Nowhere to turn but The Doors this week as we take a look back at the end of a 12-game run of perfection for the Ohio State football team. It was quite a ride, but we can’t help but wonder what’s next.
What we learned last week: How a true 180 feels.
Could anything have been more different than the way things turned out this year for Ohio State?
From a loss at Michigan with a flailing defense to a win at Ohio Stadium with a stop unit rejuvenated, led in part by a linebacker who used to be a fullback, not to mention a Michigan fan.
From a helpless, free-falling November of 2011 to the capstone of a perfect season including a pair of close wins instead of three one-score losses.
Ohio State lines up to run out the clock against Michigan, Nov. 24, 2012
Urban Meyer wants to make sure this team’s accomplishments are recorded because they sure don’t write books like this. I don’t think this screenplay could get produced because no one would buy it.
I think this season also turned out to teach that enjoying the ride is still possible.
Oh sure, there are regrets. Some wonder what might have been, and there was some campaigning for No. 1 votes in the AP poll.
There were threads on our BuckeyeSports.com message board decrying the play calling and the crowd noise and the missed tackles, just like always.
But there were still 100,000-plus in Ohio Stadium eight times this fall. They still cheered as lustily when the Buckeyes put together an improbable comeback in the last minute then dominated overtime against Purdue. They still reveled under the lights as the offense ran wild against Nebraska, and they still danced and sang with the band and the players after a close win at Michigan State.
They still rushed the field after a win over Michigan, too.
It still looked, sounded and felt like a regular Ohio State football season all along the way, and that was good to see.
I was beginning to wonder if the BCS – with its slightly more tangible presentation of a true race for a national championship compared to the completely poll-driven decision process that preceded it – had ruined some of that.
Had the long run of success in the Big Ten and over Michigan spoiled fans? Maybe so. Some players last year and this year admitted it might have made them complacent, too.
That’s somewhat understandable. It is human nature, after all.
So it was good to see the joy and passion back for all. A rejuvenated coach, team and fan base all soaking in the simple joy of a win just for winning’s sake.
The stakes return next season, but the memories of this one will linger forever.
What we can expect to learn next week (and beyond): That was quite a season of Ohio State football. It lasted only 12 games, but there was plenty of drama. Wonder what they’ll do for an encore…
After one of the weirdest periods in OSU football history, the Buckeyes needed a mental reset.
Turns out they might have found the master of psychology in his field. Of course, Urban Meyer had to fix himself before he could go to work on his home state’s favorite team.
So 2012 turned out to be a test period for all sorts of things. A new offense, a new workout regime, a new mental approach and a new man – in more ways than one – at the helm.
Nobody could have dreamed it would turn out so well, and the twists and turns were even more unpredictable.
Who knows the next time Ohio State will get as many things to break its way as did this season – it had been at least 10 years, right? – but then again maybe not as many will be necessary next season when the schedule is weaker and the methods are more familiar.
The 1998 Buckeyes, for instance, really only would have needed one break in one particular game to go down as one of the great teams in school history. (And the loss to Michigan State that season actually required quite a string of unfortunate events to happen anyway.)
Maybe the same could be said of 1969 or several of Woody Hayes’ great teams in the early ‘70s.
The 2002 and ’12 Buckeyes brought a lot of their problems on themselves, but they persevered through determination and perhaps even some providence.
How next season unfolds will begin to be told with winter workouts, but there’s no deadline for the 2013 Buckeyes to be great. It might be more tense with more on the line, or it might be carefree if they grow and cut back on mistakes and lapses in focus. Only time will tell.
They seem to have a coach who knows how to make magic more likely, but even Urban Meyer concedes there is only so much anyone can do other than hope for the best.
It will be a long offseason. Good thing they left on such a high note.
Stocks are high with this program now, and it will be interesting to see how they handle prosperity.
They haven’t won anything tangible yet, so that shouldn’t be too hard a sell.
They completed their payback tour with wins over everyone in the conference that beat them last season, but there is unfinished business to attend to.
It goes beyond the Big Ten, but they’ll have to get through it again first. The path they just traversed was winding and treacherous, but the next one will be even longer even if it runs the risk of being more boring at times.
Much of what makes a great coach is his psychological approach, and that will be tested in building and keeping together the 2013 team.
How will he teach it to remain hungry, to be sure cupcakes don’t spoil the appetite?
They showed plenty of flaws that need to be worked on, of course, so maybe that won’t become a concern until next season actually starts.
Maybe I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, but then again I guess that’s sort of my point.
After twelve wild wins there are going to be a full 12 more months before this team can say it accomplished more than its predecessor. Then there will still be one more step, and the hardest one of all.