According to the experts, all the No. 9-ranked Buckeyes need to do is win the rest of their remaining games and they should have no problem finding a place within one of the BCS’ five bowl games. But the situation is complicated.
Ohio State was rinsed of its National Championship aspirations after an Oct. 16 loss to Wisconsin. The best scenario for the Buckeyes would be to head west to the Rose Bowl for the second straight year, with earning an at-large bid to the Fiesta, Orange or Sugar bowls being a close second.
In order to garner a repeat trip to Pasadena, Calif., Wisconsin must falter against Indiana, Michigan or Northwestern, with OSU winning the rest of its games and earning its sixth straight Big Ten title.
“The poll margin for Ohio State and Wisconsin is getting bigger every week, not smaller,” said Jerry Palm of CBS Sports in a phone interview with The Lantern. “The fact of the matter is more people are remembering that Wisconsin won that game.”
After the bye week, the Buckeyes moved up two spots to No. 9 in the BCS rankings after No. 10 LSU took down No. 6 Alabama 24-21, and No. 3 TCU clobbered No. 5 Utah 47-7.
Although some teams would rather carry momentum into another game instead of having time off, OSU needed the week to get its ailing defense rested for the season’s final leg.
“I think it came at the right time. We had a lot of guys hurt,” defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said. “November’s going to be a tough stretch for us, and with this little bye week we had we were able to look back at what we did and correct a lot of mistakes, and I think that’s going to help us in the future.”
OSU, No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 11 Michigan State are all tied for first in the Big Ten standings with only one loss. If all three teams were to win out, it’s likely that Wisconsin would go to the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes would be above MSU because they would have beaten Iowa, whom the Spartans lost to on Oct. 30.
OSU and Michigan State do not play each other this season.
“I think Ohio State is a pretty attractive at-large candidate,” Palm said. “I would say they land in the Sugar Bowl. If the Sugar passed on them for some reason, the Orange Bowl would be all over them. The Orange Bowl needs bodies in the seats.”
But one more loss would put OSU on the outside looking in on the BCS picture.
After Saturday’s tilt against unranked Penn State, OSU plays at No. 13 Iowa. Last season, the Buckeyes had to go into overtime to beat the Hawkeyes 27-24 at home in a game that decided the Big Ten title.
Although this year’s contest won’t have the same postseason implications for Kirk Ferentz’s two-loss club, the Hawkeyes would love to put their stamp on OSU’s fall from the 2010 BCS race.
There are only four teams that remain unbeaten and atop the BCS standings, two of which are from non-BCS conferences — No. 3 TCU (10-0) and No. 4 Boise State (8-0). Palm said those schools shouldn’t have an effect on the Buckeyes’ chances at the BCS, even though they take up two of the four at-large bids.
“November is for contenders,” Heyward said. “If we want our goals to happen, we got to take (care) of business in November. We’re looking forward to it.”