Much has been said about No. 4 Ohio State’s schedule and how the weakness may cost the Buckeyes a shot at playing for the BCS National Championship in January.
Even though Ohio State took down No. 25 Wisconsin and Northwestern in back to back games, the general consensus outside of Columbus is the Buckeyes current ranking is based more on reputation than substance.
While the void of ranked opponents is cause for some concern, here are three reasons why the Buckeyes should not be worried about their schedule.
Winning Matters Most
At the end of the day, the goal is survival. Winning ugly is far superior to losing admirably. Stanford, Oklahoma and Georgia were all long shots to make it to the title game before last weekend, but now, each team will be fighting just to make it to a top-tier bowl game.
Ohio State will have a few bumps over the next five games, but Iowa, Penn State, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana do not have the total packages to seriously challenge the Buckeyes. Barring a complete meltdown, they should cruise comfortably.
The last two games will make or break Ohio State's season. "The Game" is in Ann Arbor, and all bets are off when these two rivals collide. The Michigan Wolverines are lost right now, but nothing invigorates the soul better than knocking your mortal enemy out of contention. Look for Michigan to rebound before the annual showdown against the Buckeyes.
The Big Ten Legends Division race is wide-open right now, so it is tough to determine who the Buckeyes opponent might be in the conference championship game. Right now, Nebraska appears to be the favorite.
The Cornhuskers have rebounded nicely after the 41-21 drubbing at the hands of No. 9 UCLA on September 14. Granted, the schedule has been fairly weak, but Nebraska has played well in its last few games.
A signature win over the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten Football Championship Game would give the Buckeyes a huge lift if they are still jockeying for votes.
No one gets under the skin of the Buckeye faithful more than Michigan, but fans of the SEC are definitely a close second.
Ohio State’s struggles against the SEC over the last 40 years are well-documented. The last thing fans want to do is root for any SEC team, but the odds are high that either No. 22 Florida or No. 11 South Carolina will bail out the Buckeyes on November 30. It is time to get on the bandwagon.
The winner of this Saturday’s clash between No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Florida State should maintain a considerable lead over Ohio State in the polls until the end of November.
No. 10 Miami could pull the upset over Florida State in a few weeks, and Clemson has certainly looked vulnerable, but it is likely that the Tigers’ game at South Carolina or the Seminoles' game against Florida is where Saturday's winner will fall.
The Gamecocks have owned the Palmetto Bowl lately, winning the last four. Steve Spurrier loves toying with just about any team or coach, but he takes great pride in putting down Clemson and coach Dabo Swinney. He’ll do everything possible to extend the streak to five. Since the game is in Columbia, the edge goes to the Gamecocks. They’ll win a shootout.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is 2-1 against the Gators. He has the Seminoles back in the Top Five, but he must beat the Gators to stay there.
The pressure is already intense in this rivalry, but will be unbelievable if the Seminoles walk into "The Swamp"undefeated. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has displayed tremendous poise so far, but this atmosphere will be too much for him. The Gators will rattle him to win a low-scoring battle.
Even the best teams have trouble navigating the grind of the season. In the crazy BCS era, 2004 was the only time when three teams from the BCS conferences finished the regular season undefeated. Don’t expect it to happen this year.
As ridiculous as it sounds, it is conceivable that the SEC is left out this year. The East is already a mess, and Missouri’s magical run is bound to end. In the West, few outside of Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge would be shocked to see No. 6 LSU beat No. 1 Alabama and then turn around and lose to No. 7 Texas A&M two weeks later.
Alabama is the only team capable of sustaining a loss and still make it to the title game. If they do lose, the Crimson Tide will need a lot of help to get to Pasadena to defend their title.
In the Pac-12, No. 2 Oregon squares off against UCLA on October 26 and heads to No. 13 Stanford on November 7 for a Thursday night game. Win both and they will likely face the Bruins again in the conference championship game. The Ducks are strong enough to run the table, but history suggests they will drop one.
Baylor is the favorite in the Big 12, despite the close call against Kansas State last Saturday. Texas Tech remains unbeaten, too. Neither team has played Oklahoma, Texas or Oklahoma State yet. They also play each other on November 16. Regardless, it is hard to imagine either team jumping over Ohio State even with an unblemished record.
Unlike Louisville, Ohio State’s schedule is a problem only if it goes up against two undefeated teams. Of course this could happen, but the Buckeyes’ primary concerns should be winning their remaining games and improving a porous pass defense that has been torched all season. The rest is out of their control.
The Buckeyes are BCS Championship Game contenders. Seven games remain to bolster the resume. They’ll need a little help from some familiar foes, but the BCS deserves to go out with a bang. There is no better way to do it than pitting Urban Meyer against Nick Saban.
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