Shouldn’t we have known these stories were coming? Prior to the season, in this site’s own poll, a vast majority of readers (and most of our staff), picked the Buckeyes to finish with two losses or less. Predictions of a top-five finish were common place. Sure, none of us saw the epic incompetence of the Big Ten coming. At least not on this level. The logical extension of a prediction placing Ohio State at the head of the table in the B1G is that the Buckeyes would be in a poll position at season’s end that would typically lead to a BCS berth or better, a national championship game. The fact that they would be banned from taking advantage of such an opportunity would be an interesting anomaly, but something the Ohio State fan base had already come to terms with.
Now that we’re in the situation, we’re not taking it quite as well as I’d hoped. The Buckeyes, led by new head coach Urban Meyer, have won as many games halfway through this year as they did through the entirety of the 2011 season, placing them eighth in the Associated Press poll and boasting a sparkling undefeated record headed into the easy part of the schedule. Most of the major news media outlets have run stories highlighting the Buckeyes’ misfortune, ruminating on “what might have been” if athletic director Gene Smith had only self-imposed a bowl ban in 2011, when Luke Fickell was the coach and the team was, by Ohio State’s sky-high standards, a total disaster. If only Smith had the foresight to see the bowl ban coming, despite the lack of NCAA precedent supporting such an assertion. If only we hadn’t gotten swept up in the afterglow of the Wisconsin victory, thinking, if only for a week, that a Big Ten title may be in our grasp
The media’s interest in the topic has spawned discussion among fans, which has alternated in tone between dismissive and regretful. Most of Ohio State’s fans are enjoying the season for what it is, a building block for a 2013 championship run but also a tremendously entertaining and fulfilling campaign in its own right. Some aren’t. Some insist on re-vilifying Gene Smith for a decision we already eviscerated him for almost a year ago.
But honestly, enough already.
Dwelling on the fact that the Buckeyes are unable to participate in the postseason accomplishes precisely nothing.
It’s a futile thought experiment because the past is written and the Buckeyes have so much to play for this season that doesn’t involve the Rose Bowl or the BCS National Championship Game. It’s going to stop being a serious concern shortly when the first BCS rankings are released and the college football world refocuses . And, finally, the Buckeyes would probably get rocked by the best of the best in football this year. Urban Meyer is a truly great football coach, but he isn’t a miracle worker. Teams don’t go from 6-7 to national champions overnight. Programs like Oregon and Alabama, which have been building under one vision for years, would have an almost insurmountable advantage.
Don’t measure Ohio State’s success by others’ standards this season. There are over a hundred teams playing by a different set of rules than the Buckeyes, a set of rules that should refocus the Buckeyes and their fans on a different prize from the rest of college football.
The Buckeyes have pride to play for. They have an incredibly bright future to build. Seniors have a statement to make against That Team Up North. We all have bragging rights to regain over the rest of the Big Ten (who wouldn’t enjoy holding this season over Michigan State’s head if they win the B1G championship).
Everyone else is playing for a crystal ball. Don’t chase that prize.
If you do, you’ll come up empty.