Only one thing could be worse than finishing 6-5 - finishing 6-6 with a loss to Michigan.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes are staring at that painful possibility Saturday afternoon in the Big House.
Any chance they're licking their chops in Ann Arbor where Maize & Blue fans have not proclaimed victory over Ohio State since 2003?
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (16) rushes in the first quarter of a game against Nebraska, Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Certainly, now is the time to kick a good team while its down. Not only is OSU far-removed from its normal standing atop the Big Ten, the Bucks are on a two-game losing streak and Luke Fickell's tenure as head coach appears headed for an unhappy ending.
So, how bad do you suppose Fickell wants to salvage an otherwise forgettable 2011 campaign by extending Michigan's recent misery vs. the Scarlet & Gray?
It doesn't figure to be easy inside Michigan Stadium where the Wolverines are a spotless 7-0 this fall. U of M's two setbacks were inflicted at East Lansing, a 28-14 loss to Michigan State followed by an unexpected week nine 24-16 reversal at Iowa.
Administrative officials parted company with Rich Rodriguez last year and brought on board Brady Hoke who made a commitment to upgrading a UM defense which allowed 35.2 points per game in Rodriguez' final season.
Hoke has more than made good on that early promise. The 2012 Wolverines are allowing 15.6 points through 11 games, ranking second in the Big Ten and sixth in the nation.
A year ago, UM ranked 108th nationally in total defense, permitting a staggering 447.9 yards per game. Twelve months later, Michigan has improved to 14th and has forced 26 opposition turnovers along the way.
Offensively, there's no secret who triggers UM's usually prolific offense. Junior quarterback Denard Robinson, a Rodriguez recruit, is on his way to establishing a number of both school and conference standards.
The 6-0, 195-pound Florida native is seven yards shy of 1,000 has the Wolves' leading rusher. Robinson has run for 14 touchdowns and averages 90.3 yards per outing.
Through the air, Robinson will likely surpass the 2,000-yard mark this weekend. He enters having completed 119-of-220 throws for 1,889 yards and 15 scores.
It should be noted in both Michigan losses this season, Robinson was well-contained. At Iowa, he was limited to 55 rushing yards off a dozen carries and went 17-of-37 through the air for 194 yards and a pick.
When the Maize & Blue was conquered by Sparty, Robinson gained just 42 rushing yards via 18 attempts and was an unimpressive 9-of-24 passing for 123 yards and an INT.
Robinson is also closing in on former Indiana QB Antwaan Randle-El, the Big Ten's all-time rushing leader among quarterbacks.
A second running option and viable one at that is 5-10, 195-pound sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint, a Youngstown Liberty High product who's scampered for 891 yards and nine TDs.
Michigan's receiving corps has nine different players who've landed TD aerials. Fifth-year senior Junior Hemingway owns a team-leading 30 grabs for 591 yards. Junior Jeremy Gallon has pulled in 28 catches for 439 yards and three scores. Tight end Kevin Koger (6-4, 258), a Toledo Whitmer grad contributes 17 receptions for 195 yards and three scores.
A pair of fifth-year seniors anchor the front line - 6-2, 286-pound center David Molk and 6-6, 302-pound right tackle Mark Huyge. Juniors Ricky Barnum (6-3, 292) and Patrick Omemeh (6-4, 300) man guard posts while 6-8, 302-pound sophomore Taylor Lewan is at left tackle.
Placekicker Brendan Gibbons, a 6-1, 227-pound junior has converted 47 of 48 PATS and is 9-of-13 in field goal attempts with a long conversion of 42 yards.
Leading tackler for UM is 6-1, 248-pound junior Kenny Demens with 6-0, 197-pound junior Jordan Kovacs close behind.
Defensive ends Ryan Van Bergen, a 6-6, 288-pound fifth year senior has logged four QB sacks as has his bookend, 6-5, 269-pound junior Craig Roe. Cornerback J.T. Floyd (6-0, 185) leads UM's secondary with two pass thefts. The Wolves have an all-conference returnee at tackle in 6-2, 304-pound senior Mike Martin.
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller now tops a three-man battle for rushing leadership. Miller has 595 yards with Boom Herron (559) and Carlos Hyde (549) in pursuit. The Buckeyes have combined for 2,211 on the ground with opponents totaling 1,432.
Miller has thrown for 762 yards, completing 53-of-109 with three picks and nine touchdowns. Tight end Jake Stoneburner added to his team-leading TD reception total last week. He now has 13 catches for 157 yards and seven scores.
Freshman Devin Smith continues as OSU's leader in reception yardage (241) a result of 11 catches. Verlon Reed contributes nine grabs for 132 yards.
Bradley Robey and Orhian Johnson have recorded three pass thefts apiece with Travis Howard and C.J. Barnett snatching a pair.
Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat totals a team-leading 68 stops. Lineman John Simon is the Bucks' sack leader with a half-dozen QB takedowns.
Simon's 43 tackles includes 13 for negative yardage.
The Buckeyes have lost eight-of-18 fumbles while their opponents have coughed up four-of-16. Ohio is averaging 315 yards per game and for the first time in several seasons, yielding more at 318.1.
Saturday's game marks only the 18th time OSU and Michigan have played after Thanksgiving. In those matchups, the series is even at 8-8-1.
Gibson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org