Over the past three months, Corey Linsley has assumed the role of Ohio State’s unofficial BCS analyst. And having researched the elements that go into choosing who will play for college football’s national championship each season, the senior center has come to the following conclusion when it comes to what this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game means for the Buckeyes’ national title game hopes:
Win, and they’re in.
“We really do control our own destiny,” Linsley said. “We just have to win this game and then it’s all set for us.”
Sure, Linsley might be a bit biased, but there’s evidence to support his prediction.
With a 12-0 record to its credit, Ohio State currently sits at No. 2 in the BCS rankings, trailing only similarly unbeaten Florida State. Behind the Buckeyes is No. 3 and 11-1 Auburn, who will face No. 5 and 11-1 Missouri in this weekend’s SEC Championship Game.
And while the eventual one-loss SEC champion -- whichever Tigers team it may be -- will likely make up ground on OSU in Atlanta this weekend, a one-loss team jumping an unbeaten squad from a power conference to play in the national title game would be unprecedented in the 16-year history of the BCS.
That means that for the Buckeyes, all that likely stands in between them and a trip to Pasadena is a 10th-ranked Michigan State team, who lays claim to the nation’s top defense. Beating the 11-1 Spartans is of course easier said than done, but Ohio State is under the impression that a win in Indianapolis this weekend would clinch a date with destiny on Jan. 6.
“We have done everything we needed to do up until this point,” Linsley said. “Our primary focus every week has been to win the game by as many points as we needed to win. We can’t start changing stuff up now.”
The concept of the Buckeyes controlling their own destiny is a relatively new one in Columbus.
It was just a week ago that Ohio State sat at third in the BCS, with Alabama and the Seminoles occupying the top two spots. Despite starting the year ranked second in both major polls, the Buckeyes found themselves as low as fourth in the BCS, and the subject of endless debates about where they’d stack up against the likes of Oregon, Clemson, Stanford, and Baylor.
But when Auburn’s Chris Davis ran back the Crimson Tide’s ill-fated field goal attempt as time expired for a game-winning touchdown in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30, the Buckeyes found themselves as just one of two undefeated teams from a BCS conference remaining at the end of the regular season. And while there’s still a conference championship to be played before the Buckeyes worry about where they’ll be bowling this winter, junior linebacker Ryan Shazier has always had a feeling that things would eventually work out this way.
“Everything is just falling into place like we thought,” Shazier said. “We still gotta take care of our business. We got a ‘W’ and that’s what we’ve been trying to do -- just win.”
At one point this season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer admitted to getting too caught up in the BCS talk, as the possibility of the Buckeyes being the odd man out looked more like a reality with each passing week. But now that Ohio State sits in poll position for an appearance in the National Championship Game, Meyer doesn’t have much interest in talking controversy -- real or imagined -- in regards to whether the Buckeyes could be jumped by a one-loss SEC champion, as the BCS veteran seems confident that a win without politicking is all that it will take to punch his team’s ticket to Pasadena.
“We play a game. And for someone to ask about something after this game, I mean, that's cheating my football team, and there will be no conversation about what happens after this game until after the game,” Meyer said. “I’ll have a comment on Sunday.”