Up-And-Down Buckeyes Still Want To Be No. 1

With two games left in the regular season but seemingly entrenched in fifth place in the AP poll behind four fellow unbeatens, Ohio State doesn't have an easy path to get to the top spot by season's end. But the Buckeyes still think it's possible. BuckeyeSports.com tries to make sense of OSU's ranking in this piece.

Bradley Roby admitted when the Ohio State football team beat Nebraska to vanquish its second straight ranked foe and move to 6-0 on the year that the Buckeyes had a lofty goal in mind.

"We're trying to go 12-0 and win every single game, trying to get that AP No. 1," Roby said. "We want to win the national championship. That's our goal. They can't take that away."

Four weeks later, the Buckeyes are now just wins vs. Wisconsin and Michigan away from that perfect season – but just about as far from that No. 1 goal as earlier in the season.

Ohio State jumped up into the top 10 of the AP poll after the Nebraska win, but the Buckeyes haven't been able to get any higher than a tie for fifth this week with one-loss Georgia. One of six undefeated teams in the nation, the Buckeyes are behind fellow unbeatens Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame and ahead of No. 11 Louisville.

With the Crimson Tide, Ducks and Wildcats all having overcome challenges from ranked foes over the weekend – while Notre Dame survived a three-overtime battle with Pittsburgh – the Buckeyes weren't able to gain much momentum after a 52-22 blowout win vs. Illinois.

As time runs down on the regular season, the Buckeyes' path to the top spot in the AP poll doesn't look easy. But during this roller-coaster, topsy-turvy season, there is the question of where the Buckeyes should be in the polls.

Are they really the No. 5 team in the country, given the number of close wins against foes like Cal, UAB, Indiana and Purdue? Or do the talents of such players as Braxton Miller, Johnny Simon and Roby mean the Buckeyes should be in the discussion with the other undefeated teams as to who truly is No. 1?

The fans, by and large, think the Buckeyes are rated where they should be. In a poll done here on BuckeyeSports.com over the weekend, more than 70 percent of voters say Ohio State is properly rated, though almost twice as many of the remaining voters say the Buckeyes should be rated higher than lower.

And at least one Ohio State player has a definite opinion on the subject.

"They don't even talk about us right now," wideout Corey Brown said. "They are talking about the Oregons and the Alabamas right now, but we are going to keep doing our job and keep winning. At the end of the year when we're undefeated, we'll see who they're talking about."

The Buckeyes will have the chance to keep climbing with wins against the Badgers and Wolverines, but in the meantime, the computers provide a slightly different perspective than the AP poll.

Notre Dame, Kansas State and Oregon are in the top three of each of the six computer rankings used in the Bowl Championship Series standings, while Oregon checks in anywhere from fourth to seventh.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have a larger spread. Ohio State has a top ranking of fourth in the Anderson & Hester computer ranking while sitting fifth in the Colley Matrix and Peter Wolfe rankings, seventh in those done by Kenneth Massey, eighth in those by Richard Billingsley and 10th in those by Jeff Sagarin.

In fact, one-loss Georgia and Florida also boast better computer ranking averages than the Buckeyes, throwing a wrench into the discussion of just who should be ranked where.

One reason the Buckeyes have struggled to gain traction in either the human or computer polls is the team's schedule. The only team the Buckeyes have beaten that is in the top 20 of the BCS poll is No. 16 Nebraska, while Alabama has dumped No. 7 LSU, and Kansas State and Notre Dame have upended No. 12 Oklahoma. Oregon has beaten No. 19 USC and still has a matchup with 11th-ranked Oregon State on the horizon.

In all, the NCAA says the four undefeated teams above OSU have schedules ranked in the top 35 in the nation, while the Buckeyes are ranked 60th. (Louisville, meanwhile, is 115th).

When it comes to the eye test, as well, there are some pluses and minuses for the Buckeyes. Head coach Urban Meyer said the way the Buckeyes dominated the line of scrimmage in Saturday's win vs. Illinois was representative of the way a top-five team would operate, but the first-year mentor still sees issues with his squad.

Of course, as a coach that has won multiple BCS games and a pair of national championships, Meyer has a unique ability to rate top teams. Given problems with his team's dropback passing game and occasional struggles on defense – both with giving up big plays and yards in the passing game as well as with committing penalties – Meyer sees places his team can get better.

"I've been fortunate to have a couple of top-five teams, and this probably has more holes than those other ones," Meyer said. "However, there's also some great performances. So we are going to dwell on the weaknesses because those weaknesses get exposed when you play two good teams like we have to finish the season."

The numbers also show the Buckeyes lacking a dominant unit like the other top teams in the nation. Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame are ranked in the top five in either scoring offense or defense – Alabama in both – showing that each has at least one dominant unit. Meanwhile, OSU is 12th in scoring offense but 46th in points allowed.

"We still have some weaknesses," Meyer said. "We worked so hard at trying to develop a passing game, and I can't say that we did it successfully, however. Still a work in progress. We'll still working and grinding and pushing because at some point we have to be a balanced team. We're not there yet."

It does seem fair, at least, to put the Buckeyes above both the Bulldogs and Gators. Georgia does play in the vaunted SEC, but the team's strength of schedule is poor and neither of the Bulldogs' units are among the best in the nation. Meanwhile, Florida has an outstanding defense that ranks fourth in scoring, but the team's offense is in the bottom half of the country.

Also, the fact that the Buckeyes have a goose egg in the loss column means something, too.

"It shows the guts of a lot of guys on the team," left tackle Jack Mewhort said, referencing the team's ability to band together and win close games. "Guys are always ready to compete. I think when people look back and see how we got here, it just shows the hard work that we've put in has paid off, and guys you wouldn't think would step up have and made plays."

So where does that leave Ohio State? Firmly where they began the whole breakdown, it appears – a notch below some of its fellow unbeatens, and needing some help to keep moving up to that stated goal of No. 1 in the AP poll.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier, for one, thinks that achieving the only national goal that the team has is still on the table, current rankings be damned.

"Anything is possible," he said. "We're going to have to show them we can finish out strong. I know at the end of the year, not everybody is going to be undefeated. It's only going to about one or two teams, and we have to be one of them."

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