With every victory Ohio State claims this year, the 2012 season morphs itself into a growing “what if” scenario for Buckeyes fans everywhere.
Sanctions levied on the university as a result of the tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal will keep the Buckeyes from playing in the postseason this year. For Ohio State fans, that's a hard pill to swallow as their team proves it's the class of the conference on a week-to-week basis.
It certainly makes you wonder.
What if athletic director Gene Smith had self-imposed a bowl ban on Ohio State last year? Would that have satisfied the NCAA, allowing the university to move forward and, ultimately, play in a bowl game this year?
As the Buckeyes currently sit at 9-0 with three games and a bye week left on the schedule, it would be hard to see Ohio State failing to make the Big Ten Championship. If they were eligible, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes would only need to win one of its three remaining games—at Wisconsin—to represent the Leaders division in Indianapolis
Of course, Urban Meyer would have much higher expectations than a 10-2 finish from his Ohio State team. Perfection is something he desperately wants, and as it looks now, perfection is something he will likely achieve this year.
Continuing down the what if road—assuming Ohio State finishes the season undefeated—the Buckeyes would likely see Nebraska in the conference championship game.
A rematch of Ohio State's 25-point victory over the Cornhuskers in Columbus would be entertaining, but most people would like the Buckeyes' chances, given how the first meeting ended.
Where would a 13-0 Ohio State team go if it was bowl eligible? Would the Buckeyes find themselves in Miami, playing for it all in the National Championship game?
That would all depend on its BCS ranking.
Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has been making an educated guess as to where the Buckeyes would rank in the BCS standings if they were eligible. After Ohio State defeated Penn State last Saturday, the Buckeyes rose three spots to No. 6 in the hypothetical poll behind Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Oregon and LSU.
For Ohio State to reach the title game, they would need some serious dominoes to fall.
Every team in front of them has losable games on their schedules. In fact, two of the teams ahead of the Buckeyes—Alabama and LSU—play each other this weekend.
For the sake of this hypothetical, we'll just assume the Crimson Tide will win out. Failing to do so is just mocking both Saban and science at this point.
That would knock LSU out of contention.
Oregon's back-loaded schedule features three teams ranked in the Top 20. The Ducks play No. 17 USC in L.A. this weekend, then close out the season with back-to-back games against No. 14 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon State. If Oregon survives those games, they'd have to come back and likely beat the Trojans in the Pac-12 title game to end the year.
While unlikely, Oregon could slip up in what looks to be a rough stretch to finish the season.
Kansas State only has two fringe Top 25 teams remaining on its schedule, but all four of their remaining opponents have the ability to score a lot of points. The Wildcats get Oklahoma State and Texas at home, but they have to travel to TCU and Baylor before the season ends.
Bill Snyder's team looks to be in good position, but the Big 12 is a strange conference that hasn't produced an unbeaten team since the 2008 Texas Longhorns finished 12-0.
Then there's Notre Dame.
The Irish have scratched and clawed their way through the rough part of their schedule and are still perfect on the year. Their reward? Notre Dame's next three opponents—Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest—are a combined 8-16 on the year. The Irish have those three tuneup games before they have to travel to L.A. for a matchup against USC.
Would the Buckeyes make it to the title game if they were eligible?
In short, this is what would need to happen for the Buckeyes to reach the National Title game (again, pretending they were eligible).
Alabama would have to win out. Doing so would knock LSU out of contention.
Then, Oregon would have to lose to one of its remaining opponents, which isn't that hard to imagine considering their rough slate.
In addition, Kansas State would need to be upset by either Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor or Texas.
Finally, Notre Dame would need to lose its season finale at USC.
Considering everything required, even if the Buckeyes were eligible for postseason play, it's hard to see how they'd make it to the title game. And assuming they did, which seems very, very unlikely, they'd be facing Alabama.
Maybe it's a good thing Ohio State's ineligible after all.
Follow David on Twitter @davidreg412.