Urban Meyer has a huge stake in both teams' success.
Where They Were Jan. 2, 2012
The Ohio State Buckeyes were 6-6 when they took the field against the Florida Gators also 6-6. Ohio State's fanbase was looking forward to putting the Luke Fickell head coaching era to an end and celebrating the arrival of their savior—Urban Meyer. The Florida fanbase was looking at the same man in a completely different light—he left a talented team in shambles.
The Gators won the game 24-17 to secure a winning record and continue their winning-season streak to 32 consecutive seasons—since 1979's 0-10-1 debacle.
With the loss, Ohio State fell to 6-7 and their first losing season since 1988 and the programs first ever seven-loss season.
Where They Are Oct. 8, 2012
Both the Gators and the Buckeyes 2012 squads' are undefeated and stand at 6-0—which equals the win totals for both programs' 2011 regular season. Florida has climbed from 23rd in the preseason AP poll all the way up to fourth in the latest AP poll.
The Buckeyes haven't shot up quite as quickly as Florida thanks to a few lackluster performances in non-conference play, but they have risen 10 spots in the rankings from 18th to eighth.
How They Got Here
For the Gators, it's been all about the defense. The Gators are allowing 284 yards a game and only 11.4 points per game—good for 12th and sixth in the nation, respectively. The defense only allowed 15 more yards a game last season, but allowed 9.2 more points a game.
The ability of the defense to keep the other team out of the end zone—which was very apparent against LSU on Saturday—has allowed a struggling offense to continue to search for something that will work.
However, the offense seemed to find their identity Saturday as well. Jeff Driskel and the receivers are still finding their way in the passing game, but the offensive line and RB Michael Gillislee took control and wore down the vaunted LSU defense.
While the Gators seemed to have their coming-of-age against LSU, the Buckeyes had a similar experience under the lights against Nebraska. The transition to Meyer's way in Columbus hasn't gone as smoothly as what many expected. But on back-to-back Saturdays, Ohio State has won games many doubters thought they wouldn't win.
In doing so, not only have they produced a top-10 team, but a solid Heisman candidate—a candidate who is the main reason the Buckeyes are where they are. Sophomore QB Braxton Miller is showing that Meyer's statement that Miller is more talented than Tim Tebow was an honest statement.
The Ohio State offense has struggled at times on both sides of the ball—too many three-and-outs on offense and putrid tackling spells on defense. But Miller has been there to save them every time—whether that be a late TD pass, grinding it out on the ground to run down the clock or breaking a big run to spark the offense.
Where They Will Be On January 1, 2013
Well, Ohio State will be at home. They can't win a Big Ten title and they can't play in a bowl game, but expectations around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center are still flying high—Cornerback Bradley Roby said the team's goal is to go undefeated and earn an AP National Championship. Those are lofty goals, but Ohio State may have already made it through their toughest two games in very different fashions—at Michigan State 17-16 and Nebraska 63-38.
Can the Buckeyes win out?
Absolutely, in the next four weeks before their bye week, the Buckeyes have a trip to Indiana, Illinois, and visits to Penn State and Purdue. The Buckeyes will be favored heavily in all four of those games and should win all of them rather easily—although Penn State is improving and will be gunning for Ohio State in what is becoming known as the "Ineligi-Bowl."
After their bye, Ohio State will go to Wisconsin, who will likely be looking to lock up the Leaders Division title. Then the hated Wolverines will visit Columbus for their annual season-ending showdown.
The Buckeyes are more talented than every team on their schedule, so don't be surprised if they are sitting at 12-0 at the end of the year. However, their shot at an AP National Championship likely sailed away when they struggled with UCF, Cal and UAB.
While the Buckeyes are home for the holidays, the Gators also have a very good chance to find their way to a 12-0 regular season. The Gators get a bit of a tuneup at Vanderbilt on Saturday before a two-week span that will decide their season when they host South Carolina and then play Georgia in their annual battle in Jacksonville.
Following those two, Florida has three games against what should be easy wins—Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State. Then they finish their season against their hated in-state rival Florida State.
The Gators are unlikely to make a run all the way to a national title game since winning the SEC East will likely result in a matchup against the nation's best team—Alabama. But it is likely that the Gators end the season in a BCS bowl game.
Nonetheless, both of these prestigious programs are in a much better place than they were 10 months ago and both have sophomore QBs leading the way. Who knows, maybe we will see another Buckeye-Gator bowl matchup in January 7, 2014 in the Rose Bowl playing for a BCS National Title.