Oregon's loss to Stanford last Thursday was Ohio State's gain Sunday night as the Buckeyes jumped to the No. 3 spot in the latest BCS rankings.
While that gets Urban Meyer and Ohio State one step closer to playing for this year's national title, the Buckeyes are still battling the perception that they play a weak schedule. Because of that, their championship hopes are dependent on one of the two teams ranked ahead of them—Alabama and Florida State—suffering an unlikely loss.
Fair or not, Ohio State has an image issue.
The Buckeyes have won 21 consecutive games, the country's longest winning streak by a wide margin, yet there are many who see them as a second-rate team. AP voter Jon Wilner, for example, has Ohio State ranked eighth behind five one-loss teams (Stanford, Oregon, Auburn, Clemson and Missouri).
There are others, though, that think the Buckeyes, and by extension the Big Ten, are being undervalued. Moments after the BCS rankings were released, ESPN's Rece Davis said this of the Buckeyes, according to Eleven Warriors:
Also via Eleven Warriors, Davis added, "If OSU beats MSU to end the season, it's every bit as impressive as beating Clemson. Every bit as impressive as beating Texas A&M."
All the Buckeyes can do is keep their foot on the gas pedal.
Ohio State closes out the regular season with a pair of road games against Illinois (3-6) and Michigan (6-3) that will be split by a home game against Indiana (4-5). The Buckeyes will be favored, likely by wide margins, in all three games. If they take care of business, they'll advance to the Big Ten title game with a good chance to play a Michigan State team (8-1) that's currently ranked No. 16.
Senior center Corey Linsley is unapologetic about Ohio State's plans to exert its will on the Buckeyes' future opponents.
“Call it unsportsmanlike, or running up the score, we’re trying to accomplish something nobody else in our conference is trying to accomplish at this point,” Linsley said, according to Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer.
The Buckeyes might blow out the rest of their competition, but that won't change the fact that they need one more domino to fall for a chance to play for a national championship.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.