A defensively aggressive second half led Ohio State over rival Michigan in The Game, 26-21, thereby completing a perfect 12-0 season. The Buckeyes duplicated a feat last accomplished in 1993, when Auburn went undefeated but could not compete for the national championship while serving an NCAA bowl ban.
The BCS championship game is guaranteed to feature at least one team with a loss; should the winner of the crystal ball this January sport a blemish on its record, that would leave Ohio State as the nation’s sole unbeaten. Is that enough to earn the Buckeyes the Associated Press’s vote of confidence, and thus a split national championship?
The similarities to the 1993 season are striking. Florida State won the national championship despite suffering a late season loss at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish went into its last weekend needing only to beat a rival on the road to claim its title destiny. Sound familiar?
Auburn’s perfect run under Terry Bowden culminated with a defeat of rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The Tigers played a great defensive game against the Crimson Tide en route to a 22-14 win. Ohio State’s effort today mirrored that, much like the Buckeyes’ whole season mirrored that of the Tigers.
One luxury Ohio State enjoyed Auburn lacked was exposure. Part of AU’s sanctions included a television ban, a hefty penalty the Buckeyes avoided. Fans and pundits bore witness to the evolution of Urban Meyer’s team and the outstanding play of sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller. The adage out of sight, out of mind rings true. Ohio State was very much in the forefront of national attention all season.
Should a one-loss team win the BCS championship, an undefeated Big Ten program would seemingly be a no-brainer choice to vote AP national champion. However, this season hasn’t been the typical campaign for the Big Ten. The second best team in Ohio State’s division, the Leaders, was fellow sanction-serving Penn State. The Nittany Lions host 7-4 Wisconsin, the Leaders representative in next weekend’s conference championship game.
In fact, the Big Ten came into Week 13 with just two teams ranked in the BCS top 25: Nebraska and Michigan.
Ohio State beat both, though neither is ranked as highly as any of the top quality wins BCS championship contenders Alabama (LSU), Notre Dame (Oklahoma), Kansas State (Oklahoma) and Florida (LSU, South Carolina) boast.
Ohio State earned another quality win in the out-of-conference schedule when it beat UCF. After that? The resume is mediocre:
- Sept. 1: Miami Oh. (4-8)
- Sept. 8: UCF (9-3)
- Sept. 15: Cal (3-9)
- Sept. 22: UAB (3-9)
- Sept. 29: Michigan State (5-6, plays Minnesota today)
- Oct. 6: Nebraska (10-2)
- Oct. 13: Indiana (4-8)
- Oct. 20: Purdue (6-6)
- Oct. 27: Penn State (7-4, plays Wisconsin today)
- Nov. 3: Illinois (2-10)
- Nov. 17: Wisconsin (7-4, plays Penn State today)
- Nov. 24: Michigan (8-4)
Notre Dame can prevent the debate from ensuing, but any other championship scenario demands discussion of the Buckeyes’ worthiness.