When Ohio State takes on Northwestern this Saturday night, it’s a situation where the Buckeyes need to win by a wide margin if they want to get to run the table and get to the National Championship game.
The biggest reason is their strength of schedule. According to Phil Steele, the Buckeyes play the 67th-hardest schedule in division one college football this season. Steele isn’t very far off in his calculation, which supposedly takes nine sets of “Power Ratings” into account. In the first five weeks of the season, the Buckeyes went on the road just once and played one ranked opponent last weekend against Wisconsin.
Once they get past Northwestern, the schedule still isn’t much to brag about. They’ll play Iowa and Penn State at home before going on the road to play Purdue and Illinois. Their second to last game of the season will be at home against Indiana before going on the road to finish out the regular season in the Big House at Michigan.
Excluding undefeated Michigan and the upcoming Wildcats, the Buckeyes will play five teams with a combined record of 13-9 up to this point. In a world where National Championship contenders are decided by computers, that doesn’t bode well. The BCS computers won’t like that and will penalize the Buckeyes for it.
With the way the BCS works (and thank goodness it’s in its last season), teams need big wins against small schools and have plenty of quality wins against tough opponents. Due to the strength of schedule of the Buckeyes, they don’t have as many “quality opponents” as other teams in the top 10 do. So when they go against these tough teams, they need to show the computer that they didn’t mess around.
The Buckeyes need a big win this weekend against the Wildcats if they want to be able to run the table and get in the National Championship game for the first time since their back-to-back losses in 2007 and 2008.
Against the Wildcats, the Buckeyes are going to need a double-digit, 10-20 point win in order to help boost their postseason case in the computer. While it’s not something that is desired by fans, a boring blowout would be best if you’re rooting for the Buckeyes.