The Ohio State Buckeyes have the best chance of making the BCS National Championship Game on January 6, 2014 — yeah, you read that right.
For a refresher, here are the top-10 teams in the current BCS standings:
- Alabama (7-0)
- Florida State (6-0)
- Oregon (7-0)
- Ohio State (7-0)
- Missouri (7-0)
- Stanford (6-1)
- Miami (FL) (6-0)
- Baylor (6-0)
- Clemson (6-1)
- Texas Tech (7-0)
Why Ohio State Will Go Undefeated:
The Buckeyes have by far the easiest remaining schedule of the teams in the top-10 of the BCS rankings, with the exception of possibly one-loss Clemson. Their remaining five opponents have only mustered up four conference wins between them, so the Buckeyes are the least likely highly-ranked team in the BCS to get tripped up. Of Ohio State’s remaining opponents, only Penn State and Michigan have winning records and both teams have looked mediocre at best this season. Ohio State survived an early scare against Buffalo but has since looked better. How much better? Well, the Buckeyes managed to beat two ranked squads in consecutive weeks in Wisconsin and Northwestern.
Many will point to the fact that OSU hasn’t completely dominated a single quality opponent this year. Although true, it doesn’t really matter; if Ohio State stays undefeated – for the second consecutive season – it will continue to be within striking distance of the 2014 BCS title game.
Ohio State will go undefeated because of their unmatched depth. Their combination of running backs is impressive and will help the Buckeyes finish the season perfect. Together Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall have combined for 881 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, while both averaging an impressive 6.2 yards per carry. Their depth at running back is second only to Wisconsin and maybe Nebraska in the Big Ten but their depth at quarterback is unparalleled. Between Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton, the Buckeyes are set even if they suffer a severe injury at the quarterback position, a luxury the other teams in the top-5 of the BCS do not have. So even if catastrophe strikes in the form of injury Ohio State should still be able to run the table.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes a 13-0 record alone, including a Big Ten Conference Championship Game victory, is not enough to get them into the big game. Ohio State does not control its own destiny; they will need help from various sources. Ohio State’s lack of strength-of-schedule will keep them out of the title game if two of the three teams ahead of them remain undefeated. This is the consequence of the Big Ten being weaker, and less respected, than it used to be.
If the Buckeyes do win out they should be in a good position to find themselves invited to the BCS National Championship Game, that is if they get the help from other teams that history suggests they just might.
Why At Least Two of the Teams Ahead of Ohio State Will Not Remain Undefeated:
The help that Ohio State needs for a chance at the BCS title game is first and foremost from the teams facing Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Baylor over the next five weeks. Comparing Ohio State’s remaining schedule, with only Penn State and Michigan having winning records, to the other teams atop the BCS Standings shows the distinct disparity in tough games. I believe at least two of the three teams ahead of Ohio State will sustain a loss based on their upcoming schedules.
Alabama, ranked No. 1 in the BCS has to face LSU, Auburn and likely (currently) undefeated Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. No. 2 Florida State has to face an undefeated – and sanction free – Miami and possibly Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. Oregon, ranked No. 3, has to face UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State and most likely UCLA again or Arizona State in the Pac 12 Championship game. I believe Missouri, who is No. 5 in the initial BCS rankings, will not run the table and the only other team I could see getting into the National Championship mix would be the Baylor Bears who are 6-0 and ranked No. 8 in the first BCS standings. Baylor would have to beat Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks, and continue to look good doing it, to jump an undefeated Buckeyes squad in the standings.
Of the teams mentioned above I believe Florida State has the best chance to stay ranked that high in the BCS standings. The Seminoles running the table all the way to the National Championship game is not hard to imagine. Jameis Winston appears to be the real deal after dismantling a tough Clemson bunch in Death Valley but it should be remembered that he is still “only” a freshman. If they beat Miami they should have smooth sailing to until post-season play snagging one of the slots in the game for the crystal ball in the process. If Florida State is the only team (between Alabama, Oregon, Baylor and them) to remain undefeated that will open up a slot for Ohio State in the title game.
As stated earlier, the Buckeyes do not control their own destiny; they need help from the teams listed above to be invited to the BCS National Championship Game. But when looked at team by team, with their tough upcoming schedules, the help Ohio State needs could come a bit easier than people realize.
Why History Supports This Theory As a Valid Possibility:
Don’t believe me that two of the top three teams in the initial BCS rankings can or will lose paving the way to the title game for the Buckeyes?
Recent history shows that being ranked in the top-3 of the initial BCS rankings is far from a guarantee to be invited to the BCS National Championship game or even ending the season ranked that high. Four teams in the past five seasons have gone from being ranked fourth or worse in the initial BCS standings to be invited to the National Championship Game. Ohio State is ranked fourth in the first BCS rankings released this year. The four teams to accomplish this feat are Notre Dame (2012), Auburn (2010), Oklahoma (2008) and Florida (2008).
Only twice in the past five seasons has the BCS National Championship Game been between two teams both ranked in top-3 of the initial BCS standings. Thus, the belief must remain that Ohio State can make the jump from being outside the top-3 of the first BCS standings to the Championship Game this season. Of course the Buckeyes must remain undefeated.
History shows that it is extremely rare for three teams from BCS power conferences to finish undefeated and Ohio State easily has the best chance at remaining undefeated, thus the best chance at the title game. In the past five seasons every, non-sanctioned, Automatic Qualifying team that went undefeated has gone to the BCS National Championship Game. Will this be the year that a power conference team goes undefeated but is not invited to the championship game? I do not think so, I think the recent trend will continue and, at most, two Power Conference teams will remain undefeated by the time all of the conference championship games are concluded.
One loss by any of the undefeated teams in the BCS top-10 will eliminate them from a hope at the title game in an especially competitive year such as this. For that and the other reasons listed above, I believe Ohio State has the best chance at being invited to the 2014 BCS National Championship Game. It should be noted that if Alabama loses a regular season game the SEC’s seven year streak of championships won will most likely be broken.
Despite the fact that Ohio State is on the outside looking in at this point of the season, the Buckeyes actually have to really like their position in the pecking order. I, for one, wouldn’t be at all surprised if Urban Meyer is standing on the sideline during the BCS National Championship Game.