The burden of unfairly high expectations is a real son of a gun. With Urban Meyer effectively needing to win every game he coaches "or else", when the latter scenario actually plays out in real time, it can be somewhat unnerving trying to figure out what just transpired before your very eyes.
Though all Ohio State fans knew a loss under Meyer's tutelage was an inevitability, the tacitly agreed upon m.o. that the program could potentially try to recreate the magic of 2002 as doubted underdogs against a highly favored opponent in the final year of the BCS proved to be a false aspiration. And while an Orange Bowl against a two-loss ACC opponent has never sounded less appealing, such is the fate the Buckeyes find themselves resigned to in the wake of last night's Big Ten title game defeat.
The calculus (if you can earnestly even call it that) is pretty simple of the Buckeyes at this point:
The BCS's title game will be populated with #1 Florida State, the champions of the ACC and, and #2 Auburn, the winners of a shoutout in the SEC championship. The Orange Bowl gets the first replacement pick for Florida State, but due to a BCS bowl selection process guideline, cannot take Alabama without the Sugar Bowl's blessing:
A bowl choosing a replacement team may not select:
A. A team in the NCG, or
B. The host team for another BCS Bowl;
Further, when two bowls lose host teams, the bowl losing the No. 1 team may not select a replacement team from the same conference as the No. 2 team, unless the bowl losing the No. 2 team consents.
The Sugar Bowl is set to enter into an exclusive agreement beginning next year that will turn it into a Rose Bowl "East" of sorts between the SEC and Big XII, and besides with the proximity and Alabama being unquestionably the highest profile/caliber at-large BCS school, it makes the Sugar Bowl replacing Auburn with them just about a mortal lock.
After that, it gets a *tiny* interesting, but only for semantics sake. Technically, Clemson still has the first pick, though it can't be Bama. Due to their relationship with the ACC (the ACC champion automatically goes to the bowl if they aren't BCS Championship Game bound), it's expected they'll take ACC Atlantic runners up, Clemson (10-2).
Following the Sugar picking Alabama second, the pecking order turns back to the Orange Bowl. It's expected then that they'll take Ohio State setting up the Buckeyes' matchup with the Tigers (and a nauseating month of Woody Hayes-Charlie Bauman clips being replayed).
The game is relatively little "win" from a national landscape vantage as a loss will only cause the Buckeyes to be piled on, while a win would just result in a moving-the-goal posts scenario from those quick to undermine and belittle Ohio State's success or parrot lazy potshots about lack of success against the SEC.
From a realpolitik perspective though, a BCS game is a BCS game. It helps recruiting, it gives those that desire to travel the opportunity to take a South Florida vacation around the New Year, and it gives us one more Ohio State football game. While it may seem bleak-ish now, the fan base and the team alike will emerge on the other side of the mourning period with something to play for. And a win in a BCS bowl would, at the very least, cap a three year stretch in which the Buckeyes don't have a bowl win at all to their names.