With its regular season finale win over Michigan, No. 6 Ohio State is “about as much of a lock as you can get” to play in the BCS Allstate Sugar Bowl, according to an expert. All that’s left to determine is its opponent.
No. 5 Wisconsin will likely earn a berth to the Rose Bowl by way of the Big Ten’s tiebreaker rule.
Wisconsin (11-1), OSU (11-1) and No. 8 Michigan State (11-1) finished the regular season tied atop the Big Ten standings. Wisconsin will likely get the nod because it is ranked highest in the BCS among the three teams.
Michigan State would find itself on the outside looking in on the BCS.
The Buckeyes’ opponent will likely be a team from the SEC and will be decided this weekend based on what happens in the SEC Championship game between No. 1 Auburn and No. 19 South Carolina, said Jerry Palm, BCS expert for CBS Sports.
Palm said if undefeated Auburn wins, then OSU would likely play No. 7 Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. Arkansas (10-2) earned that consideration by beating then-No. 5 LSU Saturday, 31-23.
If South Carolina upsets the nation’s top team, it would win the SEC and earn an automatic bid to the Sugar Bowl. If Auburn loses, it would slide to the Orange Bowl, Palm said.
“I like Auburn” in the SEC title game, Palm said. “There’s no reason not to. They have the best player in the country who touches the ball every single play.” The player Palm referred to is Cameron Newton, the Tigers quarterback and favorite to land the Heisman Trophy. Newton was declared eligible to play by the NCAA on Wednesday after an investigation concluded that Newton did not know his father tried to auction the quarterback to whichever school would provide cash on top of a scholarship.
Both possible opponents to the Bucks would provide interesting sub-plots to the game at the Louisiana Superdome. Ryan Mallett, a former transfer from Michigan, has thrown 30 touchdown passes and compiled a 170.53 quarterback rating for the Razorbacks.
A win for South Carolina on Saturday would mean an intriguing coaching matchup between Jim Tressel and Steve Spurrier. The “Old Ball Coach” and “The Senator” are on the opposite ends of the personality spectrum and would add plenty of colorful contrast to the Jan. 4 game.
Also at stake would be the criticism Tressel and the Buckeyes can’t beat SEC teams in bowl games. OSU has not beaten a team from the SEC in a bowl game since the inception of the BCS in 1998. Most notably, the Buckeyes lost consecutive national championship games in 2007 and 2008 to Florida and LSU, respectively.
According to ESPN.com’s projections, Wisconsin will likely take on No. 3 TCU in the Rose Bowl, barring an upset of Auburn or No. 2 Oregon. The Rose Bowl is required to take the champion of the Pac-10 unless that team is selected to the BCS Championship Game.
Oregon could lose its likely spot in the National Championship only if it loses Saturday to rival Oregon State on the road.