Ohio State Stays Ahead of Baylor in BCS Standings, but Will It Last?

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Ohio State Stays Ahead of Baylor in BCS Standings, but Will It Last?
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What does a lead of .0013 in the average score of the BCS standings mean?

That's the margin by which Ohio State has kept the No. 3 spot over Baylor in the latest BCS standings—defying our projections, but just barely. As the 2013 regular season in college football heads toward its final three weeks, the gaps between top teams will be closely scrutinized as they take on more meaning.

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Ohio State's lead would've vanished had just three coaches (out of 62) switched their votes between OSU and Baylor, or six Harris voters (out of 105) had done the same. All told, had just four or five voters out of 167 changed their minds, then the Bears would be ahead of the Buckeyes.

Baylor would also be comfortably ahead at No. 3 if the AP poll were part of the BCS instead of either the coaches poll or Harris poll. The Bears jumped Ohio State in the AP poll after a 63-34 comeback win over Texas Tech, while the Buckeyes needed late scores to pull away from Illinois, 60-35.

It's just about certain that Baylor will be the No. 3 team in the next BCS standings if it can defeat No. 10 Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Bears will gain enough in the computer rankings (a mere one-place improvement in one computer is all they need) to make up the .0013 deficit, but they'll also most likely pick up a few votes by defeating a Top 10 team.

Ohio State vs. Baylor in BCS Standings
Team Coaches Poll Harris Poll Computers BCS Score
Ohio State .9058 .9048 .8500 .8869
Baylor .8942 .8926 .8700 .8856

BCS Standings

Naturally, the next question is: Can Baylor hold on to that No. 3 spot?

Barring a late-season loss by either Baylor or OSU, that will be the most intriguing question should either Alabama or Florida State slip up and open the door for one of those teams to get into the BCS title game.

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Ohio State faces Michigan and then, in all likelihood, Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game to close out the season, so the Buckeyes should have an advantage in terms of schedule strength—even after falling to No. 4 in next week's BCS rankings with a game against Indiana. The Spartans can do Ohio State a big favor by winning their next two games and arriving at the B1G title game with an 11-1 record and a Top 10 ranking.

After playing Oklahoma State in a game that likely will decide the Big 12 title, Baylor closes out its regular season against TCU and Texas, as the Big 12 conference does not have a championship game. If the Longhorns can defeat Texas Tech before facing Baylor, it might help them somewhat in the polls, but not much in the computers. In a race this close, though, every little bit helps.

Ohio State vs. Baylor: Remaining Schedules
Week Ohio State Rank Baylor Rank
13 Indiana 64 Oklahoma State 20
14 Michigan 37 TCU 72
15 B1G: Michigan State 15 Texas 26

Rankings: Massey BCS

The race that now holds less suspense is the non-AQ competition between Fresno State and Northern Illinois. Fresno State is firmly in control of its own destiny, with the Fiesta Bowl as its likely reward if it can finish undefeated.

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The fact that Northern Illinois has gained no ground on the Bulldogs in the polls (and even lost a bit in the coaches poll) after its most impressive victory to-date—Wednesday night's 48-27 win over Ball State—is a clear indication that voters continue to hold last year's Orange Bowl loss against the Huskies.

With the coaches especially holding down the Huskies' position in that poll, there is little chance for them to make up ground, as their schedule strength for the remainder of their games is at parity with that of Fresno State.

Even though they're only one spot apart in the current standings, Fresno State's lead of .0405 over Northern Illinois is as commanding of an advantage as Ohio State's .0013 over Baylor is tenuous.

Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State: Remaining Schedules
Week Fresno State Rank Northern Illinois Rank
13 New Mexico 111 Toledo 41
14 San Jose State 87 Western Michigan 120
15 MWC: Boise / USU 57 / 70 MAC: Buffalo / BGSU 63 / 76

Rankings: Massey BCS

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