By Kevin McGuire
Alabama and Florida State, as expected, remained on top of the latest BCS rankings, released Sunday night, which means the Crimson Tide and Seminoles are closing in on a potential BCS Championship clash in Pasadena. The real race continues to be the battle for third place in the rankings, where Ohio State and Baylor are battling for positioning in the event Alabama or Florida State happen to lose a game coming down the final stretch.
The easy question is to ask if Ohio State is better than Baylor, but the real question you should ask is if Michigan State is better than Oklahoma State. With Baylor closing in to within a thousandth of a point of Ohio State in the latest BCS standings, a closer analytical look at the schedule will be needed as we try to determine which team would be more worthy of playing for a BCS title if Alabama or Florida State should stumble, assuming the Buckeyes and Bears manage to run the table.
The computer rankings used to determine the BCS rankings currently look down on Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the support in the human polls to stay ahead of Baylor, but Baylor has a higher computer ranking in four of the six systems used in the BCS equation. This is where Ohio State may still need a little help to come its way. That help would have to come in the form of Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. To help Ohio State get one final boost in the BCS standings, it would be ideal to take on and defeat an 11-1 Michigan State team in Indianapolis because as it stands now, wins over Indiana and Michigan just do not stack up compared to the schedule Baylor has coming up.
Baylor plays its next two games on the road, but the biggest game will be played this weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Baylor and Oklahoma State will be playing for the top spot in the Big 12. The Bears end the year with a road game at TCU and then at home against Texas. Baylor plays a much more difficult schedule this month than Ohio State, and a win this weekend at Oklahoma State could be enough to nudge by the Buckeyes for the sought-out third spot in the BCS rankings. This makes Michigan State’s season every bit as important as Ohio State’s over the next few weeks.
Oklahoma State is currently ranked ahead of Michigan State by three spots. Oklahoma State excels on offense while the Spartans win games on the strength of their defense. If Baylor wins this weekend, Michigan State will move up if the team can leave Northwestern with a win. If Michigan State wins its final two games of the regular season, it will likely reach the Big Ten championship game with a top ten BCS ranking, giving Ohio State one last opportunity to push past or further ahead of Baylor.
Michigan State or Oklahoma State? That is the most important question over the next few weeks, but it will not matter if Alabama and Florida State run the table to collide in Pasadena.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.