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Or: How OSU Became the Shortest Giant in CFB

Townie already captured the flavor, but OSU deserves a double dose of hate, no? I want to complement the sentiments he so clearly expressed with some historical context. There is a twist, though.

Despite writing a lot of these pieces, I actually am one of those weird freaks who will usually cheer for B1G schools out of a sense of B1G pride. Obviously, in those situations, one’s rooting is much thinner and more fickle than when cheering for your favorite team. But my logic has always been that I’d rather see my conference’s bully win the big game than some other conference’s bully.

Which is why I hate OSU.

They have pretty much been the absolute worst at a being a bully on the national stage. No blue blood shits it down their leg as often, or as hilariously, as OSU’s faux “impose our will” clown car antics in big games. It’s pathetic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it happens with such regularity.

For those of you who are of the “hooray for my team, fuck everybody else” persuasion, this might not even read like a hate piece. So, enjoy your schadenfreude throughout. But, if you want the B1G to do well, there’s really only one way think about OSU historically:

The Peak

1968: Ohio State wins their only undisputed national title of the Woody Hayes era.* And they did it in rather forward-looking fashion, as Hayes rolled with a bunch of inexperienced, but talented, sophomores, knocking off two different #1 ranked teams (Purdue and USC) and annihilating Michigan, 50-14.** All in all, pretty much the platonic ideal of what OSU fan thinks an elite season would look like. Plus, again, all those sophomores. The future is bright, right?

*1954 and 1957 were split national titles, and as legit as, say, 1997 Michigan’s. 1961 (NFF) and 1970 (NFF)? Get the fuck out of here. Woody won three titles. Stop.
**This was the “go for three” game. Glad that didn’t give Michigan any motivation going forward, huh? #AggroOSU.

Prototypical OSU

1969: OSU is NOT the school that comes up with the wishbone. That’s Texas, who won the national title after OSU, who got as much “greatest team ever” regular season publicity as any pre-ESPN team, got tuned up by Michigan 24-12, despite being favored by 17, ending all their dreams of repeating. OSU gave up 24 points in the first half, and threw 6 INTs. GrEateSt teAm EveR!!!

In retrospect, this loss was only, at worst, the second most embarrassing moment in the year for Woody Hayes. First has to be the early December evening, when he said the following about the My Lai Massacre: “[Implies male victims deserved death] And I wouldn’t be so sure those women were innocent...The children are obviously innocent — if they are less than five.” Yeah. Cool.

Read the whole article if you can stomach it. Note the My Lai statement came after—and as a presumed parallel to—Hayes defending his own bad reputation with officials as a function of his refusal to let his players play dirty!

That’s some of the most self-aggrandizing pretzel logic I’ve ever encountered. World class BS, Woody!

1970: Okay, okay, anybody can have a bad day, but OSU’s Super Sophs are now seniors, and roll to an undefeated regular season, entering the Rose Bowl at #2 and, owing to #1 Texas’s Cotton Bowl loss, with a second consensus national title within reach. But 10-point underdog Stanford (8-3 on the season, including a loss to Purdue) had a secret weapon.

The forward pass.

Stanford outscored OSU 14-0 in the 4th quarter (you know, when OSU’s superior physicality was supposed to have worn out the inferior competition) in a 27-17 win. Jim Plunkett completed as many passes as OSU attempted, and, despite being -2 in turnover margin, Stanford ended the dreams of Hayes’s most-decorated class of players. [This is cued up to the end of the 3rd quarter. The next play if the game-changer.]


1971-1974 is the period when the Michigan-OSU “Ten Year War” burned the hottest, and fans of those teams get tumescent discussing missed FGs and AD votes, but pretty much the rest of us don’t have to give a shit, because, honestly, it was the JV rivalry compared to Nebraska/Oklahoma. The 1971 game did give us this highlight from Woody:

Watch from the start if you want to try to conjure up a PI that could possibly justify such an outburst, but I just see the forerunner of Bobby Knight (Who actually took classes from Professor Hayes as an OSU undergrad. No shit, huh?) acting like a fuckstick. Honestly, Bear Bryant could have coached in a coonskin cap and walked the sidelines with a jug of ‘shine and it would have been more dignified.

1975: Woody’s last great team...and greatest bed-shitting

Led by two-time Heisman-Trophy winner Archie Griffin (neither justified), OSU was 11-0 and #1 entering a Rose Bowl showdown with an 8-2-1 UCLA squad that OSU had already throttled 41-20 on the road in the regular season. No matter, the Bruins, 15.5 point underdogs, weathered a first half where they didn’t gain a first down until at least 20 minutes had been played and trailed only 3-0 at halftime, thanks in large part to a 4th and 1 stop.

It was 16-0 UCLA in the 3rd quarter and the Bruins coasted 23-10. While UCLA outgained OSU 212-90 through the air (surprise, surprise) Wendell Tyler also outplayed Archie Griffin and his 54 yard TD run in the 4th sealed the game.*

*This is actually the silver lining for OSU. UCLA edged out Cal for the Rose Bowl based on a H2H win. If the Golden Bears had made the Rose Bowl, it would have been Heisman runner-up Chuck Muncie outplaying Griffin, and the fraudulence of the vote would have been more obvious. So, actually, OSU dodged a bullet here.

Now, you know how Woody’s career ended, but, just in case you still think punching an opposing player was an out-of-character moment, here’s Woody as Michigan salts away the 1977 matchup to clinch the Rose Bowl spot:


1979-1987 Zach Smith’s Grandpa

Not a lot to report here, it was really the Diet Coke years. For the third time in the 1970s, OSU gacked away a natty at the Rose Bowl. But, honestly, even though they were #1, the ‘79 Buckeyes weren’t as good as USC (Charles White, Marcus Allen, Anthony Munoz, Ronnie Lott, Dennis Smith, Joey of the most talented rosters, ever), playing rather heroically, before falling 17-16. In his only other Rose Bowl appearance, the favored Buckeyes fall to a pedestrian USC team (Fred Crutcher was the leading rusher) 20-17 as Mike Tomczak throws three picks.

John November...vs. teams from Michigan

1993: 9-0-1, loses to Michigan, misses Rose Bowl

1995: 11-0, loses to Michigan, misses Rose Bowl

1996: 10-0, loses to home (17 point favorites), still makes Rose Bowl, but blows natty

1998: 8-0, loses to Michigan home (28 point favorites)...despite leading 24-9 midway through 3rd quarter, blows natty

The Tressel Years

Hey, I’ll wear a sweater vest and teach a class! The Woody-loving morons will eat this shit up!!!

But I’ll cheat and lie, too. Hopefully nobody notices.

We must acknowledge the 2002 national title. If for no other reason than it happened because of a penalty call that can serve as a permanent rejoinder to any Buckeye fan still whining about the 2019 Clemson game. Plus the 2019 Buckeyes weren’t beating LSU anyway, so it more than evened out for OSU.

Besides that, well, you know the story. Shellacked by Florida in 2006. Drilled by LSU in 2007. Terrelle Pryor’s best team was lucky to survive, um, Arkansas, in the Sugar Bowl.*

*OSU is 3-11-1 vs. the SEC over the last 50 years. This was win #2. We’ll get to win #3. Win #1 was a three-point regular-season victory at home over an LSU team that went 8-4. Yay!

2012-2018 The years of Earle Bruce’s matter his transgressions

Special shoutout to OSU for missing out on the chance to play Notre Dame for the national title in 2012 because, in true aggro style, they decided to go all-in on a 5-3 team in 2011 because Braxton Miller hit a Hail Mary vs. UW to keep OSU’s division title hopes alive. Delaying their bowl ban to 2012 sure worked out well, didn’t it?

2013: 12-0, loses to Michigan State, misses BCS title game*

*Would OSU have beaten FSU in the title game? Probably not, but Auburn almost did, and they were seriously flawed. And anyway...sad pizza!

2014: An indisputably earned national title. Let’s just reflect on how it happened:

1) OSU obliterates UW in the B1G title game. UW was coached by a former Meyer assistant who already had a foot out the door.

2) OSU jumps two teams in the final rankings to make the CFP.

3) OSU beats the worst Alabama team (by SRS) of the CFP era (yes, this includes the 2019 ‘Bama team that missed the playoff).

4) OSU gets to play Oregon after Chip Kelly had left.

2015: 10-0, loses to Michigan State...and their 3rd string the 14 point favorites...132 yards of offense...5 (!!!) first downs.

But really, all of this is a lead-up to the fullest, most representative example:

2019: “Let them feel our violence”

Okay, let’s go down the list:

1) Settle for three first half field goals, including two from inside the 10? Check.

2) Give up TD drives of 75 (4:35), 83 (:45) , 99 (2:45), and 94 (1:18) yards? Check.

3) Commit a critical targeting penalty? Check.

4) Commit a critical roughing the punter penalty? Check.

How about “shut the fuck up and play under control?”

But that wouldn’t be the OSU way, would it?

And what does OSU fan have to say about his? RRRRREFFFFFFS!

In the all-time list of “be physical, push the envelope, and try to take every advantage, but also whine about the officiating” hypocrisy rankings, 2019 OSU is #3. #2 are the Bad Boy Pistons, who will go on and on about their style of play, but complain about Kareem getting a foul call in the ‘88 Finals. #1 are the 1970s Oakland Raiders, who will get a glow about them discussing how George Atkinson close-lined Lynn Swann, but then wail and gnash their teeth that the refs blew the Immaculate Reception.

Good job everybody!

Conclusion: It’s All About Nattys, Right?

National Championships: 1968-present (split titles count, or else Woody only won one natty)

  1. Alabama: 10 (8 outright, ‘78 kinda BS as USC won H2H, ‘73 total BS, lost bowl game)
  2. Miami: 5 (4 outright, ‘91 shared with Washington)
  3. Nebraska: 5 (3 outright, but ‘70 totally legit as Texas lost bowl game; ‘97 shared with Michigan)
  4. USC: 5 (2 outright, but ‘78 earned via H2H over ‘Bama; ‘74 suspect b/c Oklahoma on probation; ‘03 AP overrides BCS title game result)
  5. Oklahoma: 4 (3 outright; ‘74 ineligible for UPI b/c probation)
  6. Florida: 3 (3 outright, all since ‘96)
  7. Florida State: 3 (3 outright, all since ‘93)
  8. Clemson: 3 (3 outright, all since ‘81)
  9. Ohio State: 3 (3 outright, all since ‘68)
  10. Notre Dame: 3 (2 outright; ‘73 should’ve been as they beat ‘Bama in bowl game)
  11. LSU: 3 (2 outright; in ‘03 they did win BCS title game)
  12. Texas: 3 (2 outright; ‘70 is pretty much BS as they lost their bowl game)

Now, let’s apply one simple rule: Ohio State actually takes care of business when they’re a double-digit favorite in November/December/January.

I won’t count 2015, b/c you can’t just assume they win the CFP, but I am counting 2012 b/c no way Urbs loses to Manti Te’o and company. In other words, we’re altering the following years: 1969, 1970, 1975, 1996, 1998*, 2012.

*Maybe I shouldn’t count 1998 because OSU would’ve had to beat an SEC team (Tennessee) to win the natty. But Tennessee was one of the luckier champions you’ll ever see, so I’m giving it to OSU.

Now, here’s the list of teams with 3+

  1. Ohio State: 9 (9 outright)
  2. Alabama: 9 (7 outright)
  3. USC: 5 (2 outright)
  4. Miami: 5 (4 outright)
  5. Nebraska: 4 (3 outright)
  6. Florida State: 3 (3 outright)
  7. Clemson: 3 (3 outright)
  8. Oklahoma: 3 (2 outright)
  9. Notre Dame: 3 (2 outright)
  10. LSU: 3 (2 outright)

Take care of business when a prohibitive favorite (and don’t fuck up the probation game in 2011-2012) and you deprive Texas (twice), Nebraska, Oklahoma, Florida, and Alabama of nattys and have a clear claim to being THE defining program of the last half century.

But you’re too busy smelling your own farts, projecting dominance, instead of, actually, you know, winning these games, to get the job done. So, instead, for all your regular-season glory, you’re stuck with nouveau riche programs like FSU, Clemson, and Florida, and that’s only because I’m letting your reach back to 1968...

OSU IS the giant of the B1G. And this is unfortunate. Because when it comes to winning it all, nobody has left more on the table.

Fuck Ohio State.