Best College Football Moments in Ohio State History

David Regimbal@davidreg412Featured ColumnistOctober 28, 2013

Best College Football Moments in Ohio State History

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    From Heisman Trophy winners to national championships, few programs around the country can match the storied history of Ohio State football.

    The Buckeyes first took the field in 1890 under head coach Alexander Lilley, a season which ended with a 3-5 record.

    Since then, the Buckeyes have won 839 football games, collected seven Heisman Trophies from six different players and won seven national titles.

    With 123 years of excellence, Ohio State boasts a proud history littered with significant moments. Which are the most significant? That's subjective, of course, but these five stand out because of their impact on one of college football's strongest programs.

Jim Tressel's Haltime Speech

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    Shortly after Jim Tressel was hired in January 2001, the Buckeyes' new head coach took center stage at halftime of an Ohio State basketball game and officially introduced himself, as seen in the video here.

    "You'll be proud of our young people, in the classroom, in the community, and most especially, in 310 days, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field."

    It wasn't just a speech—it signified a turning point for an Ohio State football program that had failed to meet the lofty expectations set by Woody Hayes.

    The Buckeyes were coming off a successful stretch under John Cooper, who compiled a 111-43-4 record in 13 seasons. Cooper struggled against Michigan, though, winning just two of his 13 matchups with the Wolverines. Ohio State only won three Big Ten titles from 1988 to 2000.

    Tressel changed that, and it started by installing the confidence he showed during his introductory speech.

    Under Tressel, the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines nine out of 10 times (one of which was vacated), claimed six Big Ten titles and won a national championship (2003).

    Even though the 2010 season was vacated, Tressel won 81 percent of his games at Ohio State and orchestrated a decade of dominance for the Buckeyes.

Archie Griffin's Second Heisman Trophy

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    Since 1935, college football's most outstanding player has been awarded the Heisman Trophy.

    Only one player—Ohio State's Archie Griffin—has won it twice.

    In 1974, Griffin led the Buckeyes with 1,695 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Ohio State finished the regular season 10-1, its only loss coming in controversial fashion to Michigan State, and Griffin ran away with the Heisman vote.

    Griffin returned his senior season and ran for 1,450 yards and just four touchdowns, but he paced an Ohio State team that went undefeated in the regular season and beat its opponents by an average of 27 points.

    The 1975 Heisman race was almost as lopsided as the year before as Griffin claimed the trophy in back-to-back years.

    As the Heisman conversation heats up every year, Griffin's historic accomplishment is an automatic talking point.

    Few players have had the opportunity to win the trophy a second time, but Griffin told ESPN's Brian Bennett that it's only a matter of time.

    I thought somebody would have done it by now. And it hasn't happened, but certainly it's going to happen when you have sophomores win the award. I believe somebody will win it twice, and possibly a third time. 

    Until then, Griffin stands alone in the history books.

Michigan Hiring Bo Schembechler

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    One of the most significant moments in Ohio State history came when rival Michigan hired Bo Schembechler in 1969.

    Schembechler played for Woody Hayes at Miami, then became one of his most trusted assistants at Ohio State from 1958 to 1962. After a six-year stint as the head coach at Miami (OH), Michigan hired Schembechler to be its 15th head coach.

    This sparked "The Ten-Year War" between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. 

    In Schembechler's first season, Michigan stunned top-ranked Ohio State 24-12. The decade of hotly contested games that ensued fueled what many consider to be the greatest rivalry in all of sports.

    That rivalry became so heated that Hayes refused to call the team "Michigan," instead addressing the Wolverines as "That school up north."

    From 1969 to 1978, the two teams battled to a near split as Michigan gained a 5-4-1 advantage over Ohio State. The Buckeyes and the Wolverines combined to win each Big Ten title during that stretch.

    Without Schembechler and The 10-Year War, the Ohio State–Michigan Rivalry wouldn't be what it is today.

The 1969 Rose Bowl

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    Before the Bowl Championship Series was implemented in 1998, college football didn't determine its champion with a title game. Teams claimed national titles based on poll rankings following the bowl season.

    The 1968 football season was one of the few occasions when No. 1 met No. 2 in the postseason.

    That matchup pitted top-ranked Ohio State against USC, both of which came into the 1969 Rose Bowl without a blemish.

    Ohio State had won all nine of its regular-season games by an average of 18 points and was coming off a 50-14 rout of No. 4 Michigan.  The Buckeyes were led by sophomore quarterback Rex Kern and a ferocious defense.

    Six of USC's regular-season opponents were ranked in the Top 25, and the Trojans won its first nine games of the year before tying No. 9 Notre Dame in the season finale. USC was paced by Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson, who rushed for 1,709 yards and 22 touchdowns.

    With a national title on the line, Ohio State overcame an early 10-0 deficit and outlasted the Trojans, and Simpson's 171 rushing yards, to claim a 27-16 victory. The Buckeyes defense forced five turnovers and Kern made enough plays to earn MVP honors.

    Following the game, Ohio State was named national champions for the fifth time in school history.

The 2003 National Championship Game

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    The 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes—a team that many expected to be blown out by the vastly favored Miami Hurricanes in the 2003 national title game—shocked the world when they came out on top with a wild, 31-24 double-overtime victory.

    The No. 2 Buckeyes came into the game following a season filled with nail-biting victories. Six of Ohio State's 13 regular-season games weren't decided until the last play, and the Buckeyes' final three victories over Purdue, Illinois and Michigan all went down to the wire.

    Top-ranked Miami, however, came into the game riding one of college football's longest winning streaks. The Hurricanes had won 34 straight games and were beating their opponents by an average of 24 points in 2002.

    Miami was favored by 11.5 points, but when the game kicked off, it was the Buckeyes who took control.

    The Hurricanes got a quick touchdown midway through the first quarter, but Ohio State's defense flexed its muscle from there. After Miami's first two drives, the Hurricanes offense gained just 59 yards and turned the ball over three times in the first half.

    Ohio State's defense continued to dominate in the second half, and the Buckeyes gained a 17-7 lead midway through the third quarter. 

    Miami bounced back with 10 unanswered points, including a 40-yard field goal as time expired, to force overtime.

    The Hurricanes dominated the start of overtime, scoring a quick touchdown on the first possession. Miami had the Buckeyes in fourth-down situations twice on defense, but Ohio State converted the first one with a 17-yard pass from Craig Krenzel to Michael Jenkins and earned a first down on the highly criticized pass interference later in the drive. 

    The Buckeyes tied the game with a quarterback sneak from Krenzel, took the lead at the beginning of the second overtime on a touchdown run from Maurice Clarett, and the Buckeyes held the Hurricanes with a four-play goal-line stand to claim Ohio State's seventh national title.