A 6-6 campaign is not the norm at Ohio State, but the 2011 season has been anything but typical. The Buckeyes have not finished a season with a sub-.500 record since going 4-6-1 in 1988, John Cooper's first season as head coach. The current Buckeyes don't intend to snap that streak, either. They can prevent that by defeating Florida in the Gator Bowl.
"You definitely always want to end on a win, especially because we have a very good opponent," senior center Mike Brewster said. "We're excited and it's definitely important to me and these older guys. We don't want to end on a four-game losing streak. To end on a win would be nice."
Ohio State finished the regular season with consecutive losses to Purdue, Penn State and Michigan in November. Despite that, the Buckeyes were invited not only to a bowl game, but one in which they would face a foe from the always-tough Southeastern Conference. Also, the esteem connected with the Gator Bowl is heightened because it is traditionally played on New Year's Day. This year's game will be played Jan. 2 because the first day of 2012 falls on a Sunday.
Florida had its struggles this season, limping to a 6-6 record and a 3-5 mark in the SEC. Even so, the prospect of battling the Gators was an exciting one to fifth-year senior tailback Boom Herron.
"This is definitely a great opportunity and we need to make the best out of it," Herron said. "We've had a pretty rough season going 6-6, but we're getting another chance (to play). We have to stay in the moment and go out there and get a win."
The 2011 season was an emotionally draining one for OSU coaches and players alike, and Brewster said the weeks after the Michigan game have given the Buckeyes a chance to recharge their batteries. Ohio State returned to the practice field Dec. 9 after the end of finals on campus.
"Guys were flying around today," Brewster said. "I couldn't be more excited about who we're playing. I just think it's going to really kind of get us hyped up and get us going through all the practices. Today's practice was really good."
It is not just the seniors who want to end their collegiate careers with one last victory. Several members of the coaching staff will be on the Ohio State sideline for the final time in Jacksonville.
"I think we all have one unified goal and that's to win the Gator Bowl," senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said. "Whether you're a senior, freshman or a coach, I think that we all share that same goal. I think that's bringing everyone together."
"You kind of just forget about the distractions and just move forward. We've dealt with a lot of adversity this year, and we're just moving forward."
A win against the Gators could go a long way toward healing the wounds of 2011 as the Meyer era begins.
"It kind of washes everything that happened away," sixth-year senior defensive back Tyler Moeller said. "We're going to bust our butts and work hard these next couple of weeks and make sure we go out with a win."