When The Associated Press released its college football rankings three weeks ago, there were eight teams placed ahead of the unbeaten Ohio State Buckeyes.
It was easier for Ohio State fans to accept its bowl ban then, because even if their team was eligible, reaching the title game seemed more than improbable.
Over the last three weeks, though, seven of those eight teams ranked ahead of the Buckeyes have lost. After a barrage of upsets, only two teams—Ohio State and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish—remain unbeaten after 12 weeks of college football action.
That bowl ban is starting to feel like undercooked chicken in the stomachs of Ohio State fans.
Before the NCAA handed Ohio State its sanctions last December, athletic director Gene Smith and the 6-6 Buckeyes accepted a bid to play the Florida Gators, also 6-6, in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. The decision to play in that game, instead of self-imposing a bowl ban on a six-loss team last year, has made Smith a very unpopular man in Columbus.
So unpopular, in fact, that Smith gets booed at home games during Ohio State sporting events. When the Ohio State men's basketball team hosted Indiana last January, his attempt to counter the crowd's negativity with intense "O-H" chants (at the 27-second mark) comes off horrendously awkward and hopeless.
That was 10 months ago, but tempers in Columbus haven't cooled.
Of course, the point still might be moot. Despite being one of only two unbeaten teams in college football, the Buckeyes are still ranked behind Notre Dame and two one-loss SEC teams. No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia are scheduled to meet in the SEC Championship game, though, which will automatically eliminate one of the teams from contention.
That leaves the Fighting Irish. If USC beats Notre Dame this Saturday, the Irish would certainly fall behind an undefeated Ohio State team. Assuming the Buckeyes win out, that would leave Ohio State and the SEC Champion atop the polls.
There won't be a bigger Notre Dame fan in the world this weekend than Gene Smith. If the Fighting Irish lose, his public appearances in Columbus will only get uglier.
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