Less than a month ago - after back-to-back disparaging losses to Michigan State (10-7) and Nebraska (34-27) to open Big Ten play - I didn't figure I'd be writing a column on Ohio State's chances to get to the first-ever conference championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.
But the latest turn in the soap opera that has swallowed up the Buckeye football program this season has been one for the better, two straight wins over ranked opponents in Illinois 17-7 and last Saturday night in Ohio Stadium over Wisconsin 33-29 in dramatic fashion on a Braxton Miller 40-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds to play.
That seemingly turnaround in fortunes has OSU football fans dreaming about spending the first weekend in December in Indy. Brrr, thank goodness the game's indoors.
Although Ohio State is only 2-2 in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes are 2-0 and in second place in the Legends Division, behind only 3-0 Penn State. But division records actually mean nothing in determining which teams play in the championship contest. Instead, division standings are purely based on each team's overall conference record.
So basically, in the Legends Division, JoPa's 5-0 Nittany Lions have the leg up on the rest of the pack, but still have a tough row to hoe to finish up - hosting Nebraska this Saturday, then games at Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes could conceivably pass Penn State. But first of all, it looks like they'll probably have to win out - against Indiana at noon this Saturday in Columbus, at Purdue next Saturday, then comes the big test versus the Nittany Lions Nov. 19 in the Horseshoe before the traditional regular season-ending matchup with Michigan, this year in Ann Arbor.
Other than the lowly Hoosiers though, the other three games at this point would probably be considered tossups, although Purdue has been all over the map this season - win one, lose one all the way through - but has had a penchant for turning its stadium into not a very hospitable place to play on occasion.
I remember a late-season game at Purdue in 1970 when the night before the sprinklers watering the field were somehow left on all night until the ''mistake'' was ''discovered'' the next morning. By then the field was a sloppy, soggy quagmire that favored the underdog Boilermakers against the faster and top-ranked Buckeyes, who had to fight for their lives to stay unbeaten, with the 10-7 win due to some late-game defensive heroics by Jack Tatum.
However, even if OSU goes 4-0 in November, Penn State has to lose at least one other conference game for the Buckeyes to have a shot at Indianapolis. But Legends Division members Wisconsin and Purdue are both 2-2 in the Big Ten as well, so still have a chance to pass the Nittany Lions too.
But if things end up in a tie atop the Legends Division, Ohio State has already beaten Wisconsin and should at this point at least probably win over Purdue. So the season for the Buckeyes could come down to if they win or lose against Penn State and Michigan.
Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at email@example.com