Buckeyes need series of dominoes to fall now


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- What's brewing with the 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes ...

BUCKEYES BUZZ: During a question-and-answer period with an Ohio State player the week before last, a young reporter asked if it inspired the Buckeyes to be so close to being "in the driver's seat" in the Big Ten's Leaders Division.

Well, now the Buckeyes -- never actually in the driver's seat after an 0-2 start in conference play -- are sitting in the third row of a sputtering minivan, facing backward.

The 26-23 overtime loss at Purdue -- which dropped the Buckeyes to 3-3 in the Big Ten -- severely crippled any chances they hold of making it into the Big Ten title game on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.

Granted, they haven't been eliminated; there's still hope. But it would take a series of very large dominoes to fall to make it happen.

First and foremost, Ohio State would have to win its last two games -- on Saturday (at 3:30 p.m.) against Penn State and then the following week in the annual clash with archrival Michigan, this one in Ann Arbor, Mich. Those teams are a combined 16-4 (although the Nittany Lions clearly have multiple distractions).

Note: Ohio State has as many losses by itself (6-4) as those opponents.

Second, the Buckeyes must have Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2) lose on Saturday at Illinois (6-4, 2-4), which has dropped four in a row.

Then, Ohio State must have Wisconsin beat Penn State on Nov. 26. That would create a three-way tie atop the Leaders Division, with the Buckeyes edging out both of the other co-champs (Wisconsin and Penn State) based on the Big Ten's first tiebreaker -- head-to-head meetings. Under the above scenario, Ohio State would be 2-0, Wisconsin would be 1-1 and Penn State 0-2.

Got that? Wait, there's more.

Purdue (5-5, 3-3) is currently tied with Ohio State and could be one of the tri- or even quad-champions if it wins against Iowa on Saturday and at Indiana the following week. But it cannot play in the conference championship game. The Boilermakers would lose tiebreakers in any multiple-team championship.

If the Buckeyes were part of a four-team championship (Purdue, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State), a comparison of head-to-head meetings between the teams (the first tiebreaker) has Ohio State and Wisconsin at 2-1 and Penn State and Purdue at 1-2. That leaves only the Buckeyes and Badgers, with the whole thing then reverting to the top tiebreaker which would mean Ohio State would go to the title game because it beat Wisconsin head-to-head.


BLOCK PARTY: The argument could be made that Ohio State lost to Purdue because of another dreadful start, outgained 242-97 and outscored 17-7 in the first half. The Buckeyes had just 18 yards rushing on 17 attempts in those first 20 minutes.

Still, what people will remember will be Purdue's Bruce Gaston blocking what would have been the go-ahead extra-point kick after Braxton Miller's dramatic, scrambling fourth-down TD pass to Jordan Hall with 55 seconds left.

With the score tied at 20, Gaston broke through to get a hand on Drew Basil's kick.

"I told Bruce he had to squeeze in there," Boilermakers nose guard Kawaan Short said he told Gaston at halftime after noticing a gap in Ohio State's blocking on a first-half PAT.

Just before the kick, Short approached Gaston again.

"He told me, 'Bruce, it's all on you,'" Gaston said. "I'm not sure I even jumped. It was like a movie. The crowd stopped. My heart felt like it stopped. It was all in slow motion."

(NOT SO) BIG TEN: This week, as it always does, the Big Ten conference office will mention in its football notebook that it and the Southeastern Conference are the only leagues represented in The Associated Press Top 25 by five member schools.

Here's a breakdown of where those teams are listed in the latest poll.

Big Ten: 12, 15, 17, 20, 21

SEC: 1, 3, 6, 13, 14

Not much of a comparison when you look at where they're ranked. The Big Ten teams are Michigan State at No. 12, No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 17 Nebraska, No. 20 Michigan and No. 21 Penn State.

The Big East doesn't have a single team ranked this week. Conference USA actually has two (No. 11 Houston, No. 22 Southern Mississippi).

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