What if 13-0 still isn’t good enough for Buckeyes?

Urban Meyer isn't known for dancing around questions.
Wire
Oct 14, 2013

By Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
Distributed by MCT

But the Ohio State football coach got one on his call-in radio show last week that caused him to do an oral pirouette.

How would he feel, the caller asked on Thursday, if the Buckeyes went undefeated again but were not chosen to play in the BCS title game?

“We’re going to try the best we can to get to next Tuesday’s practice,” Meyer replied. “Those are questions we have no control over.”

He immediately began to dissect the challenges posed by Ohio State’s next opponent, Iowa.

With the Buckeyes having survived their two toughest — on paper — Big Ten games before playing at Michigan in the finale, it’s natural for fans and media to begin speculating about Ohio State's January scenarios.

Meyer wants no part of that, certainly not in mid-October. He wants his team to be in the moment, because that's all it can control. Speculating about what might happen two months from now is counter-productive to his players, he believes.

“Distraction is a bad, bad word,” he said.

But if Ohio State keeps winning, it’s something that will follow the Buckeyes until BCS matchups are announced in December.

The official BCS standings won’t be released until next Sunday, but a projection by Jerry Palm at CBSSports.com had Ohio State fifth behind Alabama, Clemson, Stanford and Oregon. That was before Stanford lost to Utah on Saturday.

The issue for the Buckeyes is that they won't get much credit for victories until Michigan because none of their other opponents is even close to being ranked.

“They had Wisconsin and Northwestern, and they didn't really put up big numbers in terms of margin,” Palm said. “Now you’re stuck with Illinois, Purdue, Indiana.

“You’re not really going to help yourself (by beating them). You’re only going to hurt yourself with those games.”

It may be anathema to Buckeyes fans, but it's in Ohio State’s BCS interest for the Wolverines to keep winning.

It would have helped Ohio State had Michigan remained unbeaten, but the Wolverines lost to Penn State last night in four overtimes.

Even victories in Ann Arbor and in the Big Ten championship game wouldn’t guarantee the Buckeyes a shot in the BCS title game.

If Alabama and Oregon win out, they are almost guaranteed to meet for the championship. Both the SEC and Pac-12 are loaded this season.

If the winner of the Clemson-Florida State game this week remains undefeated, that team also will have a good shot at finishing ahead of an unbeaten Ohio State.

Some observers believe it would behoove Ohio State to run up big margins against its next few opponents. That’s not something Buckeyes coaches say enters their minds.

“I’m not worried about margins of victory and those kinds of things,” Meyer said last week.

Before the Northwestern game, offensive coordinator Tom Herman was asked at a news conference if coaches are ever tempted to pile on points at the end of a game to impress poll voters.

“You guys have to sell papers or Internet subscriptions, and I get that,” Herman said. “There’s a reason there’s talk radio. There's a reason there are message boards. And there's a reason everybody in here has a job — and that’s to discuss things that are probably never, ever, ever discussed in a staff room.

"But you guys decide to lose sleep over it, that's fine. But we don’t. I’ve been on a few different staffs and have a lot of friends in the business. I don't know that that scenario or that style has ever once been discussed.”

It may not come into play at all. Palm said he projects Ohio State to reach the BCS title game.

“Part of that is you look at what’s ahead for some of these teams,” he said. “There are still a lot of roadblocks for those teams that Ohio State doesn’t have.”

That prompts another question: Could a one-loss team finish ahead of an unbeaten Ohio State in the final BCS standings?

“No," Palm said, “not realistically. You never know what voters are going to do, but 15 years into the BCS, a major (-conference) undefeated (team) has never been behind a one-loss team, and that wouldn't happen to Ohio State, either.”

Each year is supposed to be judged as its own entity, but if the Buckeyes win out, it’s hard to imagine that a team that had won 25 straight games under Meyer would be bypassed by a team that had lost a game.

The good thing for Ohio State is that history is on the side of BCS-conference teams that go undefeated. Only one major-conference team, Auburn in 2004, went unbeaten and wasn't chosen to play in the BCS title game. Undefeated USC and Oklahoma played for the championship.

“You realize we have to talk about this in October,” Palm said, “because usually one month from now we’re talking about which one-loss team is going to play for the title.”

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