Ohio State Football: Buckeyes Need to Focus on Spartans, Not BCS Rankings

David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches his team warm up before a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Ohio Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

When Auburn returned Alabama's missed field goal for a touchdown to secure one of the most bizarre victories in Iron Bowl history, a debate instantly sparked about whether a one-loss SEC champion is more deserving of a title shot than an unbeaten Ohio State team.

The Buckeyes, who despite that debate elevated to the No. 2 spot ahead of Auburn in this week's BCS rankings, would be smart to tune out the noise and focus on their Big Ten Championship tilt with No. 10 Michigan State.

Ohio State, of course, is coming off a closer-than-expected victory over a Michigan team that finished the season with five losses.

The Buckeyes gave up 603 total yards to a struggling Wolverines offense. Devin Gardner gashed Ohio State's defense through the air, completing 71 percent of his passes for 451 yards to complement five total touchdowns.

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 30: Quarterback Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines looks to pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes during a game at Michigan Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Michigan was just one play away from handing Ohio State its first loss in two years. Trailing by one after a touchdown reception from Devin Funchess, Brady Hoke opted to go for two, and the win, instead of tying the game and forcing overtime. The Buckeyes held when Tyvis Powell jumped the route and picked off Gardner's pass, preserving the win and Ohio State's unbeaten season.

The Buckeyes have a much taller task this week in taking down the Spartans.

Michigan State boasts the nation's top defense, allowing just 237 yards per game. The Spartans are especially stout against the run, surrendering an average of 64.8 rushing yards per game, which also ranks first in the country.

Max Bullough leads Michigan State's tough defense.
Max Bullough leads Michigan State's tough defense.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Running the ball is where Ohio State excels. The Buckeyes ran for 393 yards against Michigan, 277 more than the Wolverines were allowing on average all season.

It will certainly be strength vs. strength in Indianapolis this Saturday, and the last thing Urban Meyer wants is for his team to be thinking about its poll position.

"Our focus is on this game and that's it," Meyer said, according to Zack Meisel of The Plain Dealer. "It'd be a disservice to our players if I went and worried about it. We have to move the ball against a great defense, and that's my focus."

It should be Ohio State's only focus, but if it's not, the Buckeyes' hopes of playing for a national title will be gone.


All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.