Unless Alabama or Florida State loses in the next few weeks, there's practically no chance Baylor plays for a national championship in January.
(Argue about Alabama's or Florida State's strength of schedule all you want. It won't change a thing if those two go undefeated.)
Even then, the Bears aren't necessarily guaranteed a spot. That's because they could be doing some serious jockeying for position with Ohio State for that second spot in the BCS championship.
Baylor came in at No. 4 in the latest BCS standings, a mere .0013 points behind the Buckeyes. According to B/R's own BCS guru Samuel Chi and others, if the Bears can beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater this Saturday, they'll have no problem jumping the Buckeyes in the BCS next Sunday.
The difference between Baylor and Ohio St. in BCS is so microscopic it's near-lock Baylor will pass Buckeyes if they beat Okla. St.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 18, 2013
The question is whether Baylor can hold off Ohio State as the season comes to a close. As Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel points out, the difference in remaining strength of schedule between the two could be razor thin.
Using Jerry Palm's expanded BCS rankings, Baylor's last 3 foes are ranked 10th, 75th and 28th. Ohio State's are 72nd, 30th and 13th.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 18, 2013
Ohio St and Baylor's remaining schedules are virtually identical. OSU's opponents (assuming MSU) are 20-10, Baylor's 19-11.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 18, 2013
Clearly, there are some assumptions being made. Mandel is penciling Michigan State into the Big Ten title game as a best-case scenario for the Buckeyes. And, again, the purpose here is to compare two hypothetically undefeated teams campaigning for one open spot in the BCS title.
It would be close. That much is clear. Take a look at this blind, skin-and-bones résumé comparison:
|Team A||Team B|
|Wins vs. top-25 teams||1||2|
|Opponents with winning records||4||5|
|Remaining top-25 opponents||1||?|
|Average margin of victory||35 ppg||31 ppg|
Nearly identical, right? For the record, and you may have figured it out already, Baylor is "Team A" and Ohio State is "Team B."
There's more to consider, of course. As of Monday, Ohio State has the better overall win (31-24 over Wisconsin), though Baylor can even the score by beating Oklahoma State.
Also, consider when Ohio State and Baylor played their opponents. Six weeks ago, the Buckeyes' 40-30 win over Northwestern was viewed as a nice game to put on the résumé. Since, the Wildcats have been in an unbelievable tailspin that takes a lot of shine off that victory.
Ohio State's four road wins are against teams with combined conference record of 0-26. Hard to complain about Baylor jumping Buckeyes.— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) November 18, 2013
Conversely, Baylor had a hard time putting away a sub-.500 Kansas State team a month ago. Now, K-State is on a four-game winning streak and looks like a top team in the Big 12. Suddenly, that 35-25 win in Manhattan looks a lot better.
But, if timing is important, what happens at the end of the season could play a significant role in the Baylor-Ohio State debate as well. Using Mandel's Michigan State example, the Buckeyes will have played a second legit Top 15, maybe Top 10, opponent at the right time. Texas, if Baylor's lucky, will have cracked the Top 25 by the time the two meet on Dec. 7.
There are enough hypothetical and hair-splitting scenarios to make your brain hurt. What if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State at the end of the season? Would that make Baylor's win over the Sooners look better, or its win over the Cowboys look worse? What about style points? How much do they factor in?
If Mandel's best-case scenario comes to fruition, if Ohio State is able to beat a one-loss Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, it could be enough to satisfy the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately crowd in the Harris and Coaches polls. And, as a result, it would be enough to edge Baylor.
On the other hand, if Baylor is able to leap Ohio State next Sunday like many think, it would probably take a near disaster of a game for the Buckeyes to jump back over the Bears.
There's a lot to think about and, more importantly, a lot of football left to be played. For the sake of choosing one and being done with it, Ohio State gets the nod, barely, based on best wins.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval.