I don't know what to make of Ohio State's 2012 football season.
The Buckeyes struggled early with mediocre non-conference opponents in UAB, UCF, and Cal.
They've won tough road games at Michigan State and Penn State.
They destroyed Nebraska, the only team on their schedule currently ranked in the Top 25.
They barely beat Indiana and Purdue, teams that are a combined 1-7 in conference play this year.
Yet despite the close calls and lackluster performances, here we sit with a 9-0 team, with three winnable games separating them from perfection. However, because of a much-publicized postseason ban, OSU's season will end on November 24th against Michigan.
They were out of the national championship talk before the season began, not even being allowed to be ranked in the BCS poll.
The true strength of this year's squad will never really be known. They will get no bowl test against a champion from another power conference, and the Big Ten's overall dearth of talent this year is not the best judge of how good the 2012 Bucks truly are.
I actually think it would be funny if OSU ended the season as the only undefeated team in the nation. Are they the best team? Probably not. But there would be no way to know, and that's what I find so fascinating about this year. This could go down as one of college football's greatest mysteries - how good is this team, really?
In one way, I think the bowl ban is a blessing in disguise for this young team. If they were eligible for the postseason, there would be increasing pressure to stay perfect each week. Instead, Braxton Miller gets to enjoy his first full year as a starter relatively under the radar, (yes, there is Heisman talk, but it's somewhat muted by the bowl ban) and with the ability to just focus on weekly improvement.
Anyone who has been on campus this year or been to a game would think it was just like any other year. Columbus is still abuzz with the usual fervor that accompanies a football season. Each game is still meaningful and wins are still celebrated.
Plus, there have been plenty of memorable moments. An exciting back and forth game with Cal that was won in the final minutes. The 63-38 beat down of Nebraska that had the additional excitement of an 8 p.m. kick-off. The overtime thriller with Purdue that was one of the loudest games I have ever attended here (plus this was awesome). And don't forget the band!
In any other year, the close calls and poor performances would be reason to worry about being exposed down the road by a better team. A loss this late in the season would be devastating. But this year, it would serve as just another learning experience. I look forward to these next three games. The future is bright here. Consider 2012 a dry run for 2013.