Ohio State Football: The Buckeyes' Most Valuable Lesson Learned in Perfect 2012

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst IJanuary 21, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 6:  Head Coach Urban Meyer hugs quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes after the Buckeyes defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 63-38 at Ohio Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes did more than position themselves to compete for a national championship next season after finishing 2012 at 12-0.

They found their identity and learned how to win games in tight situations.

OSU learned that it has a workhorse of a running back in Carlos Hyde after his outstanding second half of the season. Braxton MIller will be the focal point of the offense again as expected, but Hyde is no slouch, either.

The Buckeyes were one of the top running teams in the country, especially when defenses still loaded up the box, daring OSU's inconsistent passing attack to beat them.

OSU's 10th-ranked running attack gained almost 61 more yards per game than its 105th-ranked passing attack, which is unusual in this era of spread football. OSU ranked 47th in yards per game, and only six other teams that gained more yards than the Buckeyes, including Alabama and Nebraska, had more rushing yards per game than passing yards.

Urban Meyer's offense is a run-first attack, which is nothing new to Buckeyes fans, although it's much flashier than Woody Hayes' "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense.

But more important than finding an identity is learning how to win close games and how to finish.

The Buckeyes had a major identity crisis in 2011, as they had breakdowns in all facets of the game over the season.

In 2012, they figured out what they did well and, more importantly, found out how to pull out wins in close games.

Half of the Buckeyes' wins were decided by one possession, and they trailed in five of those games.

The Buckeyes pulled out the dramatic comeback win over Purdue, hit the big play late to knock off Cal and finished strong to top Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.

While the Purdue win may be the most memorable win in the last few years, the Michigan win deserves plenty of recognition as well.

The Buckeyes played, by far, their best defensive half of the season in the second half against the Wolverines, forcing three turnovers and holding Michigan to just 60 yards of total offense. They only kicked two field goals, but it proved to be the difference, as Hyde and the Buckeyes' ground game salted the time away and claimed victory.

They've learned how to win, and they've learned what they do best.

Now that the Buckeyes know who they are at their core, they can take that, build from it and try to turn it into a national championship run in 2013.

OSU is after its first Big Ten title since 2009 and has the horses to do so.

The question is, will the Buckeyes remember what made them perfect this past year and use that to do it again in 2013?


Follow me on Twitter @bielik_tim for the latest college football news and updates.