What if ... Ohio State AD Gene Smith would have imposed a one-year bowl ban last season, forgoing a trip to the Gator Bowl in hopes the NCAA would be satisfied with the punishment for accepting improper benefits, and the cover-up which ensued?
What if ... the eligible — and undefeated — Buckeyes were selected to play in the BCS title game against Notre Dame?
What if ... the Irish came into to their showdown with the Buckeyes looking as vulnerable and unprepared as they did against the Crimson Tide?
These are all things that I am sure crossed the minds of Buckeye fans when they were witnessing the trouncing of the Irish by the hands of the Tide. I would think there were feelings of disgust, outrage and sadness all wrapped in one.
But when I step back and look at this past season, again, it makes me wonder ... what if?
What if ... the Buckeyes WERE eligible to play in the post-season? I mean, Urban Meyer used the sanctions as motivation, telling his team prior to the season, "I want a pissed off football team. I want a team that has a chip on their shoulders. Maybe something’s been taken from you.
"Are you a team that’s gonna go get it? You’re the Ohio State Buckeyes. You have an angry football team. You have an angry staff.”
What if ... nothing had "been taken away" from them, would they have still possess "angry" mentality, which ultimately powered them to an undefeated season?
All of the "what ifs" will never be answered. And it's probably for the best.
Whether the Buckeyes would have made the title game or not, or would have beaten the Irish or not, the fact remains, Ohio State is on the rise. They are now seen as a contender moving forward, being ranked in the top two in most of the early preseason polls.
Ohio State is doing extremely well on the recruiting scene, will have another off-season in Meyer's system and will be hungry to prove that 2012 wasn't a fluke.
With all of that, the Buckeyes could be even better in 2013. They could run the table once again. They could make a trip to the title game in Pasadena.
That is the "what if" we should be asking.
Not what could have been.