You Can't Sanction the End Zone

By Elika on August 10, 2012 at 1:02p
(Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America)

I woke up on November 26, 2011 with hopes that a win over Michigan would redeem a season that had just followed up a three-game winning streak with back to back losses. The difference between the high of Braxton Miller's 40-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith in the final minute against Wisconsin, and the low of the pathetic ending in West Lafayette was colossal.

Actually, scratch that. The low got even lower, when Ohio State would give Penn State their first Joe Paterno-less victory since 1965.

Either way, a win over that team up north heals all wounds. Especially in a season that had already made its way down the toilet, a win over the Wolverines would rescue the season, and continue what had become a November tradition. Never mind that Ohio State was 6-5 going into the game, Michigan was 9-2, and the Buckeyes hadn't lost to Michigan since 2003. Society hadn't yet seen a single Facebook status update about a Michigan win over Ohio State, because Facebook didn't exist the last time the Wolverines won The Game1.

Much like several other games in 2011, Ohio State had that one within reach. Just one overthrown pass from a true freshman QB is what kept the Buckeyes from keeping that streak alive, against what was supposed to be a Michigan team that was back. As that ball dropped, so did my heart. I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself for the rest of the day, so I hibernated and wasted away in my desolate room.

Later that night, when I decided to rejoin the real world, my brother and I went out for a drink and a bite to eat. We sat in front of TVs and watched as USC beat UCLA.

Actually, scratch that. We watched USC pummel UCLA in that kind of game that makes you abandon your basic human instinct to root for the underdog, because now you're just mad at the underdog for showing absolutely no resolve to at least make this assault semi-respectable.

This was now funny. The only thing that could redeem UCLA now was to lose so poorly they'd have no choice but to fire Rick Neuheisel. Even my UCLA alumnus brother (whose second UCLA degree was in progress at the time) was cheering on the Trojans in their quest to hang half a hundred on the apathetic Bruins. 

Following the game, the 6-6 Bruins would be on their way to represent the Pac-12 South in the first-ever Pac-12 Championship, while the Trojans would be headed to the locker room for the final time that year. As they poured into that locker room, USC had Pac-12 South Division Champions t-shirts waiting for them. Unofficial, obviously, since they were at the tail end of their two year postseason ban, yet still... awesome.

Sexual Baller Marc Tyler proudly wears what could have been.This could be kind of fun, actually.

The reminder to themselves, and to the college football world, that they were the rightful owners of that title was fitting. Not only did they certainly earn that recognition by what they did on the field, but USC was exactly the kind of program that would spin NCAA sanctions and a postseason ban into something you couldn't poke fun at them for.

How could you poke fun at a team that just put up 50 against their crosstown rival, made a point to remind everyone they were clearly the best team in their division, and laughed at the NCAA in the process?

As much as that moment impressed me, it impressed me even more so weeks later, when Ohio State's new head coach Urban Meyer was officially in place, and the NCAA handed Ohio State their own postseason ban, effective in a year that instantly came with high expectations. As a spectator, how do you keep a season exciting when what the team "plays for" each year has been removed?

USC fans started by reminding themselves that "you can't sanction the end zone." The traditional goals for the season are no longer available? Make a new one. Root for your team to destroy every team they face that year, and then just tell everyone where you deserved to be post-season.

As an outsider, it actually looked kind of fun! And frankly, it appears way less stressful than actually having to win a bowl game. Your team never loses a hypothetical gloat-fest! They are literally undefeated when you get to completely make up a bowl game that never happens.

Others may roll their eyes at first, but when the team caps off an impressive season with total domination of their rival, and they hear that conviction in your voice, how can they argue? Oh my gosh, your team IS awesome! And they DEFINITELY would have crushed in the conference championship game! And in their BCS bowl game? Forget it!

Perhaps the Buckeyes weren't meant to redeem 2011 with a win over the Wolverines after all. Perhaps 2011 needed to be nothing more than a reminder that the Michigan game isn't a sure thing every year, so that it could serve as The Game, the conference championship, and the bowl game for the Buckeyes in 2012.

But even before Michigan heads to Columbus on November 24th, there are other things to play for as well. The chance to beat two other teams with postseason bans in 2012. The chance for victory over a team with a fire-breathing dragon as its mascot... The 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes, FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON SLAYERS! The chance to beat a Pac-12 team, and call it our Rose Bowl. The chance to see Bielema's face when the Buckeyes beat his Badgers, again2.

The chance to see John Simon eat people alive. The chance to remind Purdue of their proper place, as they seem to forget from time to time. The chance to avenge the 2011 Michigan State and Nebraska losses as if they're Albanians that kidnapped our daughter, because WOW those days sucked. The chance to show the college football world that Ohio State can hire an offensive coordinator that isn't completely obsessed with Dave. The chance to watch this team develop into what is hopefully a contender the following year. The chance to climb the AP poll, just for fun. The chance to witness the effects of Urban's man-crush on Braxton Miller, on the field.

So, what do you look forward to as a fan? What do you not look forward to? College football is in a league of its own because every game means so much. That's true this year for Ohio State, just as much as it's always been. And while it won't serve to determine the conference champion this year, The Game has an even greater sense of purpose than it typically does. Did you even think that was possible?

What could possibly set up 2013 better than a dominant year in 2012, and the added motivation of coming off a postseason ban? The results are still yet to be seen, but it appears it may work for USC this year.

Even without a postseason, Ohio State should have a pretty memorable year, with something new to root for each week. And if not, there's always basketball...

  • 1 Yes, "The Game." You're cute, Harvard and Yale.
  • 2 Let's be honest, there's really no other time when seeing his face is pleasant.

Comments Show All Comments

spqr2008's picture

Love the Taken reference.  In ten years, Hollywood will hire John Simon to play Liam Neeson's role, and it will be awesome.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

I think 2013 will be tougher than most think. We lose 20+ seniors at the end of this season. And possibly a few to the draft...

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

builderofcoalitions's picture

I had very similar thoughts when I saw those USC t-shirts last season. I typically detest everything SC does, but something about proclaiming themselves P12 South champs made me think "Yeah, take that NCAA!"
The Michigan is our bowl game every year. There's a reason Ohio State and Michigan struggle in bowl games over the years. They're spent after they meet in November. Besides, bowl season is just so removed from the regular season. Who cares?
Honestly, I just want to see some football. It's an added bonus that they don't have to win every game or win the national championship. There's no pressure. Just play. And bet Michigan.

Because we couldn't go for three.

slippy's picture

I hope we hang 50 on Mattison's "awesome turned around UM defense" and that loss knocks them out of the B1G championship game.

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Yep, just play.   And for us just watch and enjoy the ride.  Take it all in and relish every second of the being a buckeye fan and enjoy the season.  Then, take a breath and strap in for buckeye hoops baby.   It's a 7 month long Ohio State football/basketball bender!

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

45buckshot's picture

i'm in! screw basketball! (just kidding :)
no, really, their goal now seems to be 12-0. it's possible, and if they pulled it off, it would be pretty awesome.
you'll say, but "No, that sucks because they wouldn't get to play in the title game!"
well, honestly, i'm not sure they'll be ready for the title game this year. Tressel made it twice to the title game when he wasn't ready, and we know how those turned out; it's one thing to kick the crap out of the B1g and another thing to beat the best SEC team in the country. 
so maybe this is a blessing in disguise... we can run the table, possible win an AP title, maybe let Braxton make a run at the Heisman? then claim we would have beat that stupid SEC team in a bowl game if they had let us play... ;)
then again, Buckey Mafia has me thinking... if Boren and Stoneburner have big years, they're going to be hard to replace... Simon... damn, i wish we could play for the title. 

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
—G.K. Chesterton

buckeye76BHop's picture

Nice article even though I hate that pic at the top...I'm sure you don't Elika...but I do;-)  In all seriousness, it's almost like OSU's damned if they do or if they don't.  I really want a perfect season but then again you hope they don't at the same time.  Could be interesting to see what happens in less than 21 days and then again in 106 days;-)  Go Bucks! 

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Poison nuts's picture

I like the idea of them winning every game this year & the guys going back to the locker room to shirts saying: "OSU National Champs". I mean...we gotta think bigger than USC dammit!!

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

cinserious's picture

In '13 you don't replace a Simon, boren, or stoneburner. But if Hankins comes back, don't worry about the defense. And the added yr of experience might help Braxton make up for the loss of boren/stoneburner. Plus don't forget that w have a whole new system, new o.c., behind the eight ball on offensive line, wideouts, and qb development. '12 most likely want the yr. Anyway, hopefully it happens in '13 but w all know its happening soon!

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

AntiZmbeTskFrc's picture

In my perfect 2012 season the Buckeyes crush in the skulls and dreams of those um bastards and put them back in their proper place. everything elese is secondary.

"We got no food, no jobs... our PETS' HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!"

Crimson's picture

Yeah, as much as I love the undefeated talk, I can't see it happening with installing a new offense and oh so many new coaches.  However, I think they'll make some statements late in the year (*cough* mitten *cough*), and by the second they'll be ready for 10+ wins.

BuckeyeNation's picture

Somebody needs to get this article over to the WHAC so our boys in the locker room can see it! I'm 41. I'm so pumped I'm ready to put the pads back on... for atleast one play anyway, lol!
Great article Elika!

onetwentyeight's picture


ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

What I look forward to and want to see most:
#1 - beat TSUN.  I don't see any reason why OSU can't win 10 games this year, but if they beat TSUN, then if they only get 8 or 9 wins, then so be it. 
#2 - beat Perv State.  Please don't lose to these chumps again.
#3 - beat Purdue.  Again, please don't lose to these chumps again.  Hang half a hundred on them and show them just how pathetic their program and their stupid coach with his stupid mustache is.  Then go to West Lafayette next year and drop half a hundred again.
#4 - beat Wisconsin.  Show them just how tough Camp Randall is, when we win there like 2/3 of the time anyway.  Shut that fat turd that coaches them up, too.
Take care of Nebraska, Sparty, and the rest are jabronis.

Class of 2010.

Deshaun's picture

My first reaction to this article was, “Awesome! What a cool way to motivate the team while simultaneously telling the NCAA they can’t steal our season the way the Grinch couldn’t steal Christmas from the Whos.” After the 2001 victory over TTUN, stores sold shirts telling the legendary gold pants story, which could be re-released. I like the idea of t-shirts for Leaders division champs and/or Big Ten champs (based on conference record per pre-2011 rules). Of course the big prize would be a shirt for a self-proclaimed National Championship after an undefeated season. After all, if Tulane could do it in 1998, so could Ohio State.

Then I realized all my exciting ideas were basically t-shirts depending on how many games we won. What creative ideas does anybody else have?