Welcome to week four of your eight-week Empire season preview for the 2012 football Buckeyes. At 9 a.m. on Tuesdays between now and kickoff, we’ll break down a different component of the fall season (see topics and links to past posts below). Some will be written by me. Some will be presented in roundtable format.
This week, we focus on the postseason (or lack thereof) for the 2012 Buckeyes.
As a result of the one-year bowl ban imposed by the NCAA as punishment for the team’s NCAA violations, the Buckeyes will be forbidden from participating in any postseason event. That includes the Big Ten Championship Game.
When the penalty was handed down in December of last year, it felt like a “body blow,” as aptly described by Urban Meyer. The program and fan base are accustomed to years of prestigious postseason fixtures. Without that, there were some who initially regarded 2012 as a “lost season.” Such feelings were particularly pronounced after the year of suffering Columbus had just endured.
In the months following the verdict, the the fan base has fluctuated between the initial sting of disappointment from December to the feeling that the team has plenty to play for in the coming year regardless of whether they can play past November. Finally, we’ve reached the point where we mostly ignore the fact that the Buckeyes won’t be playing in the postseason and prepare for the season like any other.
The transition has felt natural for the Buckeye fan base for three reasons.
First, it’s become readily apparent, particularly in the last few weeks, that things could be much worse. A one year bowl ban, particularly at the beginning of a new coach’s tenure, won’t have any lasting impact on the team or program. It hasn’t hurt the Buckeyes in recruiting. It hasn’t hurt the team’s public perception – in fact, it’s allowed most of the media to move on from the “scandal” that prompted the penalties. It won’t hurt them financially, beyond the current season. Most importantly, I don’t believe that it will affect the Buckeyes on the field. If anything it may, as pointed out by many fans recently, the team may be more motivated to capitalize on their regular season, knowing that that’s all there is. That may be particularly true of the rivalry matchup again Michigan, regardless of Urban Meyer‘s comments to the contrary at the Big Ten media gathering last week.
Second, Ohio State wasn’t likely to play for a national championship this season anyway. The team won’t be a national force in Meyer’s first year. A trip to the Rose Bowl would have been probable, but when long-term expectations are as high as they are under Urban, the loss of a single trip to Pasadena doesn’t seem so grave.
Simply put, would you care as much about the Buckeyes’ inability to play in the postseason if you know with 100% certainty that the BCS National Championship game wasn’t happening anyway.
Third, the inability to play in a bowl, at least for one year, only affects a marginal amount of what makes Ohio State football special. It’s true that the Buckeyes won’t be playing in a bowl game. It’s also true that we won’t enjoy a conference championship. However, those are goals. They’re destinations to be reached. Like so many other things in life, the football season is about the journey, something the NCAA didn’t take away.
The feeling that comes from waking up on Saturday anticipating a game later that day won’t change. Neither will the satisfaction that comes after a win. Last season, we knew the Buckeyes weren’t headed for big things. That didn’t change the catharsis we felt after “Holy Braxton.” It didn’t change the heartbreak we felt in the wake of the Buckeyes’ defeat by Michigan.
So we won’t enjoy a bowl this year. The Buckeyes will still play. It’s still the first year of what could be a historic period for Ohio State football. The NCAA didn’t make that any less satisfying.
Hell, maybe we’ll watch Braxton Miller attend his first Heisman ceremony. And maybe we’ll get some satisfaction out of kicking the crap out of most (or all?) of the teams on the schedule, and then holding it over Wisconsin’s heads when they’re subbing for the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl.
Maybe the bowl ban doesn’t matter after all.