Ohio State Football: Why the Real Season Starts Now for 10-0 Buckeyes

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterNovember 3, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 03:  Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes throws a pass downfield during the game against the Illinois Illini on November 3, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Miller had 226 passing yards against Illinois. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

In a matchup of the worst team in the Big Ten against the best, there were no surprises on Saturday: Ohio State throttled Illinois, 52-22. The game wasn't even that close. Ohio State led 38-6 with a minute left in the third quarter, and Illinois just traded scores as Ohio State cycled in backups from there.

Braxton Miller accounted for 299 yards of total offense—226 through the air—and three touchdowns without turning the ball over in the win. Carlos Hyde continued his role as the workhorse of Urban Meyer's "pound ya" offense with 137 yards and three more touchdowns on 18 carries. The Buckeyes defense held Illinois to just 74 yards on 32 carries.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. All that happened. Big deal. Worst vs. first. You know who else put up stats on Illinois this year? Everybody.

No, the only stat seriously worth mentioning from this game is Ohio State moving from 9-0 to 10-0. Two games remain after the Buckeyes' upcoming bye week.

And that means the real Ohio State season is just about to begin.

Now, not all of Ohio State's first 10 wins were cupcakes, obviously. Beating Nebraska was huge. OSU-PSU was, up to that point, the best game in the conference, and Ohio State won convincingly.

Even the two scares against California and Purdue added the necessary drama and resolve to the Buckeyes season. Those are the types of games that can turn a season from "good" to "special."

But let's be clear: Now that Ohio State's this far, there's only one way the season can end without fans being massively disappointed, and that's at 12-0.

Standing in the Buckeyes' way are two legitimate opponents.

First on Ohio State's docket after the bye week is Wisconsin, which is experiencing a major resurgence in the rushing game. Barring a continued and sustained insurgence from the likes of Indiana, the Badgers are the putative favorites to actually represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten championship.

Ohio State's going to want to see the Big Ten championship and say "we deserve to be there instead." The records will probably bear that out no matter what, but it'll be completely indisputable if the Buckeyes get that win.

Then, there's Michigan. Ohhh, Ohio State and Michigan—the fiercest, proudest, most consequential rivalry in Big Ten history. It's Ohio State's Super Bowl against Michigan's last shot at getting into the Big Ten championship. It's revenge for that streak-snapping 2011 Ohio State loss against a new streak of Michigan's own.

The Ohio State season has two games left. And they'll define the entire rest of the season along the way.