COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The forward momentum might have stalled on its own for a week, but a push from behind might provide the kind of late boost Ohio State needs to sneak into the national title picture.
The November surge for Michigan State and Wisconsin could obviously come with postseason benefits for those programs as well.
The Buckeyes stayed locked in at No. 3 when the latest BCS standings were revealed Sunday night, which should come as no surprise since top-ranked Alabama and Florida State both won to stay comfortably in position to play for the national championship. And while Ohio State was again never seriously threatened in a 60-35 beating of an overmatched conference opponent at Illinois on Saturday, one Big Ten member it has already knocked off continued its climb in the polls and another it might play for the conference crown could help improve its résumé if it can stay unbeaten for a few more weeks.
Michigan State took firm control of the Legends Division with a road win over Nebraska, moving up to No. 13 in the process and setting the stage for a potential marquee matchup in Indianapolis on Dec. 7. And Wisconsin stayed undefeated since losing to Ohio State by a touchdown in September, crushing Indiana and moving up to No. 19 as it tries to keep its hopes of a BCS at-large bid alive.
And while the odds are long for Minnesota to crash the party, it made its first appearance in the standings at No. 25 to give the Big Ten a fourth team in the mix with two weeks left in the regular season.
“There are a lot of really good teams in our conference right now,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said last week. “Michigan State only has one loss and I think Wisconsin can play in any league in America. Those are two teams I have a lot of respect for.
“I know good football teams, and there’s plenty of good teams in this conference.”
The Buckeyes have already squared off with one of them in the league and won, a victory that continues to look better every week.
And with the Spartans showing off an improved offensive attack to complement arguably the nation’s most disruptive defense, another chance for the Buckeyes to add to their body of work could be coming soon.
Of course, Michigan State might also be playing well enough to swoop in and steal a berth in the Rose Bowl, though the Buckeyes are still the most likely to earn an invitation to a BCS game even if they lost the Big Ten championship game, which would then knock Wisconsin out of the picture. But either way, the three teams are carrying the flag for a league that has seen its share of criticism this season, and their fates are all tied together at this stage.
Most notably, the team leading the pace could use a little more company at the top of the rankings as Ohio State tries to get over the hump and into one of the top-two spots in the standings. Michigan State and Wisconsin are currently doing everything they can to lend a hand, and certainly helping themselves at the same time.