It's been quite some time since the Ohio State Buckeyes sat perched atop the Big Ten football landscape—a year and some change, to be exact—and after such a lengthy hiatus, they are poised once again to reclaim the top conference spot in 2012.
If there are two takeaways from the Jim Tressel era for Buckeye fans, they are: the strict adherence to the bro code that existed between coach and players, where tattoos for memorabilia are concerned, and winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.
Despite a valiant attempt by interim head coach Luke Fickell to at least maintain some level of program-wide sustenance and respectability, the Bucks went 6-7 in 2011, faltering to their first losing season since 1988 when they went 4-6-1. The only possible head coaching hire that would appease was that of the man soon to be bronze busted in the hall of legendary Buckeye head coaches, Urban Meyer.
Meyer, without coaching a single game to date, has already reestablished and rejuvenated the program, as well as the belief of the fanbase that there will be no rebuilding year; rather, the ribbon cutting on a return to prominence will begin in 2012.
The Urban myth, otherwise named Meyer, is already certifiable campfire material in Columbus and neighboring regions.
The backdrop for the hype is cemented by Meyer's Ohio foundation, beginning in Toledo, where he was born, with early coaching tuneups at Saint Xavier High School in Cincinnati, followed by his first collegiate job as a graduate assistant under then-head coach Earl Bruce at OSU, as well as his initiation into head coaching at Bowling Green in 2001.
This lineage supplants Meyer's slightly encouraging record as a head coach, which includes two national championships and three 13-1 seasons while at Florida and an undefeated 12-0 record while coaching the Utah Utes in 2004.
This combination of lineage and prior success provides ample reasoning for Buckeye backers at every level to believe that resurgence will be swift in Columbus.
Although it will be the inaugural campaign for the Meyer-era Buckeyes, the 2012 scheduling gods have shown compassion on the program, which is in its second coaching transition in as many years.
In addition to the California game being at the Horseshoe, the Bucks also will be at home against Nebraska and Michigan, which will be far more revelatory of the progress made of the program in 2012. And the tougher road tests will be presented by the usual suspects, such as Michigan State, the first Big Ten game, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
The Spartans and the Badgers are both going to be transitioning in new quarterbacks in 2012, and the Nittany Lions are a program in a disarray; as such, there is reason to believe that a double-digit season of wins is attainable.
The most significant name among the young players who will be one year wiser on the field is sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller. In a freshman season in which he competed for snaps early in 2011, Miller still managed to rack up 997 yards by air and another 695 by land. With Meyer's mentoring methods established, via his guidance of quarterbacks such as Utah's Alex Smith and Florida's Tim Tebow, Miller is in perfect position to thrive in 2012.
Others on the offensive side of the ball that will no doubt contribute in a much more significant way, based on 2011 numbers, are players such as sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith (who led the team in receiving) and junior running back Carlos Hyde (who split time with Dan Herron last season but still managed 566 yards rushing).
These returning players in addition to a 2012 recruiting class currently ranked fourth among all schools by Rivals.com ensures promise for success in the immediate and not-so-distant future.
The Buckeyes will return the majority of 2011 starters on the defensive side, and this far-reaching experience will be supplanted by an injection of two 5-star recruits, defensive ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington. Spence is rated No. 1 at his position and No. 9 out of all players nationally, and Washington naturally is ranked No. 2 behind Spence at his position.
Again, not only does Ohio State have the players to dominate the conference from the defensive side in 2012, but it has recruited superbly in anticipation of transition years to come.
Ohio State has not had consecutive losing seasons since it happened three years in a row from 1922-1924 when it posted records of 3-4, 3-4, and 2-3.
There is no fathomable way the Buckeyes can update that record for mediocrity in the modern era, much less finish with a balanced total of wins and losses.
The mix of infused inspiration that Meyer will bring, in addition to returning experienced players with new recruits, will all factor into a 2012 season in which the final standings will more than reflect resurgence.