Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde celebrates after scoring on a late 51-yard touchdown run Saturday at Illinois.
Baylor closed in on third-place Ohio State in the latest BCS standings.
The Bears and Buckeyes have little hope of catching first-place Alabama or second-place Florida State in the race to the BCS championship game without a loss from one of the top two. Ohio State and Baylor are fighting for the right to be next in line if the Tide or ‘Noles slip up.
The Buckeyes are ahead of the Bears in both the Harris and USA Today coaches’ polls, but behind Baylor in the computer rankings. The combined average of the six computer rankings has the Bears third, with Alabama and Florida State tied for first. Ohio State is fifth in the computers.
Ohio State has a BCS average of .8869. Baylor’s is .8856.
And the Bears look primed to pass the Buckeyes next week — if they can get through their toughest test yet. Baylor plays at Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Cowboys are 10th in the BCS standings and a game behind the Bears in the Big 12 standings. The Bears play at TCU on Thanksgiving weekend and then close with Texas at home.
Ohio State plays Indiana next week, then goes to Michigan. The Buckeyes can clinch a spot in the Big Ten championship game by beating the Hoosiers. Michigan State would be the likely opponent in that game.
Oregon is fifth in the standings and Auburn is sixth. Both have one loss. The Tigers have moved into position to be a threat in the national championship race. Their only game left is against No. 1 Alabama in two weeks and it’s for a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Winning the SEC title might not be enough to get Auburn past undefeated Baylor or Ohio State, but it’ll make for an interesting decision for poll voters if it plays out that way.
The SEC has won the last seven national championships and its title game has become a default play-in game to the BCS title game.
Further down the standings, potential BCS busters Fresno State at 15th and Northern Illinois at 16th each dropped a spot this week. Either the Bulldogs or Huskies could earn an automatic bid by reaching the top-12 in the final standings. If they both get there, the highest rated one gets the bid.
Central Florida, which is leading the American Athletic Conference, is 18th and that could open the backdoor for a BCS buster, the way it did last season for NIU.
If Fresno State and NIU can finish in the top 16 and rank ahead of the AAC’s champ, the highest ranked one gets an automatic bid.
The key for each is staying unbeaten. Fresno State finishes with New Mexico at home, at San Jose State and a possible rematch with Boise State in the Mountain West conference title game.
Northern Illinois is at Toledo and then home for Western Michigan before a possible Mid-American Conference championship game with either Buffalo or Bowling Green.