It might not go down as the most important win of the season for the Buckeyes, but Saturday’s 20-17 win at Iowa was the most vital victory to date in the eyes of the BCS.
“It probably puts them in (a BCS bowl game), assuming they beat Michigan,” said Jerry Palm of CBS sports in an interview with The Lantern. “They’ll get a game somewhere. It could be the Rose (Bowl). If not the Rose then probably the Sugar” Bowl.
Ohio State’s win, coupled with Nebraska’s loss at Texas A&M, moved the Buckeyes up one place to No. 8 in the BCS rankings.
Nebraska’s loss dropped them to No. 15, jumping Oklahoma State and Michigan State one spot, to No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.
Palm said the only thing standing in the way of a repeat trip to the Rose Bowl for OSU is Wisconsin, who beat OSU on Oct. 16. Palm said the only way the Buckeyes could get back to Pasadena, Calif., for the “Grand Daddy of them All” is if Wisconsin falls to Northwestern on Saturday.
In Palm’s eyes, OSU will be in the Sugar Bowl playing the winner of this weekend’s SEC tilt between No. 5 LSU and No. 12 Arkansas. Palm predicts Arkansas will win and face the Buckeyes at the Louisiana Superdome on Jan. 4.
With No. 10 Michigan State behind the Buckeyes in the latest rankings, the Spartans’ in-state rival, Michigan, controls their BCS destiny.
“Michigan State is hoping to God that Ohio State loses,” Palm said. “That’s their only way into the BCS at this point.”
Wisconsin, OSU and Michigan State are tied for the lead in the Big Ten. According to conference rules, when there is a tie atop the standings, the team ranked the highest in the BCS wins the tiebreaker. Only that team is guaranteed a berth to the BCS.
No. 2 Auburn plays defending national champion No. 11 Alabama on Saturday in a game that has implications for the Sugar Bowl. If Auburn loses, Palm said, the Buckeyes could play the SEC champion — the winner of Auburn and No. 18 South Carolina — a game played Dec. 4.
But it’s Michigan week, and coach Jim Tressel refuses to focus on anything but beating the hated Wolverines.
“The Ohio State–Michigan game is the focus,” Tressel said in a press conference Monday. “You’re defined by your Ohio State–Michigan games.”
Michigan comes into Saturday’s game with statistically the worst defense in its history.
“We know the stats about Michigan’s defense but we know on Saturday that’s not going to be the same defense,” guard Bryant Browning said. “Those guys are going to be ready to play the best game possible.”