Only one college football team finished the 2012 season with an undefeated record. No, it wasn’t national champion Alabama – it was Ohio State. The Buckeyes went a perfect 12-0, but weren’t allowed to compete for the title because of a one-year postseason ban for violating NCAA rules.
KG: What was the reaction from Ohio State players after the 2012 season: excitement about going undefeated or disappointment over a season cut short?AW: It was certainly a little bit of both. I think for the seniors on that team, they realized they had accomplished something very special. They beat their rival Michigan; they were able to still claim some championship rings for the division; and going undefeated is not something that anybody would take lightly.
However, [the Buckeyes were barred from the conference title game] and they then had to watch the Big Ten championship game, the national championship game. They definitely did feel like there was a little bit something missing. I think that’s put a bit of a chip on their shoulder now coming into the 2013 season.
KG: Jim Tressel, who led the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2002 and a Sugar Bowl victory in 2011, is currently preparing to teach a course at the University of Akron. Remind us why Tressel is teaching instead of coaching at Ohio State.
AW: Tressel was forced to sit out coaching entirely as part of the show-cause penalty. What had happened with the Tattoo-gate incident – players selling memorabilia to a tattoo parlor in town – it wasn’t so much the crime itself that was a problem for Tressel, but it was lying to NCAA investigators and hiding the nature of these potential violations for his players in order to keep them eligible that led to his penalty. Tressel was so wildly successful during his tenure with the Buckeyes. The way that he won made him beloved in Columbus for more than just his sweater vests and professorial attitude.
KG: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman last year, of course, but another signal caller has eclipsed him as the favorite to take the award in 2013. What should we know about Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller?
AW: Well, you don’t hear a lot about him compared to Johnny Manziel because he keeps to himself. He wants to win a national championship more than anything else. The main thing for him in terms of on-field production is he’s got to take a step forward as a passer. Braxton Miller is always going to be an athlete who is a threat with his legs, but if he’s able to add another component with him arm, he becomes a slam-dunk candidate for the Heisman Trophy, and Ohio State would be in the mix for that national championship that he desires so much.
KG: Freshman running back Dontre Wilson comes to Columbus with high expectations after racking up 4,400 yards and 81 touchdowns at DeSoto High School in Texas. I suspect those numbers are expected to be a bit lower this year.
AW: Yeah, he’s also got to fight for some playing time on the field. One thing that sets Dontre Wilson apart as you move into his freshman season is that he’s got skills that allow him to play both receiver and running back. He’s not going to get it as often as a true running back. He’s not going to be the team leader in receptions. But that combined total can lead to a lot of yards, explosive plays and a lot of touchdowns.
KG: Final question: will the Buckeyes go undefeated again and stop Alabama from winning a third straight national championship?
AW: There are a couple games that you look at that could potentially trip them up: a road trip to Northwestern and the end of the year in that rivalry game they have to go on the road to Michigan. I think that Ohio State will be the favorite in every one of those games. If they’re going to win a national championship, the key for them is going to be developing on defense. If they become a unit that makes them look like a well-rounded team, you could have a very fun shootout going on, a great game in January.