Sunday, May 31, 2009

Is Ohio State Football Still Among the Elites?

by HD Handshoe

These days, when you think of elite programs in college football, several teams that immediately come to mind are the USC Trojans, Florida Gators, Oklahoma Sooners, LSU Tigers, Texas Longhorns and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Since 2001, only USC and Pete Carroll has more wins than Jim Tressel's Buckeyes and both equally have one BCS title. USC also haa an AP title from 2003 when LSU won the BCS title, but the AP still voted the Trojans #1 for some odd reason.

It's no secret that Ohio State's recent losses vs. the other elite teams previously mentioned have taken away some of the luster of the program and led many to believe Ohio State is not elite and in fact, overrated simply because of the history and tradition of the program.

Here are Ohio State's last eight losses, all since 2005. I'm not sure why this resume is the reason they have been dragged through the mud over the past several seasons, but nonetheless, it is.

2005 Regular Season vs. eventual BCS National Champions Texas

Team AP Rank on gameday:

Texas was ranked No. 2
Ohio State was ranked No. 4

Final Score:

Texas 25
Ohio State 22

Looking back:

Vince Young should have won the Heisman and he led Texas (13-0) over USC (12-1) 41-38 in one of the best BCS title games ever played.

Ohio State (10-2) should have won this game and literally, they were one dropped touchdown catch away from beating Texas, but fell short in the end.

2005 Final AP Poll Rank:

Texas No. 1
Ohio State No. 4

2005 Regular Season vs. eventual Big 10 & Orange Bowl Champions Penn State

Team rankings on gameday:

Penn State was ranked No. 16
Ohio State was ranked No. 6

Final Score:

Penn State 17
Ohio State 10

Looking back:

The 2005 Nittny Lions (11-1) were one of Joe Pa's best teams ever and if not for a fluke loss at Michigan (7-5), they may have won the BCS title against either Texas or USC.

So, while a loss is a loss, Ohio State (10-2) had chances to win this game, which by the way, was played in Happy Valley at night in the "whiteout" where very few opponents ever come away victorious.

2005 Final AP Poll Rank:

Penn State No. 3
Ohio State No. 4

2006 BCS National Championship Game vs. SEC and eventual BCS Champions Florida

Team rankings on gameday:

Ohio State was ranked No. 1
Florida was ranked No. 2

Final Score:

Florida 41
Ohio State 14

Looking back:

Sure the score was lop-sided and Ohio State (12-1) was favored but Ted Ginn going out after the opening kickoff was a major blow not to be overlooked, and let's not forget...

For 50+ days straight, all Ohio State heard was how great they were and how all they needed to do was show up and pick up the trophy and all Florida (13-0) heard was how much they didn't belong, and how Michigan deserved to be there more than them, and that they had no shot to beat the Buckeyes and they only got in because UF coach Urban Meyer, aka Urban Cryer, told his sob story about how the SEC is just so tough and there's no way an SEC team can go undefeated and that's why his team deserved to jump UM...which they did in the final poll.

It's no surprise why UF won. They had more motivation and more to prove and Buckeyes were told that they couldn't lose. No excuse though in this game in the end because the Bucks rolled over and got rolled by UF in embarrassing fashion as the heavy favorites so I get why OSU took a hit nationally after this game and deservedly so.

2006 Final AP Poll Rank:

Florida No. 1
Ohio State No. 2

2007 Regular Season vs. eventual Big Ten Runner-up and Rose Bowl representative Illinois

Team rankings on gameday:

Ohio State was ranked No. 1
Illinois was unranked

Final Score:

Illinois 28
Ohio Stare 21

Looking back:

I guess this was Ohio State's "hiccup" game, kind of like when Stanford beat USC in 2007 or when Ole Miss beat Florida in 2008.

I won't go overboard on excuses but there was a clear fumble by Illinois (9-4) out of the end-zone that the refs missed which would have given the Buckeyes (11-2) the ball. Instead Illinois scored a touchdown a play or two later.

I'm not saying the Buckeyes would have won, but we'll never know for sure now.

The bottom line is Ron Zook is a good coach and he has fared well vs. Ohio State since he's been in Champaign.

2007 was a very strange year in college football anyway because every week that a new team took over the No. 1 ranking, they seemed to lose their very next game.

The Buckeyes followed that trend, just like all the others.

2007 Final AP Poll Rank:

Ohio State No. 5
Illinois No. 20

2007 BCS National Championship Game vs. SEC and eventual BCS Champions LSU

Team rankings on gameday:

Ohio State was ranked No. 1
LSU was ranked No. 2

Final Score:

LSU 38
Ohio State 24

Looking back:

This game pushed the Buckeyes record all-time vs. teams from the SEC in bowl games to the now infamous and pathetic record of 0-9.

In fairness, Ohio State was never expected to even play for the title in 2007. Not by the fans, the media or even the players and coaches. It was widely viewed as a stepping stone season to a legit title run in 2008.

They overachieved all year and in the end, teams like Kansas, Missouri and West Virginia choked in the final week or two of the season, allowing both LSU and Ohio State to move up to the top two spots essentially by default.

The title game was played in New Orleans, a mere 80 miles or so from Baton Rouge. It's not quite like playing USC in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena 910 miles from USC's campus), but pretty damn close!

It was a "neutral field" home game for LSU and the inept and immobile Todd Boeckman, and Ohio State O-line, gave the ball and the game away by consistently killing OSU drives with costly unforced turnovers and by not throwing it away instead of allowing the LSU defense to sack him repeatedly 5 and 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

There were also at least two personal foul penalites called on OSU that kept stalled LSU drives alive and eventually led to more points for the Tigers.

By my count and if my memory serves me correctly (which it does), the penalties and turnovers resulted in a four touchdown swing in favor of LSU, meaning had Ohio State not killed themselves with these stupid mistakes, they would have won this game 42-10.

But, they did kill themselves and they didn't win. LSU had a good team and I'm suggesting that they didn't, but Ohio State was just as fast and just as talented.

Even at "home", the Tigers were very beatable and the game could have and should have went the other way.

2007 Final AP Poll Rank:

LSU No. 1
Ohio State No. 5

2008 Regular Season vs. eventual Pac-10 and Rose Bowl Champions USC

Team rankings on gameday:

USC was ranked No. 1
Ohio State was ranked No. 5

Final Score:

USC 35
Ohio State 3

Looking back:

Again, I'm not trying to make excuses here but when a team is without their best offensive player, the game outcome is going to be affected.

Stud running back Beanie Wells didn't play in this game and unfortunately, Todd Boeckman did.

True freshman phenom Terrelle Pryor saw very limited action in the first quarter only and he ran circles around USC's vaunted defense, but Tressel didn't want to throw him to the wolves in such a huge game so, once OSU was behind 10-3, Pryor didn't see the field again and Boeckman buckled under the pressure as usual and the game was swiftly out of reach.

Now, if there is a the silver lining, it's that USC is great, especially at home and they were the then No. 1 ranked team in the nation and as mentioned, Wells was out for OSU.

The bad news is, the media and college football fans didn't seem to think Wells would have made any difference. I disagree 1000%!

All I'm saying is, take away the best offensive threat from any team in the country and then have them go play USC in L.A. and let me know how that turns out...

2008 Final AP Poll Rank:

USC No. 3
Ohio State No. 9

2008 Regular Season vs. eventual Big 10 Co-Champions and Rose Bowl Representative Penn State

Team rankings on gameday:

Penn State was ranked No. 3
Ohio State was ranked No. 10

Final Score:

Penn State 13
Ohio State 6

Looking back:

This game came down to true freshman Terrelle Pryor trying to make a big play and instead he fumbled the ball late in the game on Ohio State's side of the field.

Ultimately, that led to the games only touchdown and Penn State's first win in Columbus in 30 years.

There's really not much else to tell. It was a close, defensive battle and unfortunately, Pryor made a freshman mistake and that was the difference.

The game really could have went either way. Had Pryor simply ran the play up the middle for a first down (it was 3rd and 1), the Buckeyes very well may have won.

2008 Final AP Poll Rank:

Penn State No. 8
Ohio State No. 9

2008 Fiesta Bowl vs. eventual Big 12 Co-Champions and Fiesta Bowl Champions Texas

Team rankings on gameday:

Texas was ranked No. 3
Ohio State was ranked No. 10

Final Score:

Texas 24
Ohio State 21

Looking back:

Texas (12-1) beat Oklahoma (12-1) 45-35 during the regular season, but because of an odd tie-breaker, Oklahoma played in the Big 12 Championship game and eventually against Florida in the BCS Championship game instead of the Longhorns.

Without doing a full game recap, Texas started out strong but the Buckeyes (10-3) came back to take a 21-17 game with close to two minutes left in the game.

Colt McCoy engineered the Longhorns to a game-winning touchdown with only a few seconds on the clock.

Ohio State was given no chance to win this game and even less of a chance to keep from being blown out.

Ironically, this actually was one of the best bowl games of the entire postseason and essentially, the Bucks lost the game by a couple inches when they almost forced a turnover on downs on Texas's game winning drive.

But in the end, this was just another game where the Buckeyes could/should have won, but came up just short, literally this time by inches.

2008 Final AP Poll Rank:

Texas No. 4
Ohio State No. 9

In hindsight, other than the Illinois loss, none of these other defeats were so-called "hiccups".

All eight teams that Ohio State lost to finished that season ranked in the top twenty.

Seven of the eight finished ranked in top ten.

Six of the eight finished ranked in the top five.

The final AP Poll is the most important because it is after the season, when all the games have been played, and when we truly know how good or how overrated teams were.

Can Ohio State win every big game vs. every elite team they ever play?

Of course not and it's extremely unlikely that any other team in the nation would have won all eight of these games.

Does that mean Ohio State is not elite?

If winning 10 games or more practically every year and being ranked in the top ten at years end almost every season means a team isn't elite, well, then yes but we all know better than that.

Does Ohio State have to start winning some of these games on the "national stage" to reaffirm and maintain their status as one of college football's elite?

Absolutely and unequivocally YES—Without question!

It all has to start this season when the Buckeyes host USC.

A win solidifies the program as elite, while a loss, particularly one comparable to last seasons in L.A. will further erode the fading memories of the Buckeyes previous greatness from yesteryear's of old.

It's unrealistic to expect any team to win every game, every year.

The Buckeyes can't and don't have to win do that, but they have to start winning some of these OOC games vs. the other elitesm—and fast.

For that reason, the USC game is more or less a must win game for the Buckeye program.

After all, there's no free pass when it comes to being in the discussion as one of the nation's elite programs.

Just ask any Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Miami, or Florida State fan.

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  1. "I'm not trying to make excuses here...."

    Really? Cause that's what this whole article was; a list of excuses. Which is fine, just come out and say it though.

  2. Some people call the facts excuses....I guess you're one of those "some people" -- Potato, Puhtahto

  3. The facts are there --- Ohio State lost all those games.

    The rest, as you'll call "details," are excuses, and that was a long read of them.

  4. @419warrior:

    I'm assuming you're either a fairweather Ohio State fan or more likely, just a Buckeye hater so which is it?

    And who's your team then?

    Let's compare your teams losses over the past 4 seasons to Ohio States.........


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