During the first half of the Ohio State vs. Michigan State game I made a comment to a friend that, "this is the worst Ohio State team since the John Cooper era."
After doing a little digging I found the last time the Buckeye's looked like a bad Big Ten team: 2001.
Now to be fair, I could have went back to 1982, the last year that the Buckeyes were shut out at home. It would have been appropriate considering that today's game breaks that streak*. I'm not sure when the Buckeyes were held to less than 116 yards of total offense, but if that is the standard of bad I am looking for I would need to move up the road to Akron.
No, 2001 seems like a good place to start.
It was a simpler time then. Jim Tressel was a young up-and-coming coach out of a small I-AA school in northeast Ohio, Big Ten teams everywhere were just tapping in to the vast well of sweater vest related jokes in existence, and Michigan had pretty much owned the Buckeyes for so long that people were beginning to forget when the series had last been even.
Jim Tressel, much like his current successor Luke Fickell, stepped into the job on the heels of a departed and disgraceful head coach.
The season started innocent enough: a 28-14 win against fellow Ohio program Akron, only to lose the next game in the Rose Bowl against UCLA. The next two wins came against Indiana and Northwestern before a loss at home against Wisconsin dropped Ohio State to 3-2 --- similar to this season.
The rest of the season went only slightly better. The Buckeyes would go on to lose to Penn State and Illinois while beating SDSU, Minnesota, Purdue, and finally Michigan.
The season ended with a thud: a loss against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Seven and five.
Would Ohio State fans take 7-5 this year? I'm betting they are too proud for that, but it is increasingly looking like a best case scenario.
Ohio State's next three games are at Wisconsin, at Illinois, and home against Nebraska. Three losses used to be a possibility, after watching Ohio State today it looks like the overwhelming probability.
If the Buckeyes avoid five losses through those games, the next three look entirely manageable (Indiana, at Purdue, Penn State).
The wildcard? November 26th in Ann Arbor.
The last time Ohio State was this bad, 2001, the season was saved with a win against Michigan in a game that would have seen the Wolverines win the Big Ten with a victory over the Buckeyes.
Maybe 2011 is the year history repeats itself.
And just maybe 2011 is the year the Wolverines make up for that loss sending Ohio State to 6-6 and themselves to Indianapolis.
But that is a long way off.
*(When I wrote this there were about five minutes left in the game and I came to the logical conclusion that OSU wouldn't score. They did. Doesn't really change my point that the offense was abysmal, but if you want to pick nits, Ohio State wasn't technically shut out, just shut out for the 59 minutes of the game that really mattered.)