COLUMBUS - The 2012 edition of "The Game" between Ohio State and Michigan was more than just another installment of the heated rivalry. For the Buckeyes, it was their entire season on the line.
Not being able to go to a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, the Buckeyes needed a win over the Wolverines to clinch a 12-0 mark and to go down as one of the best teams - at least record wise - in OSU history. Also, it was coach Urban Meyer's first game against Michigan.
Meyer 1, Wolverines 0.
The Buckeyes defeated Michigan, 26-21, on Saturday, and clinched the sixth perfect season in school history.
"To be 12-0, it really hasn't sunk in yet," Meyer said. "It was a very emotional time. And obviously this is the state I grew up in. This is the state I made a comment on last November, December, whenever it was, that our objective was to make the great state of Ohio proud. I imagine tonight there are a lot of people in this great state very proud of what their football team did."
Many OSU fans would have accepted a winning recorded and a victory over Michigan in Meyer's first season - especially after going 6-7 in 2011. But the 2012 Buckeyes weren't going to settle for anything less than perfect, as it was all they could do this season without a bowl game to look forward to as a reward.
"The team was one that would not accept anything less than 12-0," punter Ben Buchanan said. "I have been working on my skills and trying to improve my abilities so I can help us reach that cause."
Now that the cause has been reached, the season will go down as one with an asterisk next to it - an undefeated team that could possibly win the AP title, or at least come in second in the final ratings, but not participate in a BCS Bowl game. Buchanan has other ideas though of how this squad will go down in history.
"I think the team will be remembered as a very unselfish team that had to come together through tough circumstances," Buchanan said. "I was so proud of the way my teammates rallied and refused to lose. To be a senior on this team is an honor."
2002 TEAM HONORED: In between the first and second quarters, the 2002 national championship team was honored as it is the 10-year anniversary of when the Buckeyes beat the Miami Hurricanes for the national championship.
Attending the festivities were Warren G. Harding graduate Maurice Clarett and now removed Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
Because Tressel is one of the primary reasons the 2012 team can't go to a bowl game, due to the tattoos-for-gifts-scandal, it was wondered how the former coach would be perceived by the crowd. But instead of boos or disdain, Tressel received a loud cheer and was hoisted on the shoulders of his 2002 players.
During his tenure at Ohio State, Tressel was 9-1 against Michigan, but the record books say 8-1 due to the vacated win from the scandal.
OHIO STATE CLOSING "GAME" GAP: With Saturday's win, the Buckeyes are now 44-45-4 against the Wolverines all time and 24-27-2 against Michigan in Columbus. Since 1951, which was the arrival of Woody Hayes, the Buckeyes lead the series, 37-27-2. Also, OSU has won nine of the last 11 meetings.
HYDE HAS DAY FOR BUCKEYES: While the Michigan defense was making it hard for Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller to do much on the ground, Carlos Hyde was making it look easy. The junior rushed for 146 yards and one touchdown. His longest carry was for 17 yards.
COULDN'T MAKE THE GAME: Liberty graduate and Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint was inactive for Saturday's game, as he suffered a leg injury against Iowa, which required season-ending surgery. Toussaint on the season had 514 yards and five touchdowns.