Will a Win at Northwestern be Enough to Move the Rankings

You would think that Ohio State Buckeyes took another step towards silencing the critics as they sent the Wisconsin Badgers home with their first…er…second loss of the season. However, it wasn’t enough for the pollsters as the Buckeyes lost a few more votes in both the AP and the Coaches Poll.

While Clemson was running the score on Wake Forest and a sudden squall nullified Cal’s passing game (do they have anything else?), the Ohio State defense effectively shut down two of the top running backs in the country. The Buckeyes held former No. 1 running back Melvin Gordon and former No. 10 James White to only 105 combined yards. Coming into this game the pair had each averaged more than 100 yards per game. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough for a least a few voters.

The question becomes, will a big win over an undefeated Northwestern (No. 16 AP, No. 15 Coaches) be enough to silence the critics. I’m not looking for a jump up the polls but to go backwards? It is starting to look like the Buckeyes are in a no-win situation. They run the score against a hapless Div II school and they take their shots. With a solid lead over Wisconsin, they go into prevent/game win mode and they take their shots. At some point the pollsters need to decide exactly what they want.

Yeah, the final score looked close but when Wisconsin got one more chance to turn the game around, the Buckeye defense completely shut them down deep in their own end. When you’ve got a punter who can consistently hang a backward spinning ball for what seems like an eternity and drop it dead on the 10 yard line, why not use him when the time is right. The Buckeyes already proved the had the scoring ability. Does a win now require 50+ points?

The Alabama Problem
At this point in the season, none of this should really be an issue but in a season with this much potential for a shot at the BCS Championship game, how can you not start to wonder. Alabama has all but been gifted their spot in the BCS Championship even though they are not doing a very good job at proving themselves worthy of the title. Yes, they have the win over Texas A&M but how many yards did they give up to Johnny Autograph? A&M is proving to be a one-man team (see Rice) and if Manziel goes down, expect their entire season to go with him.

Alabama shouldn’t be tested for at least another month as they line up against Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee before taking on LSU–the last team they will see with a legitimate shot at beating them. That said, I’m not about to write the potential of an off an Alabama loss before the LSU game. They proved their ability to step into a trap against Colorado State.

Oregon and Clemson
Clemson appears to be proving themselves but something inside me says that they won’t make it all the way to bowl season undefeated. They lose and they are out.

More than anyone, Oregon probably has the best chance of proving themselves worthy of the ranking. It is unfortunate that the weather prevented any chance of Cal giving them a real test. They still have Stanford and Washington in the days ahead.

So What about the Buckeyes
The Buckeyes win over Wisconsin not only ended any possible quarterback controversy, we also saw a huge improvement in the young defense–especially on the front line. Yes, Bradley Roby had trouble containing Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis but they forced Wisconsin to play a game they didn’t intend to play and that is big. The loss of Christian Bryant hurts though. It will be interesting how they fill the void created by the captain’s loss.

Northwestern doesn’t bring the pounding running game that Wisconsin does but the run/pass option is an important part of their game. If the Buckeye front line plays like they did against the badgers, they will force the Cats to turn to the long ball and they just don’t have the corner speed that we saw in Abbrederis. Something also tells me that Bradley Roby is getting an ear full this week and it making sure he doesn’t get kicked by the same mule twice.

The question is, will a big win over Northwestern be enough to nudge the polls. At this point, the Alabama hype machine is so powerful that even a loss might not drop them out of the BCS Championship talk–especially if that loss is to LSU.

And if we do somehow get to December with four undefeated teams, I say we let Alabama and Clemson duke it out for whatever title they want to claim and the Buckeyes and Oregon go at it old school style in the Rose Bowl–the only Bowl Game that really matters.

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