First impressions, second thoughts and the third degree:
The kookiest Big Ten Conference football regular season ended, appropriately enough, with its most surreal scene.
The same Saturday that Ohio State finished 12-0 overall, it overtly celebrated the guy whose dishonesty cost the Buckeyes a shot at the national title.
The sight of disgraced former coach Jim Tressel grinning atop the shoulders of his players from the 2002 Bowl Championship Series titlist — they were celebrating the 10th anniversary of the achievement — was proof a weird set of values still is embraced there.
Tressel was forced to resign in the spring of 2011 after it was determined he lied to NCAA investigators about major rules violations within his program. His tenure ended and new coach Urban Meyer's began with sanctions that prevent the Buckeyes from playing for the Big Ten title or participate in a bowl game this season.
That didn't stop Tressel from receiving a standing ovation when the 2002 squad was introduced before a 26-21 win over Michigan at Ohio Stadium.
The displays of affection toward Tressel came on the heels of a petition, posted and since removed from the White House website, imploring President Barack Obama to pardon the current team and use his executive power to allow the Buckeyes to keep playing.
"The offending players and coach who covered it up are no longer part of the program," the petitioners wrote.
A RECORD TO MOCK: Sorry, but if you score an NCAA-record 138 points in a men's college basketball game as guard Jack Taylor did for Grinnell (Iowa) did in a 75-point win over Faith Baptist Bible last week, there aren't many flattering conclusions.
Had it been done in the confines of a close game, so be it.
Had it been done in the name of a charity or tribute, so be it.
But it wasn't.
It was done for the wrong reasons — ego of the player and homage of the coach — and the aftertaste is nasty.
CLOSE QUARTERS: If you're going to wade into the intriguing debate over UW football coach Bret Bielema's record in close games this season — 1-4 in games decided by three points or less and 0-3 in overtime — here's some free perspective.
Bielema is 12-9 (.571) in games decided by three points or less in his 91-game tenure. In championship games decided by one score — bowls and conference title games — he's 3-3.
Meanwhile, his Hall of Fame predecessor, Barry Alvarez, was 18-14-4 (.556) in games decided by three points or less from 1990 to 2005. He was 5-1 in bowl games determined by one score.
YOU JUST NEVER KNOW: Just as no one with an honest pulse had Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on their list of prime Heisman Trophy contenders when the year began, unbeaten Notre Dame was not on the Associated Press' preseason Top 25.
Manziel is No. 1 on my Heisman ballot at this point, with another out-of-the-blue candidate, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, not far behind.
If the Irish can finish the season without a loss, they would join Clemson (1981), Miami, Fla. (1983) and Brigham Young (1984) as the only national champions to start the year outside the top 25 and finish No. 1.
Contact Andy Baggot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-252-6175.