Ed. note -- Who is AJ King? AJ King is the author of the piece you're reading right now. He's also another 5-star commit in LGHL's top nationally 2013 recruiting class. You can follow AJ on Twitter @allday_ajking.
I know many Buckeye fans across the country are wondering what Ohio State needs to do to get out of the unfortunate spot of being the third wheel amongst college football's unbeaten. Back-to-back weeks of hardcore drubbings against Big Ten foes Penn State (63-14), and Purdue (56-0) have not done much to impress pollsters and certainly have had no effect on the computer polls that are so highly based on strength of schedule. The truth is, there is not much that the Buckeyes can do but hope for a lot of chaos to happen ahead of them in the rankings because there are some fundamental flaws in the BCS system, as well as the national perception, that is holding Ohio State back.
1. Human Voters Are Often Flawed In Judgment
I've always argued that the USA Today Coaches' Poll has no business being in the BCS equation and with good reason. Many coaches (or more appropriately, the SID's filing their ballots) in this poll have no idea what is going on outside of the tightly run organization that is their own football program. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is on the record as saying he voted Alabama number one in the country even after FSU dominated the then number three ranked Clemson Tigers by a score of 51-14. Though I commend Fisher's ability to remove his obvious bias towards his own team, there is no way he could possibly know exactly how well other top teams in the country are looking on a week-to-week basis when he is so confined to making sure everything in his program is running smoothly.
How much of the Alabama-Tennessee game do you think Jimbo witnessed as his team was demolishing an awful NC State squad at the same time? Do you think Jimbo knows that Braxton Miller has continually progressed as a passer and an overall player since coming back from a pretty significant leg injury earlier this season? With Ohio State not on the schedule, how many Ohio State players do you think Jimbo can even name? He's way too busy to spend time scouting out squads across the country, and so is his SID.
Sportswriters are much more inclined to see more games and make better judgments on who actually is playing best at any given moment of the season.
2. Stigma That Ohio State Plays a Poor Schedule
Do you ever get tired of hearing about how Ohio State hasn't played anyone? While strolling down a Columbus street on a regular Monday morning, I heard something interesting, two Ohio State students arguing about the strength of the Big Ten.
One student made a case for Wisconsin being a very solid team and a very formidable victory on OSU's schedule. The other one replied, "Yeah they're good. But they're not Pac-12 good." This is exactly how stigma is killing Ohio State's chances at reaching the National Title Game in Pasadena. After I cringed at that statement, I thought about how voters must be thinking.
All you hear from the national media every day is that the Big Ten competition does not stack up to the vaunted SEC and rising Pac-12. People love to ignore the fact that the Oregon Ducks and Alabama Crimson Tide have played the same amount of ranked opponents as the Buckeyes to date: ONE. Also, if you want to talk Big Ten-Pac-12 you must realize that there are currently three teams in the top-25 of the BCS rankings from the Big Ten (Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin) against the Pac-12's four (Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona State). Please don't forget what happened when Wisconsin and Arizona State squared off earlier in the non-conference.
Bizarre ending to Wisconsin-Arizona State (via ESPN)
If Wisconsin makes that field goal, are we having a different conversation? Suddenly Ohio State has a win over what would probably be a top 16 ranked Wisconsin squad. At the very least, their quality win department would be comparable to say, Baylor.
3. The Big Ten Isn't Helping
Although much of what is said about the Big Ten can be exaggerated to a certain extent, the conference as a whole has been down in the past couple of seasons. Outside of Michigan's win over Notre Dame, it's tough to point to a signature out of conference victory for a league squad, and many of the supposedly better teams in the Big Ten laid eggs in highly viewed games (see Nebraska-UCLA, Penn State-UCF, NIU-Iowa, and Michigan State, despite winning three games, setting the game of football back 80 years in the process). While the "Big Ten Sucks!" narrative has been beaten like a dead horse, the only way to really change the story is to get big wins, and that hasn't happened this year. The Buckeyes missed that chance this year, but as we've covered multiple times already, that's not really their fault.
Part of the problem is that the Big Ten conference has been very slow in adapting to the fast-paced offensive game that is taking over not only college football, but the NFL as well. Quarterback play continues to be a big problem in the conference, as both Ohio State quarterbacks ended the weekend in the top three in the Big Ten, in terms of touchdown passes (Miller, 15; Guiton, 14). The only quarterback to top Miller and Guiton is Indiana's Nate Sudfeld, who has 16 TD passes on the season. Many other teams are breaking in fairly new QBs (Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Purdue), have suffered from injuries (Nebraska, Northwestern). Bad luck and inexperience can combine for some less than ideal results.
Quite frankly, Big Ten football can be ugly at times, which doesn't give many voters a reason to watch with much intent or give the conference's best team any benefit of the doubt. A Michigan State-Iowa game will not be chock full of exciting plays or highlights, unless you get excited over punts (I see you Jim). Ohio State's final three regular season opponents, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan are a combined 12-12 and likely will not give the Buckeyes much of a bump in the polls. Ohio State must hope Michigan State can win out so the Buckeyes can get a chance to prove themselves against a quality opponent in the Big Ten Championship Game.
It's been a perfect storm of factors that have placed Ohio State in a precarious position. Here's hoping for a little more chaos that will give them a chance to play for it all.
Matt Brown contributed to this report.