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January 8, 2013

Buckeyes finish season as only undefeated

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Alabama's 42-14 victory over Notre Dame in last night's BCS National Championship Game gave the Crimson Tide its third national title in four years, an accomplishment that has not been lost on college football fans. But for those in Columbus, the continuation of the sport's latest dynasty comes secondary to the Fighting Irish suffering their first defeat of the season.

That's because with the Notre Dame loss, the Ohio State football team finishes the 2012 season as the only unbeaten team in in Division I FBS college football. The Buckeyes earned a 12-0 record in their first season under head coach Urban Meyer, which came to a close following their 26-21 victory over Michigan on Nov. 24.

Unlike Alabama and Notre Dame, however, Ohio State was unable to compete for a national championship this season, due to a one-year postseason ban that came as a result of sanctions that were placed on the school following NCAA violations that were committed by members of the 2010 OSU team and former head coach Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes were eligible to win an Associated Press national title, but finished third in the poll, behind the Crimson Tide and Oregon.

Ending the regular season as one of two undefeated teams along with the Fighting Irish, there stands good chance to believe that it would have been the Buckeyes, and not Alabama, squaring off with Notre Dame in last night's title game. We'll never know where the BCS rankings would have placed Ohio State, whose strength of schedule ranked 60th in the country according to the Sagarian ratings, which is one of the reasons why Meyer has been reluctant to play a game of "what ifs" and openly pine for his third national championship.

"I understand, but I'm not going to get into the what ifs and and can't control what you can't control," Meyer said following his team's win over Michigan. "The quote I'd like out there is I think this team could play and compete with any team in the United States of America."

Meyer admitted that he didn't always feel that strongly about his squad, particularly after an out-of-conference schedule saw the Buckeyes barely escape unscathed. It took OSU overtime wins over Purdue and Wisconsin and close calls with Michigan State and Indiana, but nevertheless, the Buckeyes are the only Division I football team to have not endured a loss over the last year.

That fact becomes even more impressive when you consider that outside of a Big Ten Leaders Division title, the Buckeyes had little to tangibly play for. Meyer and his team have known about their bowl ban since Dec. 11, yet still found the motivation to turn the 2012 season into something special.

"I went into it believing that it would be the biggest challenge because it is a challenge I've never experienced. I've been very fortunate every year since I've been a head coach that our goal is to compete for championships come November," Meyer told Yahoo! Sports. "As the season progressed, some really magical things happened like a chance at an undefeated season. At no time did I feel like we had to come up with creative motivation."

While their head coach seems satisfied with what his team accomplished and the foundation that it laid for his program, at least a few members of Ohio State's 2012 team seem focused on what could have been. Those players took to Twitter on Tuesday to reflect on finishing third in the AP poll, after ending the season as college football's only undefeated Division I team.









The good news for the Buckeyes? For the first time in more than a year, they are now eligible to earn the right to go to a bowl game.



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