Ohio State Can Finish Unbeaten but Is in Danger of Being Frozen Out of BCS

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IOctober 7, 2013

We have reached the halfway point of the 2013 college football season, and Ohio State hasn't lost a game in its last 18 tries. The Buckeyes sit at 6-0 so far this season and are ranked No. 4 in the latest AP poll, as well as No. 3 in the latest USA Today coaches poll. 

After the win over Northwestern on Saturday, head coach Urban Meyer gave a quick answer to a reporter who asked if he thought his team could stay undefeated, via Mark Schlabach of ESPN:

Who are you? The guy that sits next to the pitcher throwing a no-hitter, who tells him he's throwing a no-hitter? We're not even thinking about it. We're going to go and get ready for the stretch run.

Despite the lofty ranking and the nation's longest win streak, it is wholly conceivable that Ohio State will end up on the outside looking in for the final BCS National Championship Game.

We are just a few weeks away from the first BCS poll of the season coming out. If the human polls are any indication, the Buckeyes are going to have problems getting into the title game on their own.

The simple fact is that Ohio State needs others around it to lose, or the team is in some serious trouble.

Oct 5, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron (10) rolls out to pass against the Georgia State Panthers during the second quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

First, let us look at the teams around Ohio State in the polls—Alabama, Oregon and Clemson.

All three of those teams are receiving votes as the No. 1 team in the country in one of the two polls, which is something the Buckeyes currently aren't doing.

That's a problem for a team that just beat the two best opponents on its schedule to date in Wisconsin and Northwestern.

With a schedule that features only one currently ranked team, going forward the Buckeyes must hang their national title hopes on what happens to the teams around them—and that picture isn't bright either.

No. 1 Alabama still has games left with Arkansas and LSU, as well as the annual rivalry game with Auburn at the end of the season. If it can get through that, it'll likely get a crack at a Top 10 opponent in the SEC championship game. All of those games provide opportunities for the Crimson Tide to solidify their spot at the top.

Oregon, ranked No. 2 in both polls, hasn't even come close to playing its toughest games of the season. Washington, UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State are still left to play, and those remaining contests will help solidify the Ducks' ranking with wins in each contest.

Oct 5, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd (10) passes the ball during the second quarter against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome.  Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 (or No. 4) Clemson already owns a win over No. 7 Georgia to open the season, and its place in the polls has been helped each and every week by the win over the Bulldogs. Clemson also has dates with No. 6 Florida State and No. 12 South Carolina left on its schedule.

I think you get the point.

Ohio State has to rest its hopes on Michigan staying undefeated until their matchup, as well as the winner of the Northwestern-Wisconsin game this week not losing another game all season long. 

Those two scenarios aren't going to happen easily, but those are the only things that can help the Buckeyes directly involving their schedule.

Sure, there is a path for Ohio State to get to the BCS National Championship Game, but all the possibilities require teams around it losing football games too.

The problem is, even those scenarios don't bode well for OSU.

Why? Well, take Clemson losing.

If Florida State is the team that removes the Tigers from the ranks of the unbeaten, the Seminoles could flip positions and thus be in front of the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes also have to watch out for the winner of Oregon vs. Stanford, especially if it is Stanford. Again, Ohio State would likely be jumped (as long as all things stay the way they are until that matchup on Nov. 7).

The messiest part of all of this is that there are currently 16 ranked teams that are undefeated on the season, and three of those teams happen to be Big 12 title contenders: Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas Tech.

We've already seen the pollsters jump Oregon over Ohio State on style points and not much else, so who's to say it won't happen should Baylor win its games with Oklahoma and Texas Tech?

What happens if the Sooners win all three of their remaining games against currently ranked opponents? Unfortunately for Ohio State, those wins would trump anything it's done in conference play.

The only part of the equation we don't have in play to date is the computers of the BCS rankings, and if history tells us anything, Ohio State isn't likely to be loved by them thanks to its overall schedule.

In fact, according to CBSSports.com's latest projected BCS standings, Ohio State comes in at No. 5. That's a major problem if a team is trying to control its own destiny and doesn't have any games left with a ranked opponent.

In the final year of the BCS, it sure wouldn't be surprising that a team could go undefeated and still not make the championship game—and right now, the likeliest scenario of that happening belongs to the Buckeyes of Ohio State.


Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer.


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