When the Iowa Hawkeyes drubbed the Buckeyes 55-24, pretty much ending their College Football Playoff hopes, many Ohio State fans threw in their collective towels and called the 2017 season a loss season. But, if the Buckeyes win out, they’ll be B1G Champions for only the second time in Urban Meyer’s tenure. A conference title will land them in either the Fiesta or Orange Bowl. There’s still the very small possibility of a College Football Playoffs birth if chaos occurs. So there is a LOT left to play for.
However, this defeated mindset leaves me ashamed to be an Ohio State fan sometimes. This fan base needs some perspective and I’m here to offer it to you.
As a 37-year old who was born after the Woody Hayes era unceremoniously ended, I missed the golden age he led in Columbus that propelled the Buckeyes to national prominence with 5 National Championships, 13 Big Ten titles and 16 wins over “That Team Up North” in 28 seasons.
My father raised by me on Buckeye football. I listened to him tell stories about the greatness of this program before my birth, yet as I watched as a youngster teams lead by Earle Bruce, I didn’t see it. There were no national titles, but he did win 4 Big Ten titles, 5 bowl games and was 5-4 against the Wolverines. Coach Bruce only had one top 5 finishes (1979) and had eight consecutive seasons of 3 or more losses. This program was no longer on the level of the Notre Dame’s, Nebraska’s, Oklahoma’s, Miami’s and Penn State (pre-B1G affiliation) who dominated NCAA football during that period.
Then there was the Cooper era, the period that hurts and haunts me still. Only 2 wins and a tie in 13 tries against TTUN. 7 bowl losses. 3 Big Ten Titles and No National Championships despite reaching the top 10 in Associated Press Poll 7 times and starting the season in the Top 10 four times.
It wasn’t until I was a 22-year old senior at The Ohio State University that I saw my favorite team play for a national title and win it, led by Jim Tressel, Craig Krenzel and super freshman Maurice Clarett. 22 years it took for me to experience my team win it all. Compare that to a current 22-year old Ohio State fan that has seen the Buckeyes win 2 National titles (2002, 2014), play for another 3, 9 outright/shared B1G titles and 15 wins in “The Game”, which include a current 5-game win streak. I’ll gladly trade my first 22 years of Buckeye football fandom for that of a current 22-year old.
These last 15 years especially have spoiled Buckeye Nation and distorted our perspective of how hard it is to truly be great in college football.
The schools that dominated the college football landscape of my youth (Notre Dame, Nebraska, Miami, Georgia, Michigan) and even the turn of this century (Miami again, Texas, USC, Florida and Florida State) have all gone through multiple losing seasons, coaching changes and program derailing scandals. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have been at the top or in the thick of the Championship race. And when there has been a down season, scandal or coaching change (2011), the Scarlet and Gray quickly bounced back (2012; 12-0).
In the last 25 years or so, we’ve never had to hear the phrase “The Buckeyes are back!” like the Miami Hurricanes are hearing this week ahead of their matchup with the Fighting Irish.
So as you watch this 2017 version fight for a B1G Championship in clearly the most challenging Power 5 conference this season, remember the main goals are still obtainable. But more importantly, there are a lot of fans bases that would love to have our “problems.”