Overlooking the bustle of Olentangy River Road, on the outskirts of Ohio State’s sprawling campus, an electronic billboard burns bright with the words “Get Better No. 5.”

Additional context for this message is unnecessary in football-crazed Columbus. It is more or less a get-well card from Buckeyes fans to quarterback Braxton Miller, who will miss the 2014 season after tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder last Monday — the second time he had hurt the shoulder in less than eight months.

The billboard is also symbolic of what Miller, a two-time Big Ten player of the year, means to an Ohio State team with championship aspirations. Because Miller was the crux of those hopes, it is a campaign now filled with some doubts.

This off-season, the team had placed a high premium on protecting Miller, an injury-prone but highly talented senior and Heisman Trophy candidate. Jeff Heuerman, a senior tight end and Miller’s close friend, compared the situation to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ need to keep LeBron James healthy.

Like James, Miller is the centerpiece of an organization yearning to return to its sport’s zenith. He is the face of a team that has gone 24-2 in two seasons under Coach Urban Meyer and is ranked fifth in The Associated Press’s preseason poll.

“It’s no secret or anything: He’s probably one of the most explosive players to ever play this game,” Heuerman said Wednesday. “We’re not naïve to that.”

Miller, who has said he plans to return next season for his final year of eligibility, is fourth in wins by a starting quarterback at Ohio State (26), fourth in touchdown passes (52) and ninth in passing yards (5,292). He is also seventh in rushing (3,054 yards) and has 32 rushing touchdowns. He holds nine program records and was poised to break eight career marks this season.

“I think you can argue he’s accomplished more statistically in three years than anyone who’s ever played at Ohio State,” Beau Bishop, a sports anchor for WBNS 10TV and a radio talk-show host for 97.1 The Fan in Columbus, said.

Yet Ohio State has not won a Big Ten or national title with Miller under center, with the team ineligible for postseason play in its undefeated 2012 season because of N.C.A.A. sanctions. This was supposed to be the breakthrough season, and Miller, who had torn the labrum in his right shoulder during a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl, was supposed to lead the charge after coming back from arthroscopic surgery in February.