Before going too far into my article, I want to congratulate Penn State on a well-earned victory over Ohio State. Winning in Ohio Stadium is never an easy task, and Penn State played well enough to defeat Ohio State on its home turf and move to 9-0. Congratulations, and I hope Penn State wins the rest of its games and gets a shot at The BCS Championship.
Moving on to Ohio State...At the beginning of the season, Ohio State's seniors had goals of winning an unprecedented third straight Big Ten consensus championship, with hopes of also playing for the national championship. The second part of that sentence was pretty much concluded back on September 13th when USC dismantled Ohio State 35-3.
For Ohio State to win a consensus Big Ten championship, Ohio State needs to win all three remaining games (possible, and I'll get to that later) while Penn State needs to lose all three remaining games on its schedule (@ Iowa on Nov. 8th, Indiana on Nov. 15th, and Michigan State on Nov. 22nd - highly improbable). Even if Penn State loses just one of those games, and Ohio State wins out, the best Ohio State can do is win a share of The Big Ten title with Penn State, as they did back in the 2005 season.
Those improbable scenarios leads me to the point of this post - how will Ohio State finish out the 2008 season? Ohio State's primary focus is very simple ~
Win the remaining three games against Northwestern, Illinois, and Michigan - This goal seems probable, but I would not be so quick to dismiss these games as automatic wins for Ohio State. The game against Northwestern will probably be the biggest game at home for the Wildcats. Considering how Northwestern has already clinched bowl eligibility, Ohio State will need to come out with an intense focus for this one.
The game at Illinois on Nov. 15th should not be considered a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. While Illinois is currently struggling at 4-4, keep in mind that Illinois and its spread offense put 45 points on the board against Michigan and 55 points on Indiana. Who can forget what Illinois did last year to Ohio State in Ohio Stadium, or how Illinois took Ohio State down to the wire in 2006?
THE GAME on Nov 22nd (27 days from now as I write this) may determine if Michigan has a winning or losing season. At 2-6, Michigan's final four games are @ Purdue on Nov. 1st, @ Minnesota on Nov. 8th, Northwestern on Nov. 15th, and then THE GAME. Ohio State may be facing a team that will be fighting for a shot at bowl eligibility with this one.
While possible that Ohio State will get a BCS berth with a Rose Bowl bid, that line of thinking requires for either Texas or Alabama to lose in order for Penn State to move up a spot. Another thing to consider - if Ohio State was given a Rose Bowl bid, their likely opponent is...USC. Considering the thumping USC gave Ohio State in September, and how Ohio State/USC is scheduled for September 2009 in Columbus, would The Rose Bowl and ABC really want to put Ohio State in that game? I would guess Ohio State's likely bowl destination is The Capital One Bowl, against the SEC runner-up (Georgia? Florida? Alabama?).
Again, let's not look too far ahead. As a once wise, and now seemingly confused, football man occasionally says, "Just win, baby.". If Ohio State does that, Ohio State fans will have a better idea on what to look forward to with the bowl game and 2009.