|Urban Meyer is in control in Columbus. Can he lead the Buckeyes to a BCS title in 2013? Photo: USA Today Sports|
Ohio State went undefeated last season, with a 12-0 record, yet still finished third in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll for the season behind BCS champion Alabama and one-loss, non-conference champion Oregon. If the Buckeyes were eligible for postseason play last year, would they have been no better than third without a blemish on the schedule?
Urban Meyer was expected to turn things around in Columbus in short time, although they did need a massive turnaround to begin with. The one year blip on the radar in the immediate fallout of tattoo gate that saw Jim Tressel lose his job and Terrelle Pryor take his chances in the NFL supplemental draft and more, Luke Fickell was thrown in to a near impossible situation. The circus that was Ohio State football in 2011 was only a mild detour from the norm, and the hiring of Meyer quickly brought Ohio State back to a routine.
Meyer was quick to put together a strong recruiting class, building a top five Class of 2012 and getting a jump on what would turn out to be the second best Class of 2013 according to the 247 Sports composite rankings. Adding quality depth helped Meyer and his top-notch coaching staff build a team capable of wearing down opponents and striking just when they become most vulnerable as the Buckeyes proved they could win games any way needed last fall.
Ohio State won easily at times using every part of the team (Nebraska, Miami Ohio), used big plays to pull through in the clutch (Central Florida, Cal), showed they could win in tough environments (Wisconsin, Penn State), won the defensive battles (Michigan State), and even the unexpected shootout and upset bid (Indiana) as well as make halftime adjustments and lock down (Michigan). No matter the situation, Meyer and his staff found ways to prepare their players and adjust to the circumstances on a week by week basis.
Still, the national respect that generally is earned by teams going 10-0, 11-0 or 12-0 never truly developed last season. While Ohio State was working their way through an undefeated and bowl-less season as a result of a one-year postseason ban issued by the NCAA, Notre Dame was charming a nation with Manti T'eo and the Fighting Irish also managing to find ways to win games and build another undefeated season. The Irish ended the regular season with a road victory at USC to clinch a spot in the BCS Championship game as the nation's top-ranked team. Had Ohio State been eligible for the postseason, perhaps they would have worked their way in to the other spot after winning a Big Ten championship game, ahead of defending champion and SEC champion Alabama.
Of course, there are those who also suggest a one-loss Alabama team would have found a way in anyway. As difficult as it might be to imagine Ohio State being a favorite against Alabama (or Texas A&M or Florida or Georgia or South Carolina), the 2012 season could spark some good debate for a long time. What if Ohio State was eligible last season?
Would the Buckeyes have played for a BCS Championship? Would they have played Notre Dame or Alabama? Would anything in the voting or computer rankings have changed enough if the Buckeyes were eligible? We will never know for sure, but we can take to the computer and simulate what the various outcomes might have been if Ohio State was eligible.
I went to What If Sports to simulate various scenarios based on last season. For starters, I had to make sure Ohio State would have won the Big Ten championship to even include them in the BCS title conversation. Ohio State trounced Nebraska in the regular season, and my simulation actually had Nebraska beating the Buckeyes seven out of 10 times, with the average score favoring the Huskers 26-18 (rounding up for decimals). At this point I'm already asking myself if the programmers watched the regular season meeting last season. If Nebraska played the way they actually did in the Big Ten championship game there would be no way Ohio State would be held to 18 points, so I went ahead with the hypothetical BCS match-up between unbeaten Ohio State and Notre Dame.
The computers once again favored Notre Dame, by a landslide. In ten simulations run, Notre Dame defeated Ohio State eight out of 10 tries by an average score of 30-16, inflated by Notre Dame's 65-7 victory during one simulation.
And you wonder why a system based on computer rankings is called a flawed system.
As for a match-up between Ohio State and Alabama, I wanted to spare you of the gory details but Alabama won all ten match-ups by an average score of 43-8.
Keep in mind, these are just computer simulations and according to many of the results they clearly should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Regardless, Ohio State finished third in the eyes of the media last season without ever losing a game. If you do not think that leaves a chip on Ohio State's shoulders in 2013 you might be making a mistake. Meyer will use whatever he can to motivate his team in 2013, and 2012's un-recognized successes will be part of the fuel for this season's unfinished business in Columbus. Ohio State is already being regarded as the best threat to the SEC's dominant run of national championships, a trend Meyer played a key role in at Florida and they may have enough to work with to at least play for that opportunity.
Ohio State must also take a lesson from 2012, where USC entered the year with similar expectations in the BCS picture. The Trojans ultimately failed miserably in living up to the hype, but Ohio State enters this season under different circumstances. The Buckeyes only served one year of NCAA sanctions instead of two and the roster is more equipped through recruiting than USC's were by the time they paid their penalties.
Now the question remains if the Buckeyes can manage to live up to the hype. Thankfully they will not have to rely too much on computers to figure that out.