COLUMBUS — Sixty-eight years. That’s how long it has been since an Ohio State football team finished a football season unbeaten and had nothing to look forward to except next season.
OSU (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) can become only the sixth Buckeyes football team to complete an unbeaten, untied season if it beats Michigan on Saturday.
But an NCAA bowl ban means Ohio State will have nowhere to go after that even with a perfect record.
The last OSU team in that situation was the 1944 team, which finished 9-0 after beating Michigan 18-14 in its final regular season game.
It was invited to the Rose Bowl, but the Big Ten did not permit any of its teams to go to bowl games that year.
Earlier this week, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Zach Boren’s mid-season shift to linebacker from fullback would be a good subject for a book.
Boren said he wasn’t sure about that, but he thinks Ohio State being in position to finish the season unbeaten is, “a neat story.”
“It’s something I’ll look back on when I’m older, once it’s done, and see how crazy it has been, just from everything that’s happened and how much we’ve been through as a team,” Boren said.
He called having the season end abruptly after Saturday’s game “kind of hard to think about” and said, “I don’t think it will really hit me or hit the other seniors until after the Michigan game when we’re like, ‘Man, we just played for the last time in the scarlet and gray.’ I think it is kind of unique that my last game is against the team up north.
“If we win, I’ll be able to sit back and be happy with how the season went and be proud of this team and the seniors and how we led them,” he said.
OSU radio analyst Jim Lachey, who played for the Buckeyes from 1981-1984 and has been on the radio since 1996, calls having nowhere to go after being unbeaten “weird.”
“It’s going to be weird after that Michigan game, once it’s all said and done. Ten years ago in 2002 (after beating Michigan to go 12-0), Paul Keels was on the radio screaming about ‘Hey, we’re heading to the desert.’ Now I don’t know where we’re headed. Headed to High Street, I guess,” Lachey said, with a laugh.
Ohio State has gone into the Michigan game undefeated 12 times since the game was moved to its traditional place at the end of the regular season in 1935. It has won eight of those, but the three losses all were crushing defeats.
In 1969, Michigan stunned No. 1 Ohio State 24-12 in Bo Schembechler’s first season in Ann Arbor. And the back-to-back losses in 1995 and 1996 by OSU teams that were ranked No. 2 weren’t far behind on the misery index.
The frustration ran the other direction from 1970-74 when Michigan came into its game against Ohio State undefeated every year but won only once, lost three times and got a tie in 1973.
MICHIGAN QB DECISION: Michigan coach Brady Hoke would not say on Wednesday whether Devin Gardner or Denard Robinson will be the Wolverines’ starting quarterback on Saturday.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer didn’t offer a prediction on that question, either, but said on his weekly radio show on Wednesday that he does expect Robinson, who has been battling an elbow problem, to be a big contributor in Michigan’s offense.
“They lost a good running back (Fitzgerald Toussaint) last week, so it’s going to be the Denard Show,” Meyer said.
Toussaint suffered a broken leg in Michigan’s 42-17 win over Iowa last Saturday.
REMEMBERING 2002: Ohio State’s 2002 national champion football team will be recognized between the first and second quarters on Saturday.
HOKE ON THE RADIO: Hoke got a couple of interesting questions during the Stoney and Bill Show on Detroit radio station WYXT-FM earlier this week.
Asked what he would do if Ohio State had a big lead and imitated Woody Hayes’ 1968 team by going for two points late in a 50-14 win over the Wolverines, he said, “It won’t get to that point.”
And when someone asked if he would attend a Justin Bieber concert, he said, “He’s very talented at what he does, I guess. But probably not.”