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Last updated: 08/10/2012 12:43 PM
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Football
Around The-Ozone Water Cooler: Is a 12-0 Season a Realistic Expectation for Buckeye Players?
By the-Ozone Staff

Talking to the Ohio State football players throughout the spring and now into fall camp, the topic of conversation invariably turns to the lack of championship possibilities for this team and what their goals now become.

However, the answer given by each player is either "To win as many games as we can for the seniors", or simply "To win twelve games."

There is no doubting that the Buckeyes have a talented roster, but going undefeated in a season that won't necessarily be rewarded in the typical manner might be asking a bit much.

That's why it ended up as a topic of conversation around the water cooler. Is it asking too much, or is it realistic to expect to go undefeated?

Here's what we think. What do you think?

Brandon Castel – When the Buckeyes won 14 games in 2002, it was three more than any Ohio State team had ever won before. It was also the start of something. It was the start of this constant push for perfection.

It’s no wonder Urban Meyer collapsed under the weight of chasing the perfect season at Florida. Many college football fans do the same thing each and every season; they simply don’t have the pressure of being the one to actually walk on the field and win the games.

That doesn’t mean they don’t expect perfection, especially at Ohio State. The Buckeyes nearly had it again in 2006, but they ran into Meyer and an angry Gators team in the BCS title game.

In all, there have only been nine undefeated seasons in the history of Ohio State football, and just one since 1973. That 2002 team had a lot of talent, but also a lot of luck on its way to 14-0. Any team that goes undefeated generally needs a double helping of both.

There have only been five OSU teams in history to win all of their games—two under Woody (’54 and ’68), one under Carroll Widdoes (‘44), one under John Wilce (’16) and the ’02 team under Tressel.

Point being, it’s extremely difficult to go undefeated, even with a talented team full of veterans. Meyer did it once at Utah during the 2004 season, but even he never coached an undefeated team at Florida.

His two national championship squads each had one loss, which explains why he was so driven to find the ever-elusive perfect season. The Buckeyes don’t exactly face an SEC-caliber schedule in 2012, but there are definitely some losable games on the schedule.

The Buckeyes have had plenty of struggles at Camp Randall Stadium throughout the years, and they won’t face an easy task against Mark Dantonio’s defense in East Lansing either. They get Nebraska and Michigan at home, but it would be a lot to ask for them to win all four of those games.

In fact, if they did it would probably be one of Urban’s best coaching jobs ever.

Patrick Maks – I think anything’s possible and can see why the players say that.

I’m not necessarily on their bandwagon, though, and would caution players and fans alike that there’s a difference between optimistic and delusional.

It comes down to how much of a possibility they think going undefeated is.

It’s like; maybe you think Bigfoot is real. That’s fine—no judgment here.

But do you think he’s real to the point that you yodel through the woods every Saturday at 2 a.m. in search of him? No.

I’ve applied the same sort of logic with Ohio State.

Do I think 12-0 is a possibility? Sure, why not.

The combination of a multi-national championship-winning coach like Urban Meyer and a team perennially stockpiled with NFL talent is almost a guarantee that the Buckeyes will win games this season—probably a lot of them.

Do I think 12-0 is realistic? Not really.

Why?

There are way too many variables on this team that we haven’t seen play out in a live, game situation. There are too many things that we can’t simply account for right now.

We can’t predict injuries. We can’t foresee team chemistry issues. If they happen to lose a game—and I think they will—we don’t know how they’ll respond. One loss could snowball into two or maybe three.

And, historically speaking, Meyer is respectively 8-3, 10-2, and 9-3 in his first season at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida.

Will he vanquish all foes in his inaugural season in Columbus? Probably not.

But that’s hardly a knock on the 48-year-old.

Meyer is going to win at least eight games and that’s a step up from last season’s 6-7 debacle.

I’d argue that it would be more reasonable for the Buckeyes to focus on finishing better than their record in 2011, not going undefeated.

Just because I don’t agree with the players on this doesn’t mean I blame guys for talking about 12-0, though.

The ‘shoot for the stars’ mentality is admirable. If you’re going to hit the ball, you might as well go for the homerun, or even go yodeling for Bigfoot.

Tony Gerdeman – When projecting how a team is going to do in a particular season, even before considering the talent, I have to look at their schedule first.

For example, take a look at the 2010 Alabama Crimson Tide. They were coming off of a BCS National Championship and returning a load of offensive talent, but there was no way they were ever going to get through road games at LSU, South Carolina and Arkansas. They went 5-3 in the SEC that year.

For the Buckeyes in 2012, however, they don't have the same scheduling concerns. They have already been projected by gambling blogs as a favorite in all but two of their games this season at Michigan State and at Wisconsin are the two holdouts. Since they will likely be favored in at least ten games, why not apply Urban Meyer's mantra for this team of going "two steps beyond"?

The Buckeyes should roll through their non-conference schedule unscathed, which is something that hasn't necessarily been the case over the last decade. My belief is that home conference games for a talented team like Ohio State should be assumed wins. After all, they are more talented than every home conference opponent (Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan) that they will face this year.

The question then becomes whether or not you think the Buckeyes can win at East Lansing AND Madison, because games at Indiana and Penn State are chalked up as 'W's.

Michigan State returns one skill position starter from a season ago in tailback Le'Veon Bell, and will have to break in an entirely new passing game. Their defense will absolutely be solid, but will Ohio State's offense be better equipped to handle the Spartans' defense than the Spartan offense is of handling the Buckeye defense? The case can be made that Ohio State absolutely has an advantage here.

Then we turn to Wisconsin. No Russell Wilson for the Badgers will be an issue, but games in Madison are never simple. Will Ohio State's run defense be ready? By the eleventh game of the season, they will either be as good as they're going to get, or beaten and battered. But the same can also be said for Wisconsin.

So, to answer the question of 12-0 being a realistic goal for this team, I think the answer is that it is absolutely realistic, but clearly unlikely. After all, 12-0 doesn't happen all of a sudden. It happens one week at a time, and with a little bit of luck along the way.

The Buckeyes will have more overall talent than every team they meet this season, but they'll still have to play like it.

Scott Dame – Unrealistic? Not with this defense.

Looking at Ohio State’s 2012 schedule, I believe the season can be divided into three groups.

The first group of games should be wins for Ohio State… or from a Buckeye fan’s perspective, they had better be wins. These are Miami (Ohio), UAB, at Indiana, and at Penn State.

The next group consists of matchups that could give OSU some problems: Central Florida, California, Purdue and Illinois. All of these will be in Ohio Stadium, so let’s presume Buckeye victories in all but the third group, which I believe are the key games to Ohio State’s season.

September 29 at Michigan State: With all due respect to The Game, this will most likely be Ohio State’s toughest test of the season. By the time the Buckeyes travel to East Lansing, MSU will have already been tested by matchups with Boise State and Notre Dame. However, Spartans QB Andrew Maxwell is inexperienced despite being a junior. The Buckeyes can win a close, low-scoring game by winning the turnover margin and the battles in the trenches.

October 6 vs. Nebraska: Unlike 2011, the Buckeyes will have the defense to stop the Cornhuskers’ option attack of quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. This will probably be the only home night game of the season for the Buckeyes and the crowd will be ready. I think Urban Meyer’s team will be ready, too.

November 17 at Wisconsin: Trips to Madison are always brutal. The good news is it won’t be a night game due to the Big Ten’s rule against night games in November. More good news for the Buckeyes: the Badgers had to replace six assistant coaches and All-Big Ten QB Russell Wilson in the offseason.

November 24 vs. Michigan: My fuzzy recollection of the 2011 version of The Game includes Denard Robinson pretending to spoon-feed himself. His imaginary bowl must have been full of Lucky Charms, because the result was sweet victory for the Wolverines. But Michigan freshmen probably don’t remember their team’s last win in the Horseshoe because most of them were six or seven years old. The question is can the Buckeyes fill Robinson’s bowl with a much less delicious treat in 2012? Meyer’s 21-3 record in rivalry games says “yes.”

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