BCS: Ohio State still No. 3

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After all the hand-wringing last week, Ohio State’s spot ended up being safe.

After all the criticism seemingly throughout the past three months, the Big Ten has positioned itself for a couple BCS bids and is looking pretty stout at the top of the league.

And while there is still another week left in the regular season, when all the scheduled games are wrapped up, the beleaguered conference might just stage one of the most compelling title matchups in the country.

The Buckeyes remained No. 3 in the latest BCS standings released on Sunday night, still in need of help from Alabama and Florida State ahead of them but now with much more breathing room between them and new No. 4 Auburn. But it’s the continued climb of No. 15 Wisconsin and No. 11 Michigan State that appears to be helping change the perception of the Big Ten, with the latter in particular adding intrigue to the conference championship on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.

The SEC is still on pace to pair the two highest-ranked teams in a showdown for a conference crown, but the Big Ten is nipping at its heels with the Buckeyes and Spartans now officially on a collision course. And that meeting could have more at stake than just a bid in the Rose Bowl for the Buckeyes, who could get the resume boost they’ve been hoping for if they can knock off rival Michigan this week and then follow that up with a victory over the Spartans as they jockey for a berth in that BCS championship game.

Michigan State can obviously claim a spot in the BCS on its own by beating Ohio State and earning a Rose Bowl invitation, but a win on Saturday over Minnesota could potentially put it in line for an at-large bid as a fall-back option. In the event of a loss, though, that could open the door for the Badgers, who continued their red-hot roll since losing to Ohio State in September with a dominant defensive performance at Minnesota to creep up four slots in the standings.

The Badgers would need to climb one more notch to No. 14 for consideration, and they may need some breaks to go their way over the next two weeks both around the country and within the conference considering the Spartans and Buckeyes are each in good shape already.

Regardless of how it shakes out, the Big Ten has three legitimate threats at the top of the league. And with the regular season about to come to a close, that may be just what the conference needs to turn this year into something it could consider a success.