Ohio State's season will be completely defined and determined by the outcome of their long-awaited game versus USC.
Not only is this game an early season clash of the titans between two of college football's most storied programs, but the game in Los Angeles on September 13th will show the nation as to how good (or possibly bad) Ohio State is, thus determining Ohio State's probable postseason destination.
Defeat USC, and Ohio State is still in the BCS title game chase, possibly for a rematch with USC (how boring would that be, but that's a subject for another day).
Lose to USC, and the best Ohio State can do will be the Rose Bowl. Lose to USC by one point, three points, seven points, (and as an Ohio State fan, hopefully not more), while bludgeoning the rest of the teams on the schedule and they will still only get the Rose Bowl.
Before firing off all of the examples of last season, when seven ranked teams all lost after Ohio State lost to Illinois, thus enabling Ohio State to climb back up into the BCS top two rankings...realize that that was last year.
While I was as excited as any Ohio State fan for another BCS title shot, the bitter reality is the national media, as well as the other coaches around the country, will ensure that Ohio State does not get a title shot unless they are undefeated.
Let me provide you examples of both the media's and coaches' utter disdain for Ohio State and the BCS...
- "Because next year's BCS National Championship Game will be played in Miami, and the Ohio State Buckeyes aren't invited. Especially if the Southeastern Conference champion is invited..." Pat Forde, ESPN columnist, following Ohio State's loss to LSU in 2007 (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=forde_pat&id=3186010&sportCat=ncf)
- "Ohio State would have finished fifth in our league and they're ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll..." Tommy Tuberville, Auburn head coach (http://mrsec.com/story.php?id=630)
And those are just two quick examples—try going on any sport blog for Ohio State, and you will find the vast majority of college football fans believe Ohio State is completely overrated and undeserving of any national championship opportunities.
Ohio State cannot, and will not, get a title shot at 11-1. Any other team, even USC who may lose to Ohio State on September 13th, will get the invitation before Ohio State.
It is not completely beyond the scope of discussion that a SEC team with two losses would get a title shot before an Ohio State team with one loss.
Is that fair? Highly debatable, but that's how all of college football is every year.