Don't laugh haters — seriously, this isn't a joke. You only wish it was.
You may be skeptical now — and you likely believe that I'm a completely delusional Buckeye homer — but read further, and you too will (perhaps) become a believer.
Even if you aren't convinced, it doesn't matter. This could still become your reality in spite of you and your disdain for Ohio State.
Before we go any further, the image to the right of Urban Meyer holding the BCS crystal football is for visual effect only. Clearly, with the postseason ban this coming season, Ohio State has ZERO chance at winning the BCS trophy in 2012.
They do, however, still have a chance at winning the national title in 2012.
How is that possible, you ask? And is this HD guy a crackhead?
It's quite simple really, and no, I'm not.
Once a part of the BCS system, the AP Poll has had no affiliation with, or statistical importance in, the calculations that produce the BCS rankings, and subsequent bowl game pairings since the 2004 season — meaning, the AP voters have no obligations or restrictions on who they rank from 1-25 on their weekly ballots.
Now that you should see a potential championship path beginning to clear for the Buckeyes this coming season, there are still a few other obstacles to be hurdled before Ohio State can stake its' claim as 2012 National Champions.
The biggest obstacle is obviously navigating through the toughest conference schedule in the Big Ten, combined with a decently challenging out-of-conference schedule.
In order for Ohio State to have any chance at the AP title, they MUST win every game — a feat which I'm not guaranteeing WILL happen, but certainly one that I'm suggesting is definitely possible. Winning in blowout fashion isn't a must for a team built on fielding a top-notch defense, and one that will be running a completely new offensive system, but it won't hurt when it comes to impressing the voters either.
For the sake of this article, we are going to assume that Ohio State will indeed win all 12 of its games. Here's a semi-microscopic look at each opponent and my best short-and-to-the-point educated guess on the outcome of each game.
Home vs. Miami (Ohio) — Ohio State hasn't lost a home-opener since 1978, and they own the MAC, posting a 16-0 record against Mid-American opponents since 2000. The Buckeyes will defeat the Redhawks here by at least 24 in this season-opening tune-up.
Home vs. UCF — Ohio State hosts a UCF team coming off a 5-7 season, but a team that will also be one the most improved teams in the nation. That being said, OSU went a dismal 6-7 under a lame-duck coaching staff in 2011, but will also be vastly improved under new coach Urban Meyer and his dream team of assistants. It could be a close game very early on, but the Knights will be no match for Ohio State in the end, as the Buckeyes will win by 17 or more.
Home vs. California — Ohio State is 5-1 all-time vs. Cal. The Golden Bears are returning just 11 starters from last years 7-6 squad. Cal head coach Jeff Tedford has to be on the hot seat, and this game won't do anything to change that. I can see this Cal team going backwards and losing as many as 8 or 9 games, so I'm going with the Buckeyes in this one by 21 or more.
Home vs. UAB — This is the first-ever meeting between Ohio State and UAB, and I don't expect it to be a memorable for the Blazers. Last season, UAB finished a disappointing season with a 3-9 record. Since the program began in 1991, the Blazers are 3-32 vs. BCS conference opponents. Make that 3-33, as OSU will drop the Blazers in this one by 28 or more.
Away vs. Michigan State — Ohio State will face its first true challenge of the season as they visit East Lansing. Not so much because of the opponent but more for the fact that it's their first road game of the year and against a rival on their home turf. That being said, Ohio State is 6-1 in their last seven road games against the Spartans. While MSU will have a solid defense once again, they had huge losses on the offensive side of the ball, and must replace their starting QB and top two WRs. That could hurt them early on in 2012 and will almost undoubtedly be the difference in this game. Despite the Spartan defense, Braxton Miller and the OSU offense should be able to score into the low 30's. In the last three meetings in East Lansing, Ohio State has had an average margin of victory over MSU of 28. I'm going with the Buckeyes, but not quite by that much. I will take OSU by 17-ish.
Home vs. Nebraska — The Cornhuskers are 0-2 all-time in Columbus. Of course, the last time OSU and Nebraska played in Columbus, my Dad was 3 years old, so that doesn't exactly mean that much. Then again, playing Ohio State in Columbus is a different animal than playing them on your home field. Last season in Memorial Stadium, the Buckeyes were dominating Nebraska, 27-6, midway into the 3rd quarter before Braxton Miller was injured. Backup Joe Bauserman then engineered the single-most embarrassing, come-from-ahead, blunder of a defeat that I have ever personally witnessed in all my years as a Buckeye football fan. Assuming Braxton is healthy all game long, and considering that Taylor Martinez's passing motion is dreadfully comparable to Charles Barkley's "turrible" golf swing, I'm picking Ohio State to finish in Columbus, what they started in Lincoln — Buckeyes by 20.
Away vs. Indiana — Ohio State is 68-12-5 all-time vs. Indiana, and let's face it, Indiana is one of the worst football programs college football has ever known. What else is there to say here? The Buckeyes have won 17 straight against IU overall, and 8 straight in Bloomington by an average of 21 points. That margin-of-victory could have been much worse, and Meyer is no Tressel. I'm taking the over in this one — OSU by at least 30.
Home vs. Purdue —Boilermaker head coach Danny Hope has been a thorn in the side of Ohio State in West Lafayette. Ohio State is 0-2 against Hope and Purdue on the road, losing 26-18 in 2009 and 26-23 in OT last season. In 2010 at home, however, the Buckeyes clobbered Purdue, 49-0. Don't think revenge and redemption isn't on the mind of every Buckeye player and even the new staff after losing 2 out of 3 to the Boilermakers. On both sides of the ball and up and down each teams roster, Ohio State is superior. While I don't believe the 2012 meeting will be as lopsided as the 2010 game, it will be a comfortable win for OSU, nonetheless — Ohio State by 27.
Away vs. Penn State — Ohio State has won their last two games over PSU in Happy Valley. With all the distractions lingering over the program and potential for action from the NCAA looming in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky trial and guilty verdict, it's hard to know what to expect from Penn State. Obviously there has been a complete turnover in the staff since JoePa's firing, and sadly, soon thereafter, his passing. Bill O'Brien has never been a head coach at any level before being named Paterno's successor, and he inherits a roster that is a far cry from what he's used to seeing in his career as an NFL assistant. Other than Silas Redd, I really don't see anybody else on the Penn State offense to be concerned about. QB Paul Jones was a highly-touted recruit, but has never taken a snap, but likely will this season, as (former-starter) Matt McGloin is PSU's Joe Bauserman. The Nittany Lion defense will be "roarless" against Miller and company. My gut says to call for a complete blowout, but I'll go semi-modest instead and take Ohio State by about 21, give or take.
Home vs. Illinois — Ron Zook is gone, having been replaced by former-Buckeye assistant Tim Beckman, but the Illini cupboard isn't bare. Zook has always been able to recruit decent players. The problem was, he could never coach them to that next level once he landed them. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is a star. He poses equal threat on the ground or throwing the ball down the field. He amassed over 2,700 yards and combined for 19 total touchdowns. Stopping Scheelhaase will be key for the Silver Bullet defense, and they will be up to the task. In last seasons 17-7 victory in Champaign, Ohio State held Illinois scoreless for more than 53 minutes, forcing two interceptions from Scheelhaase, while limiting him to just 169 yards passing and 49 yards rushing. With top WR target A.J. Jenkins gone, Illinois could be in for a very long day in Columbus. The Buckeyes should be able to easily replicate last years defensive performance and score plenty more points with what should by this point in the season, a much more refined spread-attack. I'm expecting a Buckeye victory in this one by at least 20.
Away vs. Wisconsin — After hosting Illinois, Ohio State has the following week off, giving them an extra week to prepare for the trip to Camp Randall to face the Badgers. The off-week couldn't come at a better time, considering this game is thought of as the toughest on their entire schedule. While Wisconsin will undoubtedly have a good team, playing an average Wisconsin team on the road would still be a huge disadvantage. Camp Randall is one of the most difficult venues for an opponent to play in. Ohio State is 3-2 in their last five trips to Madison, however, so a win in 2012 is definitely not impossible. Star RB Montee Ball returns, but QB Russell Wilson was a one-and-done transfer from NC State, leaving a huge void for the Badgers under center. Top receiver Jered Abbrederis also returns, but may not have a serviceable QB to get the ball to him. I believe the Ohio State offensive and defensive lines will dominate the LOS on both sides. That should limit Ball to less than 100 yards, while the Buckeye offense does the talking on the ground and through the air for Urban Meyer in response to the verbal attack launched by Badger head coach Bret Bielema, who basically called Meyer an unethical cheater after 2012 recruit Kyle Dodson flipped his commitment from Wisconsin to Ohio State. Payback is a bitch, Bret — deal with it. Ohio State pulls off the road win by 14-ish.
Home vs. Michigan — Some folks would have you believe the Wolverines could come into The Game undefeated for a showdown of two unbeatens. While I obviously feel that Ohio State very well could be 11-0 on November 24th, Michigan will have already tasted defeat. Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Nebraska are all teams capable of knocking off UM. I believe the Wolverines could lose 2-3 of those games, but when it comes to Ohio State-Michigan, we all know the records mean nothing. Denard Robinson is an amazing athlete and one of the best running quarterbacks in college football, possibly of all-time, but with the defensive prowess Ohio State has on their front seven, scrambling or handing the ball off won't beat the Buckeyes. Unfortunately for Denard, he's a far less talented passing QB. In 2011, Robinson passed for 2,173 yards with 20 touchdowns, but his completion percentage was just 55% and he was intercepted 15 times. In Ann Arbor last season, the best Michigan team in years barely eked-out a 40-34 win over arguably the worst Ohio State team of the past two decades. With the NCAA-levied postseason ban, this will be Ohio State's Bowl game and their statement win that the AP voters will remember when it comes time to cast that final ballot in January. Urban will get his first taste of Wolverine blood as the Buckeyes begin a new win streak against the hated elitists to the North — Ohio State by 17.
So there you have it, a perfect 12-0 season. But wait, there's more!
Phil Steele's College Football Preview magazine is widely considered one of, if not, the best and most reputable sources for preseason college football information in the nation.
While it probably won't be dead-on, when the AP Preseason Poll is released, I expect their top 10 to closely resemble Phil Steele's Power Poll top 10 that I've listed below.
10. Ohio State
1. Florida State
Although Phil Steele is my CFB guru and magazine of choice, it is also worth noting that Athlon Sports has Ohio State at no. 6 in their rankings.
This leads me to trust that Ohio State should be either in the top 10, or just a few slots outside of it in the initial AP Poll.
So, how do they move ahead of the 8, or 10, or 12 teams that are ranked ahead of them in the first AP Poll and up to the No. 1 spot in January?
While I am projecting the Buckeyes to navigate through their regular season schedule to a 12-0 record, they will still need some help to earn the top spot in the final AP poll since they won't play again after they turn the Wolverines into roadkill — and by help, I mean that the teams ranked ahead of them have to lose at least once.
No. 9 Georgia — Potential Losses
UGA could lose 1 to 3 games to S. Carolina and/or Florida, and with the best teams in the SEC in the West, also in the conference title game if they somehow make it there again.
No. 8 Florida — Potential Losses
UF has several tough games, with as many as 2 to 4 losses possible against Texas A&M, LSU, S. Carolina, Georgia, and Florida State. Also like UGA, if UF were to reach the SEC title game, it would almost assuredly lose to the SEC West champ.
No. 7 Texas — Potential Losses
I am not so sure the Longhorns will be ranked this high, but Phil Steele is the guru, not me. Looking at their schedule, I could see anywhere from 1 to 3 losses coming against Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, or TCU.
No. 6 Oregon — Potential Losses
I think Oregon will be good, but like Texas, they too might also be ranked a bit high. I could see them dropping 2 to 3 games against Washington, Arizona State, USC, Stanford, or Oregon State, and also a possible rematch vs. USC if they make the Pac-12 title game.
No. 5 Oklahoma — Potential Losses
The Sooners have a pretty tough schedule in my opinion, so less than 2 to 3 losses might not be possible against the likes of Texas Tech, Texas, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and TCU.
No. 4 Alabama — Potential Losses
The Tide could find themselves on the losing end at least once or twice as they take on Michigan, Arkansas, LSU, and Auburn. If they make the SEC title game, a loss is always possible, but not that likely against a far-inferior SEC East opponent.
No. 3 USC — Potential Losses
The Trojans are notorious for demolishing OOC foes, but dropping one or two in-conference games to teams they should crush. Teams that could crash USC's BCS party plans and give the Trojans 1 to 3 losses are Stanford, Washington, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Oregon again in a Pac-12 title game rematch if they each make it that far.
No. 2 LSU — Potential Losses
When looking over the schedules, the Tigers have the most landmines to avoid. If they don't, as good as they are expected to be, it's not inconceivable for them to lose 3 to 4 games if they overlook or fail to prepare for Washington, Auburn, Florida, S. Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, and Arkansas. Of course there's the SEC title game should they make it, but same goes here as it did for Alabama above — SEC West >>> SEC East.
No. 1 Florida State — Potential Losses
FSU has the easiest schedule of the teams ahead of Ohio State and, therefore, the greatest chance at going undefeated. That doesn't mean they will, however. The Seminoles could drop a game or 2 if they aren't careful against Clemson, Miami (FL), Va Tech, and Florida. There's also the ACC title game, although I would expect FSU to win if they make it there.
A Few Final Thoughts
I honestly believe Ohio State and Florida State could both be undefeated at the end of the 2012 season. If FSU loses a regular season game, the door opens up for the Buckeyes. If FSU goes undefeated, then loses the BCS title game to a 1 or 2 loss team, the door opens.
Obviously whoever wins the BCS title game will be the 2012 BCS champions, but think of it like a trial. If the eventual BCS champ has 1 or 2 losses, compared to a 12-0 Ohio State squad, reasonable doubt would therein lie, and since the Buckeyes can't play past November, and there's no playoff for two more seasons anyway, it's not unreasonable to think that the AP voters could, and should, cast their No. 1 votes for Ohio State.
I mean, the BCS is almost dead, and since the AP and BCS divorced in 2005 and the AP Poll and its' voters were scorned and discarded and seemingly replaced overnight by the Harris Poll, why not just go ahead and vote for a completely different champ in 2012 and 2013 just to spite the BCS pricks like a good ex-husband or ex-wife should do? I urge the AP voters not to conform like sheep, but to instead use your own good sense when casting your final ballots.
I hope you've enjoyed this piece. Call it B.S., subjective fodder, drivel, or one insane man's personal pipe dream if you will.
The reality though, regardless of what you think of me or this article, is that the possibility does exist for this scenario to happen.
Now, I don't have a crystal ball, and I already said earlier that I'm not guaranteeing anything, but I hope everything I've suggested here comes to fruition so we can all see what the AP voters do the next two seasons while the BCS takes its' last and final shallow breaths.
We've wanted a playoff, and we've finally got one starting in 2014. No matter who wins the BCS and AP titles this year or next, we as fans are all winners with the birth of college football's Final Four, and the death of the BCS.