As we head into the 11th week of the college football season, the No. 4-ranked Ohio State football team is facing what is perhaps the most important weekend of its season — despite the fact that the Buckeyes aren’t even playing.
Next weekend, OSU will aim to get healthy and stay refreshed for the home stretch of the season with just three regular season games remaining.
But although making sure players like sophomore right tackle Taylor Decker and junior linebacker Curtis Grant are fully healthy is vital to the Buckeyes’ success for the rest of the year, that isn’t what makes this weekend so important.
In week 11, there are two top-10 matchups, and another game that might be arguably more intriguing.
Thursday No. 6 Baylor (7-0, 4-0) is set to host No. 10 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1) at 7:30 p.m. Later that night, No. 3 Oregon (8-0, 5-0) is set to travel to Stanford, Calif., to take on the No. 5 Cardinal (7-1, 5-1).
Saturday, No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) is set to take on No. 13 LSU (7-2, 3-2) at 8 p.m.
If the Buckeyes want to have any shot at playing in the BCS National Championship Game, they have to hope one or more of the undefeated teams fall this weekend.
At the moment, OSU is waiting to see if two of the top three teams will fall by the end of the year in hopes of making a push for the title.
Each of these three marquee matchups will prove a test for the higher ranked teams involved.
Baylor, historically, struggles mightily against the Sooners, only having one win to their name in 22 tries. The one win did come the last time that Oklahoma visited Waco, Texas, in 2011, but that was when the Bears had eventual Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III to lead the way.
The Crimson Tide, who have already beaten two ranked teams this year, have also struggled in recent years against their opponent this weekend. Since 2003, Alabama is 4-7 against LSU, including going 1-4 in Bryant-Denny Stadium, where this year’s game will be played.
Although the Tide have won the previous two matchups with the Tigers, including a 21-0 victory in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, it remains to be seen if they can rise above their struggles against LSU.
Then there’s Oregon.
In 2012, the then-No. 2 Ducks were 10-0 in early November and looked to be on their way to a shot at the national championship. However, Stanford had different plans, with the then-No. 13 Cardinal beating the Ducks, 17-14, in overtime and dashing any title hopes Oregon had.
It is always said November is the most important month in college football, with many teams facing the meat of their conference schedule. Last season alone, three of the teams that were ranked in the top five in the BCS standings entering week 11 lost, including both Alabama and Oregon.
This weekend is vital to the Buckeyes national title aspirations. OSU has been doing its part by winning all of its games so far, but unless something can happen in the next couple of weekends, the Buckeyes will be on the outside looking in for the national championship.
So if a few top teams fall this weekend, the Buckeyes could come out big winners — even on a weekend in which they don’t play.