Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
In recent history, undefeated teams receive recognition as conference champions and a bowl game. The 2012 Ohio State football team cannot achieve either of those, but they still could achieve a much bigger prize.
As one of two undefeated teams remaining in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and the possibility of No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia all losing, the No. 4 Buckeyes may have an outside chance at being crowned the Associated Press poll’s national champions.
OSU players and their coach, however, are not worried about that.
Not right now, at least.
First-year coach Urban Meyer said he has learned over the course of his coaching career that the only thing he can control is getting ready to play the game.
Since the inaugural BCS National Championship game in 1998, the 2003 USC Trojans are the only team which did not win the BCS National Championship Game to be named the AP’s national champion.
USC was still the Pac-10 champions and played in the Rose Bowl that year, defeating Michigan 28-14. The Buckeyes, however, are not eligible for a bowl game or the Big Ten Championship game.
“If everything falls into place and we’re AP national champions that’s great, that’s icing on the cake,” said senior offensive lineman Reid Fragel. “I think going 12-0 in itself will be quite the accomplishment. That’s what we are focusing on right now.”
Senior defensive back Zach Domicone said he looked at the poll for the first time this weekend after then-No. 1 Kansas State and then-No.2 Oregon lost and saw OSU was ranked fourth.
“All of that doesn’t matter unless we go out and take care of business this weekend. So I think Saturday is the main focus and we need to just go out there and play our game,” Domicone said.
OSU touts seven football national championships, but in only four of those years – 1942, 1954, 1968 and 2002 – did the AP poll acknowledge the Buckeyes as their No. 1 team in their final poll. The latter of the four was OSU’s last title.
Doug Lesmerises, AP poll voter and OSU beat writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, said he thinks the Buckeyes’ ineligibility and lack of a win against another high-ranked opponent makes their chances of winning a national championship “impossible.”
“The overall strength of schedule from the year is going to hurt them and not having that big game at the end, even if it’s a one-loss team that wins the BCS National Championship, it’s not going to happen,” Lesmerises said. “I think the thing that is hurting Ohio State is they don’t have a legitimizing win. If they had one, it just takes one, it makes everything else look different and they don’t have that.”
And while the odds might be slim for the Buckeyes to be crowned atop the AP poll this season, if they beat Michigan, they can become the sixth team in OSU football history to finish the season unbeaten and untied. The previous five were the 2002, 1968, 1954, 1944 and 1916 teams.
“You want to be undefeated. That’s like the dream for every athlete no matter what sport you are in,” said redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino. “So to actually have a chance to do that now, you know, sitting here 11-0 with one game in front of us … if we do what we have to do, it just can be amazing.”
The Buckeyes are set to finish their season Saturday in Ohio Stadium against Michigan at noon.