The Ohio State Buckeyes are quietly putting together one of the most thrilling and confusing seasons in recent memory. The manner in which the Buckeyes are winning has been anything but predictable. Take two of the team’s recent games. We stomped a good Penn State team in their own house on a night that the Nittany Lions staked out as a statement of renewed relevance. Only weeks earlier, we needed last-second smooth jazz from Kenny G to eke out a win over a Purdue team that got blown out by the Golden Gophers last week. The common thread? They’re all wins. If you string enough of them together, you run out of games to play in and, suddenly, you’ve put together an undefeated season.
This outcome is hardly a foregone conclusion. Illinois doesn’t present much of a threat, but a road trip to Camp Randall to take on the subtly competitive Badgers looms large after the Buckeyes’ bye week. After that, Michigan comes to town in a game the Buckeyes should win. But it will cause trepidation nonetheless, for so many reasons that I don’t need to detail here.
All things considered, the game that should worry Buckeye fans the most is the trip to Wisconsin. It’s on the road against a team desperate for revenge and a statement win in 2012 to aid recruiting. It’s Senior Day. It’s in one of the toughest stadiums in America for opposing teams to play in.
That said, let’s pretend that Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes make it past the Badgers and then exact their own form of revenge by pounding That Team Up North when it comes to Columbus on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Then what? Ohio State has gone undefeated for the first time in a decade, but play just … stops. The rest of the country moves on to conference championships, the bowl season, and national championships while the Buckeyes watch from home. The national narrative shifts away from Meyer’s wildly successful first season.
The team’s success this season is important for two reasons: the present and the future.
In the present, the Buckeyes will have achieved something historic. Weak conference or not, it’s really, really hard to go undefeated. The teams that do are remembered for years. That gives this year’s seniors something they can hang their hat on. They’re no longer the only Buckeye class victimized by the NCAA. Instead, they’re the team that went undefeated a year after a losing season. They’re the players responsible for shepherding the program through a brutal year. They’re champions in their own right.
In terms of the future, the Buckeyes will have made a statement that the Big Ten is theirs to lose not only next year, but for the next decade. It must be disheartening for other Big Ten programs to see an Ohio state recovering from their worst season in recent memory and waiting out their bowl ban by running roughshod over the rest of the conference. If the Buckeyes don’t lose this year, when do they? Urban Meyer’s propensity for wild success in his second year at a school has been well-documented. If the first year was already a wild success, the second year will be a thing to behold.
Who knows? Maybe 12-0 is just the first half of the story. The second part? A second consecutive undefeated season and a national championship in 2013.