Week 13: The moment Ohio State said hello to BCS title race
NOV 24, 2013 12:30p ET
Do you think Urban Meyer is laughing yet?
Ohio State won again Saturday, making it 11 victories and zero losses in 2013 and 23 straight wins since Meyer got situated in Columbus as head coach.
This week, the Buckeyes beat Indiana, riding the brilliance of quarterback Braxton Miller – 11-of-17, 160 yards and two TDs passing (one INT) and 144 yards and two TDs rushing on 13 carries – and the horsepower of running back Carlos Hyde, who churned out 117 of his own yards and two more TDs, against a Hoosiers run D that ranks 117th in the nation at 5.54 yards per carry allowed.
Ohio State has already secured the Big Ten Leaders division. It has the Michigan game next week, which, with the way the Wolverines have conducted themselves this season, presents itself as little more than a thick dollop of pageantry on top of the Buckeyes’ conference title game tune-up.
That will make 12 wins on the season before a Big Ten title game against Michigan State, a gang of cold brutalizers that comfortably ranks No. 1 in the nation in yards per play allowed at 3.82. At this point, we shall wait and see. The Spartans could be Ohio State’s 13th scalp, or maybe it goes another way.
But let’s say Ohio State does beat Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. It will be locked into the Rose Bowl if it doesn’t instead play for the BCS national championship. Do you think Urban Meyer will be laughing then?
Yes, yes I do. I believe, after Saturday set fire to another few blocks of Rome, Meyer is perched up on a rooftop somewhere on the outskirts, watching the flames ahead of him glow under college football’s fading sky, sniffing in some of the smoke that’s wafting not too far away.
And he’s laughing. Not a chuckle, not a hoot, not a pursed-lip snicker. I envision Meyer beginning to work himself into the kind of laughter in which you almost lose air and have to brace yourself from blackout. Something like this:
In Stillwater, Okla., Saturday night, another non-Ohio State national championship dream received the needle.
Bryce Petty and No. 4 Baylor could never do much against No. 10 Oklahoma State, with Petty passing for 359 yards but only 7.5 per attempt (28-of-48), which was 4.4 yards fewer than his per-attempt average entering the game.
The Bears ranked 10th in the nation in rush yards per attempt at 5.77 before playing Oklahoma State but were able to churn out only 2.6 against the Cowboys. They didn’t score their first touchdown until the fourth quarter, an unthinkable feat for an offense built to score in seconds. Now, Baylor does not have control of the Big 12 and could have played itself out of a BCS bowl game altogether.
In Tucson, Ariz., any argument one-loss Oregon had for re-entering the national championship discussion is no longer, not with the Ducks getting whipped by the Arizona Wildcats and receiving their second loss of the season. The night in visual form:
And so look around. A few one-loss teams sit in interesting positions, primarily Auburn and Missouri, but this season mostly, like each one, has been driven by the simple success of avoiding attrition.
Alabama remains No. 1 at 11-0, Florida State has No. 2 locked at 11-0 and Ohio State sits steadily at No. 3, in a position where the antidotes have faded. Since the season began, Ohio State has been discredited because of its schedule, and we’ve clung to any railing within reach in order to make a case for somebody else.
Well, I don’t know. I have no desire to defend Ohio State’s schedule, the source of its weekly national dismissal. It bears the Bucks’ name, so they can proudly hang it on the fridge, too.
But while we’re here, we should point out something, if only for the sake of a transparent discussion: Florida State’s schedule isn’t significantly better than Ohio State’s, yet hardly a word is spared on that among the national discourse.
The Seminoles crushed Clemson on the road and beat Miami, which may be a fine team but was overrated by its No. 7 ranking at the time, in a game in which the Noles entered as three-touchdown favorites. Their third-best win will likely be Duke in the ACC title game. Ohio State beat Wisconsin – a team that will likely finish the season 10-2 – and has Michigan State in the B1G title game. Its third-best win is probably against Iowa, which is 7-4.
On that surface, Florida State’s slate is a bit better, but it’s close. And in total, well, they’re close because they’re both terrible. FSU ranks 91st in Brian Fremeau’s strength of schedule ratings while Ohio State ranks 98th. It’s an advantage to Florida State, yes, but it’s not such a significant gap that it could explain the drastically different narratives that have been attached to those two teams.
Why is this?
Well, part of it, I think, is the country became enraptured with FSU QB Jameis Winston from his first game against Pitt and has never stopped loving him (although the affection has been put on pause some as we await a conclusion to the sexual assault case Winston is involved in). He’s clearly so much better than most other quarterbacks in a way Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is not that perhaps this swooning fogs our view of everything else, including counterarguments and comparisons.
Part of it is that, you know, the Seminoles are really talented, with NFL prospects all over, and so we’ve collectively concluded that we know they’re legitimately one of college football’s best teams and can beat anyone, because we are all a special kind of professional football scout who can see FSU’s talent but not Ohio State’s.
Another part, however minimal or not it may be, is I think many people just don’t like Meyer. Some think he’s a rules-breaker and cheat at worst or an absentee parent to his players at best. They think he won at Florida because he didn’t give a damn about the cost, which, given this scathing article and the fact he nearly destroyed his own health, has a couple strong stilts to stand on.
I don’t share that opinion, because I believe it to be too emotional and anecdotal, and the honest answer is I just don’t know, which is all beside the point.
The point is that as the redwoods tumble one by one, Ohio State stands among the untarnished triumvirate, and we are forced to answer these questions without a safety net.
I began to think about all of this Saturday night along with every Ohio State fan I’ve had any encounter with.
My aunt and uncle have a good friend, Stephanie, who loves Ohio State. She grew up in Ohio and her siblings are Buckeyes, and so I’ve heard through unnamed sources that she hasn’t loved the ribbing her Bucks have taken this season from the national media (on this site and other places). I’ve successfully avoided her this season as to not face the vulnerable position of relentless Buckeye talk and having to defend every critical Ohio State article that’s appeared on this site (hi, Stephanie!).
One of my good friends on the East Coast lives with two Buckeyes – his wife, who comes from Ohio, and their dog, who they (she?) named Brutus.
Charles Helber came to mind. Now, I don’t know anything about Charles Helber other than that he sent me a joyful and sincere email earlier this season after I tried to defend the Buckeyes, and he attached a picture he was very proud of. It was an overhead view of Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif., when Ohio State visited Cal earlier this season. The shot showed all of the red littered throughout a stadium thousands of miles from Columbus. Bucks fans probably took up half the stadium. This picture isn’t as good, but it gives you a little idea:
This isn’t meant to give the obnoxious Ohio State fans a voice – yes, there is another kind of Buckeye fan; hey now, play nice – but rather those who’ve just wanted a rightful place in the national championship conversation.
The board is still slanted for Alabama and FSU. If those two are undefeated, they will play for the national championship, and there won’t be anything to complain about. But with Auburn and, if it wins, the SEC championship game to go, Alabama has two more traps to avoid. FSU, with Florida and likely Duke in the ACC title game, has two mediocre games to take care of before finishing 13-0.
Will it all play out perfectly for those two? Perhaps.
But there, clearly at No. 3, sits Ohio State during a season in which the Buckeyes have been passed up, discredited and dismissed, and their time in this race is slowly, surely, rolling back to them.
Three mostly irrelevant things that happened this week.
The turf monster got Bryce Petty.
Think about this: North Carolina basketball outscored North Carolina football 82-80 Saturday. Good day to be a Tar Heel.
This De’Anthony Thomas catch should be shown forever.
Notes from the nation
An assortment of links from around Week 13 in college football.
Missouri beat Ole Miss on the road and is now a win at home against Texas A&M away from taking the SEC East and playing Alabama or Auburn in the conference title game. QB James Franklin returned from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for four games and went 12-of-19 for 142 yards and one interception.
LSU dominated Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel in Baton Rouge. That’s twice in two years now the Tigers have presented major problems for Manziel. His adjusted QBR of 51.2 against LSU last season was by far his worst of 2012 and quite un-Johnny like, and his 30.4 figure Saturday is awful for any quarterback.
Vanderbilt won its second straight against Tennessee and has a shot to finish the regular season at 8-4 by beating Wake Forest next week. Here’s what James Franklin has done to revive Vanderbilt: It’s his third season, and the ‘Dores will go to their third bowl game under Franklin. Before Franklin, Vanderbilt went to three bowl games in the previous 37 seasons combined.
Florida lost to Georgia Southern Saturday, and now they’re asking who will be the next Gators coach. I thought Muschamp would get a mulligan for this season, given all of the injuries, and maybe he still will. But Georgia Southern had its own injury issues, dressing only 63 scholarship players, didn’t complete a pass (429 yards rushing) and won in the Swamp. An FCS school, it was also paid $550,000 to play the game. I mean ...
Clint Chelf has been outstanding of late for Oklahoma State, and he helped the Cowboys knock off Baylor. If OK. State beats Oklahoma next week, it will take the Big 12 and play in the Fiesta Bowl. What a rewarding year for Mike Gundy’s team.
Blake Bell didn’t play because of a concussion, so Trevor Knight returned to the starting lineup for Oklahoma and played well in the win over Kansas State. It was Bob Stoops’ 158th win as OU’s head coach, the most in school history.
Arizona State beat UCLA on the road to win the Pac-12 South. It’ll now face Stanford in the conference championship game with a Rose Bowl berth on the line in Todd Graham’s second season in Tempe. If ASU beats Arizona next week, it’ll post its first 10-win season since the 2007 Holiday Bowl team went 10-3 under Dennis Erickson. The last ASU Rose Bowl team? That’d be the 1996 11-1 squad under Bruce Snyder, which lost to Ohio State.
In other Arizona football news, the Wildcats crushed Oregon at home. Great win for Rich Rodriguez, whose team is now 7-4 and has a big opportunity next week against ASU in a game that has no implication for the Sun Devils (other than just wanting to play well). Also: I bet a few Ducks wished they didn’t scoff at the Rose Bowl last week.
BREAKING: Ohio State won.
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford passed the 1,000-yard mark in the Spartans’ victory over Northwestern. Michigan State has scored 42, 29, 41 and 30 points in its last four games, respectively. Those aren’t Buckeye figures, but is it sufficient enough to beat Ohio State? Very well could be.
Wisconsin took home Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the 10th straight season by beating Minnesota. Those are two good teams working on good seasons. It’ll be a tough finish for the Gophers, with a road game at Michigan State next week, but an 8-4 regular-season record would be terrific for them.
Duke beat Wake Forest and is now a win over North Carolina away from playing Florida State in the ACC title game.
Florida State beat Idaho 80-14 Saturday. I’m not even going to justify that game with a link.
BCS buster update: Northern Illinois remained undefeated by beating Toledo last Wednesday.
Teddy Mitrosilis writes and edits college football for FOXSports.com. Follow him on Twitter here and email him at email@example.com.