November 23, 2012
Buckeyes have a shot at special season
Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham
COLUMBUS, Ohio - In the 122-year history of Ohio State football, only five teams have escaped seasons unbeaten and untied. With a win over Michigan on Saturday, the 2012 Buckeyes would become the sixth.
Due to a postseason ban that was placed on this year's OSU squad as a result of NCAA violations that were committed by members of the Buckeyes' 2010 and 2011 teams, as well as former head coach Jim Tressel, this Saturday's rivalry game against the Wolverines will double as Ohio State's season finale. Hindered by NCAA sanctions that include a one-year bowl ban and the loss of three scholarships this season, the Buckeyes' shot at perfection may seem unlikely to some, including the players who helped get the program back to this point.
"Obviously it didn't go as planned, you might say, when you sign on the dotted line and you commit to a program and a certain coach," senior punter Ben Buchanan said. "We're an 11-0 football team right now which if you would have told us that in training camp, I think some of us might have looked at you a little crazy."
Less than a year removed from a 24-17 to Florida in last season's Gator Bowl, this year's Buckeyes are even more appreciative of the journey that they've enjoyed through their first 11 games of the 2012 season.
"It's awesome. I've never been part of an 11-0 football team in my life," senior defensive lineman Garrett Goebel said. "It's just unbelievable."
If there's somebody inside of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center who knows a thing or two about perfection, it's Urban Meyer. The first-year Ohio State head coach led Utah to an undefeated season in 2004, but didn't finish any higher than fourth in any of the polls after being passed over for a spot in the BCS National Championship game.
Meyer went on to win two national titles while coaching at Florida in 2006 and 2008, but his final Utes team remains his only one to escape a season unscathed.
"It's hard," Meyer admitted. "It's real hard."
Much like Meyer's 2004 Utah team, this year's Buckeyes won't have the chance to play for a national championship should it beat Michigan. Even though it will be different circumstances that keeps the OSU coach from holding up the crystal ball at season's end, his players don't think that an undefeated season without a conference championship or bowl game will be any less special.
"Going 12-0 in itself will be quite the accomplishment," right tackle Reid Fragel said. "That's what we're focusing on right now."
Currently ranked fourth in the polls and with only one other undefeated team in college football still standing in the Notre Dame, the Buckeyes do have an outside chance at the Associated Press' National Championship, something that they are capable of being awarded. It remains a long shot, but Fragel admitted that being recognized as college football's top team this season would add a little something extra to the team's remarkable run.
"If everything falls into place and we're AP national champions or whatever, that's great," Fragel said. It's icing on the cake."
A senior captain, linebacker Zach Boren agreed with Fragel in stating that the Buckeyes' full attention is on beating the Wolverines this Saturday, but should this year's squad go down in history with Ohio State's undefeated teams of 1916, 1944, 1954, 1968, and 2002, he knows that it will have accomplished something special, trophy or not.
"It'd mean everything, honestly. When I'm older I'll just look back and think that helping lead this team to an undefeated season is something that not a lot of former Ohio State football players have been able to do," Boren said. "We still have a lot of work to do this week and it'd be one of those things after Saturday, if we win, I'll be able to sit back and be happy with how the season went and be proud of this team and the seniors and how we led them."
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