Heading into an open date ranked No. 4 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, members of the Ohio State football team were well aware of their status as outsiders looking in on the title game at that point. Dominating wins against Penn State and Purdue gave no credence to the hopes that Ohio State could find itself playing for crystal without losses from some of the fellow unbeatens.
“We’re absolutely interested in it, because it’s no longer a case of us just playing our best,” senior center Corey Linsley said on Wednesday. “We also have to have someone else not play their best. I’m very interested in the games Thursday.”
His teammates also made no bones about what they hoped for in a trio of high-profile matchups while the Buckeyes sat at home. With Baylor taking on Oklahoma, Oregon visiting Stanford and Alabama hosting LSU, the Buckeyes entered the weekend with dreams of gaining ground without even stepping on the field.
“I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t be pulling for (the underdogs),” junior linebacker Ryan Shazier said on Wednesday evening. “Yeah, I’ll be pulling for them.”
By the time the dust settled on Saturday night, the Buckeyes had received a critical boost in the form of BCS No. 3 Oregon’s 26-20 loss to Stanford. However, LSU was unable to upend top-ranked Alabama, and Baylor remained hot in pursuit by thrashing Oklahoma.
Ohio State (.893) moved up to third in the newest BCS rankings released Sunday night but trails No. 1 Alabama (.996) and No. 2 Florida State (.962) by such overwhelming margins that only a loss from either of those two will catapult the Buckeyes into the title game. Even the gift of an Oregon loss came back to haunt the Buckeyes, with one-loss Stanford moving up to fourth (.869) and cutting well into OSU's previous advantage. Last week, the Cardinal trailed Ohio State by nearly a full tenth of a point. Baylor (.862) slid up one spot to fifth.
Potential Big Ten title game opponent Michigan State (.342) was the second highest conference team in the BCS rankings at 16th, while Wisconsin (.261) came in at No. 22 to give the Buckeyes one victory among BCS top 25 squads.
The Buckeyes’ third-place listing reflected the results of national polls released earlier Sunday morning. Both listings that factor into the BCS standings – the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and the Harris Poll – placed the Buckeyes at third, as did the Associated Press Poll. In all three polls, the gap between Ohio State and Baylor (fourth in all three listings) shrunk considerably. OSU’s lead over the Bears dropped from 81 to seven votes in the AP Poll, 70 to 25 in the USA Today Poll and 150 to 69 in the Harris Poll.