There's nothing like The Game, and there's something really special about 12-0. Ohio State capped what was supposed to be a year of getting their feet wet under Urban Meyer into a 12-0 regular season, and an outside shot at an AP national title.
What transpired over these 13 weeks has been a thrill a minute ride that in many ways mimics the last OSU undefeated team, the 2002 national champions.
There were a lot of late escapes, an overtime game or two, and a "Holy Buckeye" redux moment against Purdue. And of course, there was another classic edition to the storied and hallowed rivalry game against That Team Up North.
Ohio State 26, Michigan 21. That really says it all, doesn't it?
For most of the season, as OSU's unbeaten streak built, I kept telling myself to calm down; there would surely be an eventual loss. But the funny thing is, it never came. From Cal, to UAB, to MSU, to Purdue, to The Game, OSU managed to survive each obstacle put in front of them and run the gauntlet.
In light of all that, I can't think of a more appropriate song than this:
Hey, we're gonna get you, too.
Another one bites the dust.
Your undefeated SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Urban Meyer, Head Coach: As the 2011 shitshow unfolded, I was legitimately worried about the future of the program; they were directionless. It was apparent that the Buckeyes needed a big time coach, but with all the uncertainty swirling, the Buckeyes were fortuitous to land Meyer. He took a 6-7 team of underachievers and molded them into an imperfectly perfect 12-0. It was a season for the ages, and something OSU fans won't forget any time soon.
Jim Tressel, Former Coach: Let's take a moment to remember what Jim Tressel left in the cupboard, and what he meant to the program for a decade He recruited well, giving Meyer many of the players he succeeded with in 2012, set the standard for excellence against That Team Up North, and his 2002 National Championship team was celebrated during Saturday's game. Without the foundation Tressel poured, there would have been no 2012 season.
Also, this gave me goosebumps:
Thanks for one hell of a decade, Tress. Ask me to do it all over again, I would. And I wouldn't change a thing. Except the game against Florida. Between tickets, air fare, and hotels, I dropped two grand to see that in person. Probably never going to get over that, but that's for another time and place.
Carlos Hyde, RB: I said during the last Hangout in the Holy Land that Hyde would have a good game, because I just felt that OSU's interior line was better than Michigan's defensive line. 146 yards later, Hyde was the offensive player of the game in many's opinion. Almost every time Ohio State needed big yards to either get a first down or a manageable down and distance on second or third down, Hyde got it. Phenomenal job stepping into Jordan Hall's shoes this year.
The Seniors: Jake Stoneburner, Zach Boren, John Simon, and the 18 other seniors that lead this team were a rare bunch. From constantly playing through injury, or switching positions and going from offense to defense, or helping do the little, thankless things on a last second game tying and then ultimately game winning drive (thanks, Reid Fragel and Jake Stoneburner), this group of young men leave Columbus with an impressive resume: 3-1 against Michigan, two BCS wins, two B1G titles, and an undefeated season. Well done, gentlemen. Well done.
Philly Brown, WR: One of the guys that really came on during the year was Brown, who excelled on special teams against Wisconsin and had the best receiving game by a receiver not named Devin Smith in 2012. Brown took mostly short route and got big yards after the catch, plus kept the pressure up on TTUN all day.
Drew Basil, K: Basil had but six FG attempts coming into the game with four made on the year. He damn near matched that today, going 4/5 on field goal attempts, and accounting for the only scoring in the second half. Special teams have been a headache for a good part of the year, but when it counted most, Basil stepped up and kicked the Buckeyes to a victory.
No One. Seriously, this team went 12-0, and you want me to bag on these guys? If you do, you're either a Michigan fan or a terrorist. Which is pretty much one in the same.
Buy: Zach Boren at Linebacker. So earlier in the year, I was kind of pissy about Boren switching from starting fullback to starting middle linebacker. Yeah, I'm pretty much a moron. Boren was exactly the right player at exactly the right time, and at exactly the right position, for that matter. Is it a coincidence that OSU's defense really seemed to round into shape after Boren made the switch? I don't think so.
Sell: John Simon not being able to play. When word broke that Simon was a game time decision, I just figured it was last second maneuvering. When I found out he couldn't play, I was crushed for him. As Urban Meyer said, he has been the heart and soul of OSU's defense, and him not playing reminded me of Bobby Carpenter breaking his leg on the first play in 2005. He's going to be one hell of a pro, and I hope he lands on the Minnesota Vikings roster (sorry, blog bleed over. I'll stop now. But there have been a long line of OSU guys to play for the Vikes. Just sayin').
Buy: The offense in the first half. Ohio State's offense set the tone early by taking the opening drive and going for a touchdown. For the most part, they were crisp, efficient, and were able to dictate the tempo of the game to TTUN.
Sell: The defense in the first half. Denard Robinson ran wild, going for 124 yards rushing and putting TTUN in the lead with a dazzling 67 yard run with less than a minute to go in the half, right after OSU had taken the lead.
Buy: The defense in the second half. It was a different unit for the final 30 minutes, as they completely stuffed Robinson, Devin Gardner, Vincent Smith and anyone else that decided to tote the rock. Robinson had (-2) yards rushing in the second half, and they forced three of their four turnovers on the day in the second half, to include the game clinching interception late in the fourth quarter.
It's not very often that we get to witness perfection, and perfection is rarely perfect, for lack of a better word. 10 years in, we remember the 2002 Buckeyes as perfect, but as a team that was far from it in several games, yet still found a way to win. This 2012 team is right up there with that team, and although they were, in many ways, a flawed team, no one beat them. Not once. When it mattered, Ohio State came out on top, 12 times out of 12.
And that will be something we remember, many years from now.