It's all come down to Saturday for Ohio State.
And I don't think probably anyone - even the most diehard of OSU football fans - before the season started figured the Buckeyes would be in the position they are heading into Saturday's noon clash with visiting Michigan in Ohio Stadium.
A perfect 11-0 record and already Big Ten Leaders Division champions by besting Wisconsin 21-14 in overtime last Saturday in Madison brings the Buckeyes into their ''bowl game'' this season versus their arch-rivals, the Wolverines from ''that state up north.''
That's because there's no tomorrow for Ohio State after Saturday's game, since the Buckeyes are serving a bowl ban this season when the transgressions of the last several years finally incurred the wrath of the NCAA last December.
But the Big Ten let both Ohio State and Penn State off the hook somewhat right before this season began, deciding the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions could capture the Leaders title, but not compete for the overall conference championship in the league title tilt.
Instead, in that spot will be the Badgers by forfeit with the next-best record in the Legends Division - ironically after both OSU and Penn State - against Legends champion, either Nebraska or Michigan.
The Buckeyes finished a perfect 5-0 in Legends play and are 7-0 overall in the Big Ten, including a 63-38 throttling of the other probable conference title finalist Cornhuskers, basically making them the de facto Big Ten champs, pending how they fare Saturday in their annual regular-season showdown against Michigan.
An undefeated season hangs in the balance Saturday for OSU, effectively proving to any doubters that Urban Meyer is one heck of a coach, as he was able to cajole, anger, push, spur on, inspire and motivate, but also - and most importantly - lead a Buckeye squad that slumped to a 6-7 record last season back to the upper echelon of the Big Ten in just a year. Quite an impressive feat, but Meyer sure showed why his reputation precedes him.
But don't think that a win over Michigan Saturday is a given since the Wolverines are only 8-3, as those three losses have not exactly come at the hands of a bunch of nobodies - just defending national champion Alabama, so far undefeated Notre Dame and 9-2 Nebraska.
Plus, U of M's Denard Robinson, a shifty kind of dual-threat quarterback like the Buckeyes' Braxton Miller - although Miller is bigger and a more powerful runner - has been relegated lately mostly to other roles, running back and receiver, after suffering nerve damage in his right elbow, limiting his ability to grip and throw the ball.
But supposedly with Robinson back close to 100 percent throwing the ball now, Meyer is wary and will have the Buckeyes aware of wherever he's at on every snap. "You just know something's coming," said Meyer. "It's only a question of what. So we have to be ready for it."
But Meyer has had the Buckeyes ready to play all season, although sometimes it didn't seem that way, so it's taken a while - with a lot of grit, mettle and determination thrown in - to get to this point with a still unblemished mark.
Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at firstname.lastname@example.org