Ohio State benefited as expected from Oregon’s loss last week, moving up one notch to No. 3 in the latest Bowl Championship Series ratings behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida State.
However, with four weeks to go before the top two are tabbed for the final BCS title game, Alabama and Florida State are solidly ahead of the Buckeyes. Ohio State, coming off a bye and headed for a game at heavy underdog Illinois on Saturday, needs to keep an eye on the two teams directly behind it — No. 4 Stanford and No. 5 Baylor — as much as on the two out in front.
Not that OSU junior linebacker Ryan Shazier is worried. He’s counting on divine intervention to help the Buckeyes get to Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 6 for the national-title game.
“I know at the end of the day God is going to take care of all the business for us and everything is going to be handled,” Shazier said. “So we’ve just got to keep winning and do our part.”
But if Alabama and Florida State win out, they will maintain their standing. They are Nos. 1 and 2 in both of the two polls that count in the BCS formula, the USA Today coaches’ and Harris Interactive polls. Although Alabama has 58 first-place votes and Florida State the other four in the coaches’ poll, the Crimson Tide is a unanimous No. 1 with all 105 first-place votes in the Harris after its lopsided victory over LSU on Saturday night. Alabama has the edge in the six computer rankings, the average of which is used to make up the other third of the BCS formula, but Florida State is No. 2 there.
Lopsided victories by Ohio State over its remaining regular-season opponents — Illinois, Indiana and Michigan — followed by a victory in the Big Ten title game over either Michigan State or Nebraska, probably won’t get the job done for the Buckeyes, who are No. 3 in the two polls and an average of fourth in the computers. Such a finish might not keep them ahead of undefeated Baylor, which can pad its résumé in games against Oklahoma State and Texas, or one-loss Stanford, which is back in play after its victory over previous No. 2 Oregon on Thursday night.
OSU coach Urban Meyer, whose team owns the nation’s longest win streak at 21 and on Saturday can match the longest in school history (22 set in 1967-69), might have to start politicking for more consideration from the poll voters.
“It’s awful,” Meyer said last week when asked whether that would make him uncomfortable. “But I work for our players — at the end of the day, I am working for the families of our coaching staff and the families of our players.”
For what it’s worth in that argument, his players are riding a wave of confidence after consecutive victories of 63-14 over Penn State and 56-0 over Purdue following a come-from-behind victory over Iowa in which the Buckeyes dominated the second half. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett believes Ohio State is at least the best of the Big Ten.
“I think my team would back me up on that, I think we’re confident at the level where if we go out there and play hard like we do every week, people can’t really roll with us,” Bennett said.
Meyer will testify that his Buckeyes, who finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll last season (they were serving a postseason ban and were ineligible for consideration the BCS ratings and its affiliated polls), “are much better than we were a year ago. Offensively, we’re playing offense,” and defensively he has seen marked improvements in recent weeks. Shazier said he thinks the team is only going to get better in the stretch drive.
“We’re not having any bad practices,” Shazier said. “Everybody is continuing to grow and continuing to push. We’re not really having any bad days. That’s why I feel like everything is going to be great.”