The first piece I wrote for LGHL was back in August, before the season started, when the thoughts of a 12-0 season for Ohio State football were merely the hopes and ambitions of many an optimist in Columbus, and wherever else the sun sets on Buckeye fans. Since then, we were treated to a season that none of us will possibly ever forget – the greatest fringe benefit of a perfect season. This wasn't a perfect year in any way, shape or form ("imperfectly perfect" as coined by someone on this site), but it ended without blemish in the record books, and there is very little more important than that.
This season could have gone a number of ways for the Buckeyes. Say the pass to a wide open Devin Smith was dropped, and an odious Cal team went on to win in overtime. And say that Kenny Guiton, jazz flute in tow, hadn't led the Buckeyes back from the brink while a Wolverine-esque Braxton Miller was regenerating at OSU hospital, and a now Hope-less Purdue team had won in Columbus. And worse yet, had either of the season's final two games gone the other way, losing to either of the two Hometown Buffet managers masquerading as Big Ten coaches. This could have been the second darkest timeline of them all, following last year's abomination.
But it wasn't.
Ohio State beat Cal and Purdue, stuck it to Bielema in his own back yard, and reminded Brady Hoke which Ohio is which. They also added eight other victories along the way, just for good measure. For a team that was playing for almost nothing (though I really want to get a 2012 Leaders Division Champions shirt), this was a team that bought in to a message from a first year coach, with a first ballot hall of fame pedigree. Their reward for this won't truly be seen until next year, when the team is almost assured of a high national ranking, and a large amount of pressure from everyone hoping the team can do what Jim Tressel's did in his second year, and what Urban Meyer's did in his second year at Florida. No pressure, or anything.
For me, the Michigan game was odd, almost surreal. Not because of the aura and mystique of The Game or anything like that, but because of what I was predisposed to thinking this season would be like. I expected this year to be a breeze; win some games they weren't supposed to, lose some games due to new and different circumstances, beat Michigan like a drum because order must be restored, etc.
But as the slog of the season wound on, it became increasingly difficult to separate the honeymoon I thought it would be, to the drive for perfection it turned into. It had been a few months since I had last paced around my living room, walking a rut into my carpet, like I did for the Michigan State game. A few seasons since I had as much fun watching football than I did during the Nebraska game. Too many years since I last felt my heart beating through my chest as Wisconsin drove to force overtime. This year was supposed to be easy, but until CJ Barnett picked off Michigan late in the fourth, and Carlos Hyde sealed the game a few plays later, there was almost nothing easy ever about watching this team.
And damnit, looking back, I loved every minute of it.
When the clock hit 00:00 on Saturday afternoon, and the Buckeyes had officially ended their season, there was no rampant celebration for me, no chanting "We Don't Give a Damn..." in a bar with 100 other fans dressed in replica Nike jerseys. For me, it was the feeling of sweet relief, that everything I had rooted for over the last 13 weeks (and really the last 28 years) had finally come to a successful zenith. The AP voters weren't going to give the Buckeyes enough love or a title. And the nauseating prospect of rooting for either Notre Dame or an SEC team in the title game was still very much a possibility (and will now be a reality). But those things, at that time more than ever, didn't matter. The Buckeyes were 12-0, and no one could take that away.
If this past season is any indication, next year should be a lot of fun, too. The schedule sets up rather nicely, and the OOC slate is mediocre at best (thanks, Vanderbilt). But if, in one year, a coach like Urban Meyer can transform the tire fire of a 6-7 football team into the imperfectly perfect 12-0 machine it was this season, then the best is probably yet to come. And that best will have to be present next year, considering the Buckeyes will, due either to their Big Ten association or easy schedule, have to run the table again just to get to the BCSNCG. So, if going 12-0 to win no title wasn't enough for you, now imagine going 26-0 to win a title. Again, no pressure or anything.
But those are thoughts for next year, thoughts for next August. For now, as a Buckeye fan, take a second and unpack the season. Watch the games you have saved on your DVR a few times. Re-read some of your favorite articles about this team again. Post your favorite .GIFs to twitter one more time. Think about next year next year. Remember 12-0 as the wonderful honeymoon it was.
And when you're done with that, take a deep breath, Buckeye fans. The honeymoon is officially over.