So begins the Ohio State vs. Baylor debate.
What started last week as a three-team discussion between Ohio State, Baylor and Stanford is down to two, and the margin is getting slimmer. A little more than a thousandth of a point in the BCS separates undefeated Ohio State and Baylor in a debate between the Big Ten and the Big 12, the traditional power and the upstart.
But the debate seems moot at this point for a couple of reasons:
• If Alabama and Florida State remain undefeated, Baylor and Ohio State are out of the championship game picture. The gulf between the top two and the rest is all but impenetrable. The Crimson Tide and Alabama claim the top two spots in both polls and every computer.
• If Baylor beats Oklahoma State next week, the Bears will move ahead of Ohio State in the BCS. Baylor has a road team against the No. 10 Cowboys compared to Ohio State’s matchup with a team that just lost 51-3.
Post-Week 12 BCS Rankings and Projections
No. 4 Baylor. The Bears only moved up one spot in the BCS standings thanks to Stanford’s loss to USC. Baylor remains behind No. 3 Ohio State, but the gap keeps closing. The Bears are fourth in the coaches’ and Harris polls, both a spot behind Ohio State. The 63-34 win over Texas Tech, though, moved Baylor from No. 5 in the computer average to No. 3, making the computers the only place where Baylor has an edge over Ohio State ... for now.
No. 3 Ohio State. The Buckeyes are hanging on to No. 3 by a fingernail, thanks to the edge in the human polls. Ohio State dropped from fourth to fifth in the computer average after the 60-35 win over Illinois. This week, just 0.0013 of a point separates Ohio State from Baylor in the BCS average. A Baylor win over Texas Tech narrowed the gap, so a Baylor win over Oklahoma State road would seem to put the Bears ahead of Ohio State for good, if both remain undefeated. If there’s any hope for Ohio State, potential Big Ten championship game opponent Michigan State rocketed up from No. 16 to No. 13 after a win over Nebraska.
Quick BCS Projections
BCS Championship Game: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Florida State
Rose: Oregon vs. Ohio State
Orange: Clemson* vs. Wisconsin*
Sugar: Auburn* vs. UCF
Fiesta: Baylor vs. Fresno State
Key Games this Week
No. 16 Northern Illinois at Toledo (Wednesday). The Huskies actually dropped a spot despite their biggest win of the season over Ball State. Thank Michigan State for that. The Spartans moved from No. 16 to No. 13 after defeating Nebraska. Another win over a quality MAC opponent on national television is mandatory for Northern Illinois to remain a BCS contender. A loss by No. 15 Fresno State, though, is looking like the only way NIU gets a BCS bid.
No. 4 Baylor at No. 10 Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State’s win over Texas last week makes this the Big 12 championship game of the week. The Cowboys will be highest-ranked team Baylor will face for the remainder of the season and the only road game against a bowl team.
No. 19 Wisconsin at No. 25 Minnesota. With Notre Dame and a second team from the Pac-12 unlikely for the BCS, Wisconsin is a strong candidate for an at-large bid to a BCS game as long as the Badgers move up five spots into at-large consideration. The Badgers face a Minnesota team that has won four in a row and still controls its own destiny for the Big Ten title game.
• Does Auburn have reason to worry? The Tigers would appear to be a no-brainer for the Sugar Bowl if Alabama wins the Iron Bowl and goes to the national championship game. One lingering concern would be Missouri at No. 8. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Missouri beats Ole Miss and Texas A&M, loses to Alabama in the SEC title game and remains at No. 4 thanks to upsets in the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten in the final weeks. Such a finish would garner an automatic BCS bid.
• Wisconsin seems to be a favorite for an at-large BCS spot, but a loss to Minnesota would end that bid. Teams like Baylor, Oklahoma State, Arizona State and UCLA are hoping for a Badgers slip up.
• The computers love Auburn and Arizona State. The computers don’t love Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
Notes on BCS selection:
• Automatic BCS bids go to the top two for the title game, the champions of the ACC (Orange Bowl), Big 12 (Fiesta), Big Ten (Rose), Pac-12 (Rose) and SEC (Sugar). The American’s automatic bid is not tied to a particular bowl.
• Notre Dame receives an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight.
• A champion from a non-automatic qualifying league (Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and non-Notre Dame independents) receive an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12 of the standings or if it finishes in the top 16 and ahead of a champion from a non-AQ conference.
• To be eligible for an at-large BCS bid, a team must have nine or more wins and finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings.
• Once automatic tie-ins are placed, the selection order for BCS bids goes as follows: 1. The bowl losing the BCS No. 1 team to the championship game, 2. The bowl losing the BCS No. 2 team, 3. The Orange Bowl, 4. The Sugar, 5. The Fiesta.
So begins the Ohio State vs. Baylor debate.