Losing five games and a legendary head coach will do that for the overall tenor around a program, and things have been even worse for the handful of members of the football team who have been in the eye of the storm that resulted in multigame suspensions and the resignation of head coach Jim Tressel.
It's clichéd in some ways to assume someone will sit back and think about what they're thankful for on this Thanksgiving day, but with everything that has happened it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see someone like senior left tackle Mike Adams do just that.
"Every day I really think about the things I'm thankful for, in regards to this team and this year," he said Monday. "It's just been really great to play with this group of guys, especially my senior class, the guys I've been so close with since I've been in high school. It's crazy to see how fast it's gone by. I can't believe it's almost over.
"Starting out it was really rough, being suspended. Since I've been back in, it's been great to be back in with my guys playing the game that we all love. It's been a crazy ride. It's been a great ride, though. I wouldn't trade it in for anything. I love playing here at this university with the team and the coaches I have."
Adams will be thinking those thoughts while still trying to keep his mind on the upcoming Michigan game. That's right, Ohio State has to prepare for its biggest game of the season – Saturday's showdown with No. 17 Michigan – while also enjoying one of the most laidback holidays of the year.
The holiday, as a result, will take a backseat to game-planning and preparation for some members of the team.
"Is Thanksgiving coming up?" defensive coordinator Jim Heacock joked. "It's a lot different. Talk to my wife about that. She's got an opinion."
The situation is a result of the pushing back of the Big Ten schedule, which occurred for the first time last season. For the previous eight seasons, Ohio State had finished its schedule, capped by the Michigan game, before the holiday.
While other programs around the country played either on Turkey Day or the days after – such great rivalries as Texas A&M-Texas, Alabama-Auburn and USC-UCLA – the Big Ten would go dormant, out of sight and out of mind as television viewers around the country would settle in to watch games on the holiday weekend.
That fact – along with the postulate that the early ending to the slate resulted in unusually long layoffs before bowl games, leading to poor performances – swayed the Big Ten to push the slate back, also opening up an open week on each team's regular-season schedule.
"I always enjoyed being able to go home for Thanksgiving, but the off week in the middle of the season is nice," said OSU senior Michael Brewster, a Florida native who has taken part in both systems. "But being home for Thanksgiving, it's hard to beat that. My parents will be up here, but it's not the same."
Brewster said his family will make the trek up from Orlando to spend the holiday in Columbus before moving on to Ann Arbor, and the group will eat on campus after Ohio State's morning practice session. Of course, the heaping plates of turkey and other trimmings that one might expect an offensive lineman to enjoy will be missing considering the big game coming up.
"If I were home I would eat a lot more," he admitted.
Another person who likely won't eat well will be Heacock, who is tasked with drawing up a plan to stop Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Heacock said he will get home to spend some time with his family, including his wife Sherry, but the whole family won't get together until Sunday.
"I'm not very popular at home on Thursday before the game," the longtime coach admitted. "I don't eat much."
While Brewster will have family present, some of the other out-of-state players will be unable see their loved ones. A year ago, those players talked of spending the day with teammates, and Adams said the invitation still stands.
"The guys whose families aren't in town, my mom and grandma, they cook a big meal every year," he said. "Whoever doesn't have anywhere to go is always welcome to come to my house."