When Ohio State came out ranked as a pre-season number two, people immediately began talking down the Buckeyes schedule. They ripped the non-conference portion, and then continued piling on the Big Ten in general. As the wins kept piling up, OSU slipped to third, then fourth in the major polls. As that happened, many in Buckeye Nation have fretted about what would happen if OSU went undefeated, and were one of three or four undefeated teams.
Would Ohio State make it to the BCS Championship Game, or would they be left on the outside looking in?
Let me be the first to tell you – it doesn't matter. Between BCS history, remaining schedules, and something I'll call the Urban Meyer effect, I find it highly unlikely that when the music stops, OSU will be without a chair.
Let me explain:
First of all, the chances of three or four major BCS conference teams running the table are slim, to say the least. Taking a look at the BCS era, which began in 1998, let's look at all the undefeated teams that were left standing at the end of the regular season:
|2012||Notre Dame, Ohio State (ineligible; we'll come back to that)|
|2010||Auburn, Oregon, TCU*|
|2009||Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati*, TCU*|
|2008||Utah, Boise State*|
|2004||USC, Oklahoma, Auburn|
|2002||Miami (FL), Ohio State|
|1999||Florida State, Virginia Tech|
* Non-BCS conference teams that did not automatically qualify for the right to play for a title.
2007 was the Year Of Chaos, as every undefeated, top ranked team seemed to lose every week for the last month of the season. After a devastating home loss to Illinois gave OSU two losses on the year, they needed to draw an inside straight to get to the BCS title game, and it happened. They met a two loss LSU team in the BCS Title game, but to my knowledge, that game was never played. Strange.
In 2004, USC played Oklahoma for the title, and Auburn went to the Sugar Bowl, where they defeated Virginia Tech, 16-13.
So as you can see, there has only been one time – in the entire history of the BCS, mind you – where there have been three undefeated teams from BCS conferences. So really, the chances of having that occur again seems unlikely.
You're still doubting me? Well, let's look at the remaining schedules of some of the teams most people consider to be ahead of Ohio State – Alabama, Clemson, and Oregon.
Alabama remaining schedule: Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, @ Miss. State, Chattanooga, @ Auburn
Clemson: Florida State, @ Maryland, @ Virginia, Georgia Tech, Citadel, @ South Carolina
Oregon: Washington State, UCLA, @ Stanford, Utah (who just beat Stanford), @ Arizona, Oregon State
Heck, let's even throw in Florida State, because there has been talk of them leap frogging OSU if they beat Clemson: NC State, Miami, @ Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho, @ Florida
When you look at those schedules, they're littered with land mines, and I can see multiple scenarios where all of these teams lose one, if not two games.
Another argument is that Ohio State will be leap frogged by a one loss SEC team. I don't think that's accurate, either. Let's look back to just last year, where much of the narrative was the same-the Big Ten is bad, Ohio State has a terrible schedule, etc., etc. Had OSU been eligible, you can make a strong argument that they would have been ranked at number two behind Notre Dame.
At the time of Adam Jacobi's article, Ohio State was projected to be third, behind Florida and Notre Dame. It's important to note that they would have been projected ahead of Alabama, the eventual opponent of the Irish and national champion. When you factor in where OSU likely would have been ranked in the Harris Poll or the USA Today Coaches Poll, I think it's safe to assume they would have been ahead of Florida, too.
Ohio State then beat #20 ranked Michigan, and assuming they would have beaten Nebraska, who was ranked 14th heading into the Big Ten Championship game, there's no way...none, that a one loss SEC team would have jumped the Buckeyes last year.
Urban Meyer Effect
Finally, assuming the Buckeyes win out, they'll be riding a 25 game winning streak, and I have a feeling Urban Meyer will be in search and destroy mode. A lot of people lazily accuse ESPN of a bias against their school, but I would argue that the network is infatuated with Ohio State's head coach. He will be on every TV and radio show possible touting that record, the Big Ten title and championship game victory, and I think that will make a difference. Just think back late November 2006, the highwater mark for the Big Ten in the BCS era, other than, you know, OSU's title in 2002 over Miami.
Heading into the matchup of top ranked OSU vs. the second ranked Michigan, there was almost universal resistance against a re-match. In the immediate aftermath – heck, during the game, actually – Kirk Herbstreit and Bob Davie, two of the three booth announcers for that game, decided that hey, maybe a re-match would be a good thing. Throughout that week between the end of The Game to the SEC Championship game, momentum seemed to be building towards just that.
I remember a day or two after the SEC Championship, ESPN had both Lloyd Carr and Urban Meyer on the same show at the same time, via satellite. They talked to Carr first, and asked him if Michigan should get a rematch. Carr, in a manner of class and dignity, said (paraphrasing) he would let that be settled by the talking heads, and he didn't want to get into it. The host asked Meyer the same question about Florida, and he basically said (again paraphrasing here) you're goddamn right Florida should be #2, and laid out his case to the voters who were watching.
It was over. Sure, Meyer pissed off a lot of people, and came off as a dick to many but you know what? He was doing his job, advocating for his football team. By the time the last BCS polls came out, Florida had leap-frogged Michigan, and then the season ended. There were no more games played. At least, I don't remember any other ones being played.
At the time, I hated Meyer for that. But now I'd be angry with him if he didn't do that. And I have no doubt that he would. Heck, he even lobbied a little bit at the end of the season last year, knowing that OSU wasn't going anywhere, saying that OSU could play with any team in the country. Why? He was laying the seeds for 2013.
Never underestimate the lobbying power of Urban F. Meyer. Ever.
Fine, I Surrender
What's that, you don't like my empirical evidence and #hot #sports #takes? Fine, let's take your argument and play it out: OSU is one of three undefeated teams, and they'll be left out of the title game. Well, then they'll go to the Rose Bowl...and is that a terrible thing? Seriously, in the BCS era, no team has had more BCS wins than Ohio State, and no team has been in more BCS games than Ohio State. If the BCS National Championship game is not in the cards, it would be fitting, in many ways, for the Buckeyes to end the BCS era at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, with the sun setting in the late afternoon, as day turns to dusk.
No matter how the dust settles, Ohio State fans will be okay. I promise.