They say the world is ending today. Or Sunday. Or a year from now. We don't know when exactly because we're going off a vague understanding of the physical ruins of a civilization lost in time by over a thousand years. But I hear Central American gangs are visiting the ruins to pay homage to the end of some kind of cycle or whatever, so at least civilization's got that going for it.
But I digress. Whether the world ends with all the unbelievers being left behind, with a rogue planet crashing into the surface of ours, through some kind of instantaneous black hole from underneath the earth's surface if things go wrong with the large hadron collider, or through some kind of ginormous monster from another realm that jumps dimensions from deep underneath the sea, if it happens in the next, oh, let's say 365 days give or take two weeks, the final bowl game involving Ohio State I'll have seen will be the 2012 Gator Bowl. And that sucks. A lot.
Ohio State and Florida both entered the game just 6-6. Both teams had underachieved greatly and were leaving open questions as to the future of each program. A certain M-k- B--nch- would have you believe that Urban Meyer had ruined one of them (hell, maybe he'd preemptively ruined the other too just by the mere speculation associated with his prospects of taking its only slightly more than interim-ly filled head coaching position). The other? Well, they'd been through a year of hell and back and maybe after losing to Penn State post-Joe Paterno's termination, many Ohio State fans might as well have welcomed an apocalypse of some kind.
Nonetheless, these teams were playing, and they were even playing in a post-New Year's Day bowl!!1! Because this is why we can't have nice things in a post-totally corporatized college football postseason structure. It's the brands, stupid – or something like that, anyways.
I remember leading up to kickoff having not exactly the typical nerves. An Ohio State loss wouldn't really mean much of anything: Luke Fickell's fate was sealed, Urban Meyer had already been earmarked as the program's next head coach, and much like with the Arkansas victory immediately in its aftermath (prior of course to it being Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-ed), I figured even a win would be instantaneously revisionist history-ied or goal-post-move-recontextualized to fit some other stupid (probably southern in origin) FM sports talk show narrative.
Still, a win would provide a certain cathartic factor. I was in attendance in person in Glendale in January of 2007. I spent hundreds of dollars I didn't have to stay in an extended stay hotel right on the border where things got sketchy in Phoenix, the street signs weren't in English, and I heard everything from meth deals to trucker-call girl pillow fights in the rooms around me. I even made my friends I went to the game with stay to watch Florida make things official because "you can't have the sweet without the sour." I was an idiotic 22-year-old.
Though both programs were shells of their outstanding 2006 season selves and both under new management, a sluggish first quarter would culminate in a Deonte Thompson 17-yard pass from senior John Brantley. The same John Brantley who'd been the scorn of Florida fans everywhere's existence for the better part of a season and a half. If ever it were possible to SEC-ize Steve Bellisari's legacy and have it had occurred in Gainesville, Florida, Brantley was your man.
The second quarter showed signs of life as DeVier Posey, he of the patently absurd NCAA-having-made-an-example-out-of-him 10-game suspension during his senior year, caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from super frosh Braxton Miller. And though Andre Debose, he of the seemingly constant fictionalized transfer rumors ever since, housed the ensuing kickoff to give Florida the lead for good, a Drew Basil field goal just before the half made things not feel as impossible. Trailing 14-10 was a hell of a lot better than trailing 34-14 after all. Or so we'd delude ourselves into believing.
Still, the second half was every bit the nightmare fuel fodder it could've been. Ohio State looked largely punchless offensively, Ben Buchanan's long strides got yet another punt blocked that would be housed for 6, and though Jordan Hall keynoted a better-late-than-never attempt in the final drive from what will forever be know as Walrusball, after the final onside kick went for naught, Florida had a 24-17 victory over Ohio State. I guess at least we beat them in basketball...just not in that one that mattered. Damnit.
So all in all what did the 2012 Gator Bowl amount to? A cruel reminder of the awfulness of the post-Sugar Bowl stretch leading up to that point, a rehash of the terrible championship game loss of a half decade prior, and really served as little more than a purgatory for the Urban Meyer era. Ohio State probably actually lost money given the reported ticket sales, and no one will ever speak glowingly of their trip to Jacksonville, regardless of the end result.
No, Ohio State didn't play in a bowl game following the 2012 season. Maybe it was because they didn't penalize themselves first. Maybe the NCAA would've tacked on a second one just to be assholes. I'm not really sure it matters. Because if the world ends today, tomorrow, or any time before the Buckeyes can get the proverbial monkey off their back, the last bowl game featuring them I'll have seen will have been the 2012 Gator Bowl. And that's just about the worst thing I can imagine.