Altvater: Big Ten losses outside conference affect OSU title hopesWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Even though Ohio State is a perfect 10-0 in 2013, the team remains No. 3 in the BCS Bowl rankings and appears to be out of the picture for an appearance in the BCS Championship game in January.
The Buckeyes are 22-0 over the past two seasons under head coach Urban Meyer. With a career record of 127-23, Meyer has been successful at every stop. He began his collegiate head coaching career at Bowling Green State University, moved on to Utah and won two national championships at Florida in 2006 and 2008. He has yet to lose at OSU, but does not have any hardware to put in the Ohio State trophy case to prove it.
Last year the Buckeyes went 12-0 but were ineligible to play for the Big Ten championship or in the national championship game due to self-imposed sanctions and stayed home during the bowl season.
The undefeated Buckeyes are ranked behind two other undefeated teams, Alabama and Florida State.
Alabama, under head coach Nick Saban, has won the NCAA Division 1 National Championship three of the last four years. Florida State’s young quarterback Jameis Winston is all the rage among college football media and may keep Ohio State out of the national championship game again this year.
The Big Ten has an image problem. Its record in bowl games over the past several years is abysmal and when its schools play good teams outside the league early in the season, they lose.
Although Ohio State has not helped itself by playing a relatively weak nonconference schedule, three key losses by Big Ten teams early in the 2013 season have affected Ohio State’s BCS ranking.
In September, Wisconsin was ranked No. 20, but lost at Arizona State University 32-30. ASU was unranked and pulled out a win after an unusual finish at Sun Devil Stadium. With the ball on the 13-yard line the Wisconsin quarterback tried to center the ball for the winning field goal with 18 seconds remaining on the clock. Wisconsin did not have any timeouts remaining and the clock ran out before they could make the attempt.
Wisconsin has gone on to an 8-2 record losing only to Ohio State in conference play and climbed back inside the Top 25 in the nation.
Michigan State was unranked and undefeated when it lost to No. 22 Notre Dame in September. The top-ranked Spartan defense held Notre Dame to 220 yards of total offense, but several pass interference calls against the Spartan defense and an interception on a trick play proved to be the undoing for MSU.
Notre Dame won 17-14 and this is the only blemish on the season for the Spartans. The school is undefeated in the Big Ten and rebounded to the No. 16 in the BCS rankings.
Perhaps the biggest blow to Ohio State’s championship hopes has been issued by the University of Michigan. The Buckeyes have won eight of the last nine Michigan games, but Michigan is getting its revenge this season.
The Wolverines started the season strong with a win over No. 14 ranked Notre Dame. The next week, versus Mid-American Conference member Akron, UM struggled and only managed to eke out a 28-24 win.
BCS computers and voters do not look kindly on a Big Ten team that struggles to beat an inferior opponent.
Michigan struggled again the next week versus the University of Connecticut and did further damage to the image of the Big Ten.
These three games early in the season gave the perception to BCS voters that the Big Ten is not as dominant as it should be when playing outside the conference.
NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State have also hurt the league tremendously. Penn State is a perennial power in the nation. It has not been able to regain its dominance since the Jerry Sandusky affair.
For Ohio State to be appreciated by the BCS voters — and more importantly by the BCS computers — the Big Ten needs Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan State and Wisconsin to become more competitive when playing teams outside the Big Ten.
They can begin to change the perception of the strength of the Big Ten with wins in bowl games this year. But those will be too late to affect the BCS voting for this season.
Bowl wins, however, would help to regain power status for the beleaguered Big Ten conference.
The Buckeyes would not have a problem if it was the 2014 season. The top four ranked teams will go into a playoff for the national championship next year.