One week ago, Ohio State was clinging to the third spot in the BCS standings. But after winning its 23rd straight game – a 42-14 win over Indiana in which it led 42-0 with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter – the Buckeyes have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
Although Ohio State has received little respect nationally, CBS Sports college football analyst Gary Danielson believes the Buckeyes are the clear-cut choice to play for a national title should Alabama or Florida State falter.
“I do,” he said on The Morning Show. “It is Ohio State. Let’s be honest here. They have gone back-to-back years undefeated if they end up beating Michigan and Michigan State. I thought Michigan State having a great season here and finishing it out with only one loss is going to help Ohio State.”
The Buckeyes (11-0) face the No. 11 Spartans (10-1) in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis on Dec. 7. But first, they must knock off Michigan (7-4) this Saturday at the Big House.
Ohio State, a preseason No. 2, fell in the rankings due to what many felt was a weak schedule. Nevertheless, the Buckeyes remain just one of three unbeaten teams from BCS conferences.
“I just don’t like to take (an opportunity) away from a team and say, ‘I know better than what you did on the field’ and say (that) Ohio State doesn’t belong,” Danielson said. “So if everybody else has one loss, I think Ohio State should play for the championship. I really do.”
Of course, it helps that previously unbeaten Baylor got destroyed by Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday, trailing 49-10 and eventually losing 49-17.
It was far and away the Bears’ biggest test of the season, and they came up short. Way short.
“It’s been my little bit of a crusade here against the spread offenses,” Danielson said. It’s not that they don’t work. I can see that they work. They produce yards; they produce big scores.
“My problem with the spread is it takes your football team and gives you only one way to win. You either score a lot of points, your offense is purring on all cylinders – or you have no other avenue. You can’t grind it out on a sloppy day. You can’t turn to somebody else if your quarterback doesn’t have a hot hand. You don’t win the game with your defense stoping a team and controlling the time of possession. I think we saw it a little bit with Texas A&M. We’re seeing it right now with Oregon if things just don’t go right.
“I believe the best way to have a consistent program and a championship program is to build your team more balanced and be able to grind out wins, to be able to power out wins. And in that game (against Oklahoma State), for whatever reason – it might have been a scheme, it might have been poor blocking by pass protection, it might have been an overloaded pass coverage that the quarterback couldn’t read – it just felt like Baylor had nowhere to turn but to make it a high-scoring game. I don’t argue that up-tempo and spread works. I just go, ‘What if it doesn’t work? Where do you turn?’”
The Buckeyes will likely be turning their attention to the Iron Bowl this Saturday, as No. 1 Alabama travels to No. 4 Auburn.
“Auburn is very unique,” Danielson said. “They have a lot of veteran defensive linemen that have played a lot of football. They go eight or nine deep. Alabama should not wear them down.
“And their offense may look 2010 and current, but after the ball is snapped to the quarterback, it begins to look like Army/Navy or Georgia Tech, and it’s very difficult to stop. If (Auburn quarterback) Nick Marshall has a good throwing game, their one receiver, Sammie Coats is going to be a mismatch for Alabama. They do not have shutdown corners, so this could go any direction.”