So it turns out Ohio State actually is for real. Didn't see that one coming.
The Buckeyes have proven themselves to be the unlikely front-runners in the Big Ten—unlikely, only because it seemed impossible a few months ago that this team could go from 6-7 and 3-5 in conference play in 2011 to one of the toughest teams in the nation.
It looked especially impossible as recently as a few weeks ago when the Buckeyes barely got by California in a game that required several lucky bounces and a few huge defensive lapses in order for them to get the win.
And yet, here we are at the midpoint of the season, and Ohio State is one of just two 2-0 teams in the Leaders Division (the other is Penn State, in another unexpected twist). Ohio State is now the only undefeated team in the Big Ten and, as difficult as it is, stands a pretty good chance of winning out in 2012.
Already, though, Urban Meyer has accomplished the impossible. His tough-love (or no love) approach seems to be working. He barely gives this team any credit after any given game, no matter how big it wins, and his motivational tactic seems to be paying off. His team has proven to be one of the most headstrong in the nation during a season in which very few Big Ten teams are.
And being headstrong is the most important quality when it comes to running the table.
Many expected Michigan and Michigan State to be the darlings of the conference in 2012. Ohio State already took care of the Spartans, beating them 17-16 on the road a couple of weeks ago. The Buckeyes don't face Michigan until the season finale, but judging by the fact that the Wolverines are barely hanging onto their top-25 life at the moment, that matchup isn't going to be quite as competitive as we may have suspected.
And most importantly, the Buckeyes have already passed their biggest test of the season: In back-to-back games against ranked opponents Michigan State and Nebraska, they prevailed. Compared with that two-week stretch, the rest of the season looks like a piece of cake.
The Buckeyes may have skirted by the Spartans by the slimmest of margins, but finally—for the first time since the season opener—this offense woke up in time to put up 63 points against Nebraska. That, to say the least, is a good sign.
Now, with six games remaining this season, the Buckeyes face just one ranked opponent. By all indications, they should be able to keep winning and keep climbing up the polls.
This two-game stretch was the one period that stood a chance of tripping up Ohio State, and it found a way to prevail. Of course, this Saturday's matchup against Indiana presents a potential trap game—too many teams come off huge wins only to overlook what seems to be an easy win—but for some reason, it doesn't seem likely that Meyer is going to let this team treat Saturday's game like anything except a must-win.
Meyer clearly knows how to motivate this team, and he knows how to keep it on its feet—after slim wins, big wins, lucky wins. This team has been through every discernible situation, and it has had success in each one.
By all indications, with the biggest test over with, it should continue.
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