Here are my selections for the top ten most significant, interesting, and compelling football games in Ohio State history.
Remember: the Buckeyes didn’t have to win for the game to make the list.
10. Nov. 24, 1973 at Ann Arbor – #1 Ohio State 10 #4 Michigan 10
The Wolverines’ Mike Lantry was a powerful, left-footed, straight-on kicker whom Bo called on to break the late game tie. As Mike stood 44 yards from the goalposts, little did he know that this day would be the second worst day of his young life.
He would preserve that score, leaving us all to wonder if the bile that forms in the guts of Woody and Bo would have been cast in concrete created by a dreaded 10-10 knot.
9. Nov. 23, 1974 in Columbus – #4 Ohio State 12 #3 Michigan 10
Mike Lantry was back for one final kick for redemption. The Wolverines got him to the 33 yard line this time. The kick went up, sailing so high.
I watched this game on television, as the face-mask close-ups gave me enough clues that he of deer-in-the-headlights fame was going wide right. I was wrong. It was left, solidifying Mike’s mark in the annals of sports futility.
8. Sept. 9, 2006 in Austin – #1 Ohio State 24 #2 Texas 7
The Buckeyes completely dominated the Longhorns on the road that late summer evening, playing error-free offensive football as the punishing defense forced Texas to commit two costly turnovers in their own backyard. In other words: a butt kickin’.
7. Sept. 10, 2005 in Columbus – #2 Texas 25 #4 Ohio State 22
I attended this game as a guest of my good friend Ross, up high but close enough to
witness the abusive collisions on the field.
Texas QB Vince Young gained over a hundred yards rushing, but Buckeye LBs AJ Hawk and Bobby Carpenter made him pay for every foot of that turf.
Just when we thought Vince had enough, just when he collapsed on the Longhorn sidelines, he sucked it up for one final frustrating touchdown pass.
6. Nov. 22, 1969 in Ann Arbor – #12 Michigan 24 #1 Ohio State 12
For those of us who did not know who Bo Schembechler was, the final Ohio State –
Michigan contest of the tumultuous sixties was considered one of the biggest upsets in
college football history.
However, when you consider Bo as Bo was to be, a two-touchdown drubbing in The Big House was entirely possible. If anything, what a way to start a Ten-Year War.
5. Jan. 1, 1997, in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl – #4 Ohio State 20 #2 Arizona State 17
The Buckeyes had not won a Rose Bowl since Johnson was president, and All Ice-Water Comeback QB Jake Plummer looked as if he had done it again for the Sun Devils.
After yielding the fall-behind touchdown with a 1:40 remaining, John Cooper placed the ball in the hands of QB Joe Germaine and told him to go win it.
All Joe did was convert three absolutely critical third downs, moving the ball 65 yards in a minute for the winning score.
4. Jan. 3, 2003, at Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium – #2 Ohio State 31 #1 Miami 24
This double overtime victory for the 2002 BCS title had everything a good Buckeye fan craves: a) beating a heavy 11-1/2 point favorite, b) knocking the Saul in the person of annoying Miami off its horse, and c) winning a big albeit still mythical (in my opinion) national championship game.
The victory also had one thing no fan likes: the drama of a crucial questionable call. The controversy lives on as several of sportswriters will anytime they should deem The Call a good one while the occasional pundit on ESPN Classic resurrects the bad in The Call.
3. Jan. 1, 1969, in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl – #1 Ohio State 27 #2 Southern Cal 16
The Buckeye Super Sophomores were perhaps one of the greatest teams to play any kind of college ball in any sport, winning convincingly after falling behind early by a 10-0 score.
In addition to Ohio State’s dominance of an always-tough Southern California squad, the game had celebrity status as entertainer Bob Hope and Oklahoma coaching icon Bud Wilkinson were on the sidelines.
Also joining Ohio State as they won hands-down the national championship were two names that would live in infamy: Richard Nixon and OJ Simpson.
2. Dec. 29, 1978, in Jacksonville’s Gator Bowl - #7 Clemson 17 #20 Ohio State 15
QB Art Schlichter was brilliant in the Florida climate, both by land and by air, essentially playing mistake-free football…except for one that would ring with cacophony through Buckeyes football for years to come.
An errant last second pass wound up in the hands of Tiger reserve nose guard Charlie Bauman, oddly back in pass coverage much less on the field. As fate would have it, he ran in the direction of the Ohio State bench. Upon arriving, Woody Hayes punched Charlie Bauman in the throat. That was Woody's final game as the Buckeyes' head coach.
What an experience for the young man who got his first collegiate interception that day, and did not get another pick since.
1. Nov. 18, 2006, in Columbus – #1 Ohio State 42 #2 Michigan 39
The pre-game hype was almost stifling, with the week beginning as the ABC/ESPN countdown to kickoff clock started. Then, Bo Schembechler died. Both the Bucks and the Wolverines mourned.
Saturday finally came as Heinegate was shoulder-to-shoulder and knee-to-knee, undoubtedly the Woodstock of the football world. My buddy Ross gave me his extra ticket so I could witness in awe arguably one of the best games in college football history.
The Buckeyes took the first-half lead. Michigan, with the apparition of Bo on the sidelines, rallied back to go ahead late in the fourth. However, after a turnover, Troy Smith drove the Bucks inside the red zone.
Inexplicably, a linebacker was in coverage on Ohio State wideout Brian Robiskie. I saw it, then Troy saw it, and Brian caught the pass, tiptoeing just inside the front corner for the game.
There you have it. Let me know how I did.