By Nick Vespasiano
Every year, as the college football season enters its final weeks, I’ll catch myself hoping that any there are no undefeated teams outside of the top two. It’s like I want the BCS rankings to make sense rather than be forced to trust that the right two teams are playing for the National Championship. Then I remember, as frustrating as it is to see an undefeated team not get the chance they deserve, it’s situations like these that forced college football to change its current format. If the rankings end up with “too many” undefeated teams this year, I will be thankful that starting next season the BCS will be replaced with the College Football Playoff, where the nation’s top four teams will get their chance.
With Louisville, Missouri, Oregon, Stanford all managing to slip up after high pre-season rankings and undefeated starts, only two undefeated teams remain on the outside looking in. At this point in the season, at 10-0 and 9-0 respectively, Ohio State and Baylor are both in the ambiguous situation where winning out is their only option but it might not matter in the end. Alabama could lose its 11/30 game at sixth-ranked Auburn and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston’s season (and freedom) could be in jeopardy. Which one deserves to move up if Alabama or Florida State goes down? Right now the BCS rankings say Ohio State but that hasn’t hindered any national debate.
Both of these teams have elite offenses. Led by quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, the Buckeyes rank fourth nationally in points per game. Miller, Hyde, and senior Jordan Hall have combined for over 2,000 rushing yards this season. Miller, however, has passed for an underwhelming 1,466 yards. As for Baylor’s offense, it’s averaging 61.2 points per game and 684.9 yards per game, both best in the country. Quarterback Bryce Petty is having a Heisman caliber season, completing 65 percent of his passes for 2,992 yards, 24 touchdowns and still just one interception. Running backs Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood have amassed 1,700 yards together this season and Linwood has really stepped up in relief of the still injured Seastrunk. I have to give the edge on offense to Baylor because of their more balanced attack. Any defense would be more confident loading the box and challenging Ohio State to pass than doing so against Baylor. Petty will beat you with his arm and when he can’t, he has a talented backfield to pick up the slack. Ohio State’s offense is much more one-dimensional than Baylor’s.
Ohio State ranks thirteenth in the country in points allowed per game while Baylor sits at seventh. Both teams have decent defenses, but the lack of points against speaks to how dominating the offense is when on the field. Neither defense is very consistent but Ohio State’s is the least consistent of the two. After shutting out Purdue on November 2, they gave up 35 points to a 3-7 Illinois. They allowed 34 points to a 1-10 Cal, and then two weeks later, held a great Wisconsin offense to its second lowest points of the season with 24. Baylor’s defense not only has the edge in consistency but also the luxury of the best offense in the country (and possibly of all time) to take off some of the pressure. Baylor’s defense also plays against Big 12 offenses the likes of which Ohio State does not. Baylor’s defense wins this one too.
When looking at each team’s schedule, they appear even for the most part. Ohio State’s best game was a 31-24 win against now 19th ranked Wisconsin on September 28. Baylor’s came later against the 10th ranked (now 20th) Oklahoma Sooners by a lopsided score of 41-12. Both teams played the University of Buffalo early this season at their respective home fields. Baylor won 70-13 and OSU won 40-20, but we already knew Baylor’s offense was better. Ohio State’s opponents’ combined record is 46-56; Baylor’s is 46-46. The remaining opponents records, provided OSU plays Michigan State for the Big Ten title, are 20-10 for The Buckeyes, 19-11 for Baylor’s. With such equal schedules, the edge goes to Ohio State with the better signature win over Wisconsin.
Baylor deserves to take on Alabama or Florida State should one of them lose. The Bears have done more with a resume that is on par with Ohio State’s. This could all be for nothing if ‘Bama and FSU win out. That will all change next season with the new format where both Baylor and OSU would control their own destinies.
Nick Vespasiano is a senior English major at St. Olaf College and aspiring sports writer. He was raised in Minnesota, favorite teams are the Vikings, Wild, and Twins. Favorite athletes are Randy Moss and Jaromír Jágr.