field do most of his talking. Don't get me wrong, hype is good. But I also do think that Ohio State's tradition and history dictates that hype for our players for these kinds of honors is earned and not created.''

Based on what he's done on the field, Miller deserves to be in the Heisman conversation.

Last week in a 35-23 win at Penn State, Miller became the third Big Ten quarterback to top 1,000 yards rushing in a season. He is 11th in the country and first in the conference at 121 yards a game. His passing numbers are nothing special. He has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,527 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions.

A shifty runner, Miller is at his breathtaking best in the open field. He has runs this season of 72, 67, 65, 55, 37 yards, three of 33 yards, and another for 31 yards.

Individual stats are one thing, but Miller's candidacy has gotten another boost because he has been the linchpin of a team with a 9-0 record and is ranked No. 6 in the nation.

So don't be surprised if Ohio State flexes its PR muscles to try to help Miller become the school's eighth Heisman winner.

The university has never been shy about promoting players for awards. That includes curmudgeonly coach Woody Hayes, a larger-than-life figure who was fine with the hype machine helping out Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner (1974-75).

``Woody was never concerned about promoting a player, although everyone would probably think he was diametrically opposed to it,'' said Marv Homan, who worked in Ohio State's athletic communications department from 1949-87. ``Woody knew Archie's popularity with the team, and he was not concerned with singling him out for attention. He knew it would be the same Archie Griffin showing up every day at practice and every Saturday for games.''

Back then, Ohio State would include a special set of statistics highlighting Griffin's gaudy accomplishments. Opposing coaches raving about Griffin's balance and cutting ability would also be a part of the package.

The numbers - 5,589 career yards rushing, seasons of 1,577 and 1,695 yards as a junior and senior when the Buckeyes went 21-3 - spoke volumes.

Now Miller is approaching the end of a long season. Ohio State is banned from the postseason so he won't have a bowl game to further prove himself. But Heisman voting is completed in early December, so that is a moot point.

Meyer coached Tebow at Florida when he won the Heisman in 2008.

Miller is only a sophomore, but so was Tebow, who was the first sophomore to win the bronze statuette.

``I have a little experience at that award,'' Meyer said. ``Braxton has to play much better. However, I believe he is a candidate.''

If the first step is just being identified as a contender, then Miller's campaign is already well under way. Ohio State doesn't plan on putting his face on coffee mugs, T-shirts or mouse pads and mailing them out to Heisman voters.

``I'm not certain that we need to have any kind of gimmick,'' Emig said. ``The whole goal of hype is name recognition. If you plug in the terms `Braxton Miller' and `Heisman' in a search engine, right now you're going to generate 415,000 hits. I just did that a short while ago.''

So it's still basically up to Miller and how the rest of the season goes. The Buckeyes play lowly Illinois at home on Saturday, then have a bye week before playing at Wisconsin and closing the season against rival Michigan. If Miller continues to play well, and Ohio State continues to win, things will take care of themselves.

Meanwhile, the guy who stands to be Miller's campaign manager is standing by, watching closely.

``If there's something that needs to be done just to cement that `this is the guy,''' Emig said, ``We'll be in a position to do something to secure some top-of-mind recognition as we head into that first week in December.''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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2018 NBA Mock Draft: What's changed after the combine

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2018 NBA Mock Draft: What's changed after the combine

Something that used to be a rare occurrence has now happened four years in a row.

The Phoenix Suns had the best odds of winning the NBA lottery, and they did, landing the number one pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. 

Over the last four years, the team with the NBA's worst record has landed that top spot each year. Before this stretch though, dating back to 1985, only four teams that had the worst record still won the lottery.

Nine teams have also jumped at least five spots to get to No. 1 during that period as well.

Now the order is set (until any trades of course) and teams have had a chance to check out many of the top players at the combine.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT 

This draft is loaded with big man prospects too, from DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley, and Mohamed Bamba, along with countless others likely going in the top-14. 

There's also the very intriguing Luka Doncic, who most still believe won't go back to Real Madrid, even with him leaving the door open. 

A few names jumped into the first round since the last mock draft, which is something we always see after the combine. 

As for the Wizards, we know they need an athletic big man, and sitting at pick No. 15, they may just get one, although he brings a lot of mystery. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT