Time to get ahead of ourselves. Ohio State opens in 32 days, at Indiana on Aug. 31, but let’s fast forward to the final game — whenever it is and whoever it is against — to build a framework for what is on the line this season.

The Buckeyes reside in a historically ripe spot for the program, being situated front and center in the consciousness of college football. If Alabama is on the pole, then OSU — sorry, that’s not you, Oklahoma State — sits just off the Tide’s right fender.

Clemson, under coach Dabo Swinney, might be hotter right now — a 2016 national championship win over Bama and two wins over Urban Meyer in the past four seasons buys you instant credibility — but the Tigers lack the overall cachet to compete with the Buckeyes in the name game.

Florida State? Too many schools in the same state means the Seminoles must share the sunshine. Oklahoma lost its famous coach. Is Southern California still on probation? As for Jim Harbaugh, win something at Michigan, then we’ll talk.

Alabama and Ohio State have separated from the pack. But of the two, the Buckeyes have more to gain and more to lose this season. Alabama can fumble away another national title game and remain on top. Ohio State, coming off a 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl playoff semifinal, cannot blow another chance to cement its full-blown celebrity status.

And make no mistake, the Buckeyes are big shots more than they’ve ever been.

“I think there is sizzle under Urban that Ohio State never had under Jim Tressel and certainly didn’t have under Woody,” said Ivan Maisel, a national college football writer for ESPN.

Certainly, Meyer owns a high Q rating, but television ratings and merchandising power also have much to do with the Buckeyes’ crackle and pop. Ohio State sells, both on TV and in stores and online.

The university’s alumni base also gives Ohio State a long reach. Combine that with the program’s success, highlighted by the 2014 national championship, and the Buckeyes’ brand — trademarked to infinity and beyond — makes those dominating OSU teams of the 1970s and 2000s look like supporting actors. And the 1990s teams seldom capitalized on their marquee talent.

Back to that final game. You must win early, middle and late to make January relevant, but the importance of a bowl/playoff game cannot be understated. As successful as Ohio State was under Tressel (2001 to ’10) and under Woody Hayes during the ’70s, the Buckeyes lost a lot of season-enders that cost them national titles and national respect.

For Woody, it was losing to Michigan in 1969, to Stanford in the 1971 Rose Bowl and to UCLA in the 1976 Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes also might have been voted No. 1 if they had not lost to Southern California in the 1973 and ’75 Rose Bowls. Toss the 1980 Rose Bowl loss to USC in there, too, although that one came under Earle Bruce.

Win even half of those finales and Ohio State is the team of the decade. Maybe the century. A similar brush with greatness belonged to Tressel’s teams, which won it all in 2002 but lost BCS championship games to close out the 2006 and ’07 seasons. Win those and you become legendary. Lose and you’re a laggard.

Ohio State is in the most illustrious position it has ever been, with the possible exception of the 1950s, when the school won two national titles, but that came during an era when national titles and bowl games drew less media attention than conference championships.

The door to historical eminence is open, but only if the Buckeyes close the deal. Or at least not embarrass themselves trying. Meyer is 3-2 in final games at OSU, including 1-1 in the playoffs.

“I like Ohio State this year,” Maisel said. “I feel fairly certain they’ve been beat with a 31-0 stick for eight months by the coaching staff and they’re going to want to do something about it.”

The season approaches. Time to start. And finish.