The Ohio State football team is the 2009 BCS National Champion.
This phrase strikes even the most avid fans as impossible, but it is much more probable than it seems.
The BCS rankings are comprised of the USA Today Coaches Poll, The Harris Interactive Poll and a combination of computer rankings that are each worth one-third of the overall rankings. The USA Today and Harris Interactive polls consist of human voters casting ballots every week while the computer rankings crunch numbers, such as strength of schedule and outcomes of games versus shared opponents.
The system can be quite confusing and its existence is always a hot topic in college football, but it typically favors teams with fewer losses and teams from big conferences, such as the Big Ten.
This was evident during the 2007 season, when the Buckeyes lost to Illinois in Week 12, but still managed to crawl their way into the championship game after only playing one game during the season’s final four weeks.
The rankings make the current situation, and peculiar ranking, similar to 2007.
The 2007 Buckeyes were ranked No. 7 following their loss to Illinois, and the 2009 team is ranked No. 7 in the polls this week.
The 2007 team had one game and four weeks left in the season to make up ground. This year’s team has six games and nine weeks of football to make it to the top of the standings.
In 2007, all six teams ranked ahead of OSU in Week 12 lost during the last four weeks of the season. Oklahoma and Oregon both lost in Week 12, Kansas and LSU lost in week 13 and Missouri and West Virginia lost during their conference championships.
Compared to 2007, this year’s Buckeyes actually have a better chance of making it to the national championship.
No. 6 USC plays two ranked opponents, No. 25 Notre Dame and No. 14 Oregon, and has lost to an unranked conference opponent this season. That loss could hurt the Trojans when the BCS rankings are released on Oct. 18, because the computer rankings consider the quality of the opponents a team loses to.
The No. 5 Boise State Broncos will face only two teams in the remaining season with winning records. The computer rankings will hurt the Broncos since their strength of schedule is low. OSU should pass them in the rankings before the season’s end.
Virginia Tech, ranked fourth, plays only one currently ranked opponent the rest of the season — No. 20 Georgia Tech, who they face this weekend. The Hokies will play a conference championship game if they win out, but conference championship games took down two teams ahead of OSU in 2007.
No. 3 Texas plays the toughest remaining schedule, facing three currently ranked teams in No. 20 Oklahoma, No. 16 Oklahoma State and No. 17 Kansas. This does not include the conference championship they would play if they won the rest of their regular season contests.
No. 2 Alabama plays two currently ranked teams, No. 22 South Carolina this weekend and No. 9 LSU in two weeks, and has a conference championship at the end of the year.
Top-ranked Florida has an easy schedule to finish the season, playing only two teams with winning records and only one ranked team, but they must play a conference championship.
Because OSU is likely to pass USC and Boise State, and the possibility of Texas losing one game in a tough schedule, only three teams would pose major threats to OSU.
The other three teams all play a conference championship, likely against ranked opponents, and Alabama and Florida will play each other in the conference championship if they both win their remaining regular season games. That leaves two teams ahead of OSU.
The Buckeyes must win every remaining game this year for a hope at the championship.
In 2007, the Buckeyes played only one ranked opponent after Week 15 of the season, No. 18 Wisconsin, which left their strength of schedule lower than desired.
This season, OSU has a possibility to play two Top 15-ranked teams in Iowa and Penn State.
If OSU beats two top 15 teams, they would stay ahead of other one-loss teams in the top 10 because of their quality of wins.