Fickell Expects Seniors to Keep Team Focused Despite Lack of Postseason
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The last time the Ohio State football Buckeyes did not participate in the postseason was following the 1999 season. John Cooper's second-to-last team finished 6-6 and found themselves on the outside looking in when it came to a bowl bid.
It was a shock and a surprise, and certainly not something that team had prepared for. This year, however, there will be no postseason for the Buckeyes, and they'll have the next six months to think about it.
How the football team handles this situation will go a long way in dictating how the season goes for them, and if the lack of a postseason is all this team can think about, then they have already lost.
Fortunately, Buckeyes linebacker coach Luke Fickell has confidence in this team, and most notably in his veterans.
"I think it's put in the seniors' hands," said Fickell, appearing on 10TV's Wall to Wall Sports on Sunday night. "You're preaching to build something, and how you leave the program. You want to leave it in better shape than when you came in, or even the year before. I think that's the thing that we continue to sell to those guys."
Leaving the program better than when they came in may be difficult for this group of seniors. After all, of the current rising seniors on this team, last season was the first time that they didn't play in a BCS game.
Still, even though the program wasn't broken when they came in as freshmen, it's pretty clear that it was breaking. This group of 2012 seniors saw the damage that many of last year's seniors (and would-be seniors) did, and they now have a pretty good blueprint of how not to do things.
Despite what many have called a "lost season", Fickell thinks 2011 will go a long way towards keeping this team focused on 2012, bowl game or no.
"They've got enough pride in the situation, and they know what's happened and what they went through last year, so I don't think that's something that's weighing on them," he said.
But it's not just the fact that this team can't go to a bowl game, they also can't compete for a BCS championship. They also won't be playing for a Big Ten Championship, which is the primary goal of every Ohio State football team. However, Fickell thinks this team will be able to handle this last bit of adversity without any problems.
"We didn't have anybody that took off, or has even brought it up. I don't think that's something that our seniors, after what they went through probably the last twelve months, I'm not sure that that's going to be too tough on them."
It may sound like an unfortunate situation—and it is, but the Buckeyes still get to play the actual games. They may not find themselves in the record books this season when it comes to a conference championship, but they still have every opportunity to leave absolutely no doubt who the best team in the Big Ten is this season.
Even though there is no postseason for the Buckeyes, there is still Michigan. The measure of success for any Ohio State football team starts with that final contest in November, and in that way, this season is no different than any other.
The punishment for previous years' transgressions will continue to be meted out this year, but twelve times this season the Buckeyes will be able to pass out their own punishment.
This is the mindset that the seniors will need to take the field with in 2012, and the coaches are clearly embracing that idea.
"You know what our goals are every year," Fickell said, "and we'll give them something to talk about throughout college football whatever the situation is."
No bowl game for the Buckeyes in 2012 means there really are no variables for this team. They know exactly what they are playing for, and who they are playing.
Every opponent that they will be facing is already in their sights, which should only help bring in the focus that Fickell is talking about.
After all, nothing helps focus like staring through a pair of cross hairs.
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