The dominoes may be falling in front of the Buckeyes, but they're not falling far enough.
Thanks to Ohio State's bowl ban, the undefeated Buckeyes have no chance of playing in the BCS National Championship Game.
But like USC in 2003, Ohio State could claim a national title this year. It wouldn't be the BCS National Championship, which will go to the winner of the title game in Miami this January, but if the five teams ranked ahead of the Buckeyes lose, the Buckeyes could claim an AP National Championship, which isn't associated with the Bowl Championship Series.
When Alabama lost to Texas A&M Saturday afternoon, the door seemed to open a bit for Ohio State. When the latest AP Poll was released Sunday afternoon, that door slammed shut with authority.
AP voters kept Alabama ahead of Ohio State, ranked No. 4 in the country behind a trio of unbeaten teams in Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame.
The Buckeyes' late-season bye week halted a recent climb in the polls. Over the past two weeks, Ohio State had ascended four spots to earn a tie with once-beaten Georgia at No. 5.
The Bulldogs hammered Auburn 38-0 on Saturday, shedding their tie with the Buckeyes in the rankings. Georgia now stands alone at No. 5 with the Buckeyes on the outside looking in, ranked No. 6 behind three unbeaten teams and two one-loss SEC squads.
With just two games left on the schedule, an AP National Championship appears to be out of reach for the Buckeyes this year.
A weak Big Ten shoulders part of the blame. The voters haven't been too overwhelmed with Ohio State's resume to date. Only one of Ohio State's 10 victories came against a team currently ranked by the AP. That victory came in Week 6 when the Buckeyes defeated Nebraska (currently ranked No. 16) 63-38 in Columbus.
Combined, the Buckeyes' 10 opponents are just 47-54 in 2012. Ohio State's strength of schedule is actually its biggest weakness.
That's why two teams with one loss (Alabama and Georgia) are ranked ahead of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State will close out the 2012 season against two of the better teams in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes travel to Madison for a matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers this weekend before their season finale against Michigan in Columbus.
But even if the Buckeyes win both of those games convincingly, it still wouldn't be enough to climb in the polls. Too many dominoes would have to fall for Ohio State to claim the AP's top spot, and as evidenced by Alabama's placement ahead of the Buckeyes this week, that seems like an impossible hill to climb.
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