Instead, for the first time this season, the Buckeyes sit poised for a potential national championship berth with the No. 2 spot in the penultimate Bowl Championship Series rankings released on Sunday. With previously top-ranked Alabama's stunning 34-28 loss to Auburn on Saturday, another key domino fell in the Buckeyes' quest to climb fully into title contention.
Ohio State (.950) now sits second behind new leader and fellow unbeaten Florida State (.995). While the Buckeyes were projected to initially be in a razor-thin battle with Auburn, the one-loss Tigers (.923) have more ground to gain than they hoped for. The two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide (.854) sit nearly a full tenth of a point behind the Buckeyes in fourth place, while Missouri (.843) rounds out the top 5. Oklahoma State (.763), Stanford (.707), South Carolina (.704), Baylor (.662) and Michigan State (.653) completed the top 10.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, for his part, declined to discuss most BCS-related questions on a Big Ten teleconference Sunday. Instead, he hopes to keep his team focused and limit the distractions as the Buckeyes prepare to face Michigan State in the conference championship game.
The release of the polls on Sunday morning helped confirm what many thought would already be the case. The Buckeyes came in at No. 2 in the Associated Press Poll, USA Today Coaches' Poll and Harris Poll, the latter two of which factor into two-thirds of the BCS rankings. Ohio State holds a 25-point lead over Auburn in the coaches' poll and garnered four first-place votes (one of which came from Spartans coach Mark Dantonio, who revealed his vote in the teleconference Sunday). In the Harris Poll, the Buckeyes boast a 66-point cushion over the Tigers. In all three polls, the vote total for Ohio State set a new season high.
Polls have been known to shift in the final week of the season – especially the coaches' poll, whose ballots are made public for that week only. For now, however, Ohio State appears to be in good shape. With a win against the Spartans, the Buckeyes will go a long way towards securing a spot in the BCS Championship.