Why Can't Ohio State Win More National Championships? The 'Bully' of the Big Ten

Joe CollegeCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2010

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 25:  Joe Bauserman #14 of the Ohio State Buckeyes drops back to pass against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Ohio Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  Ohio State won 73-20. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images


The “bully” of the Big Ten is Ohio State.  They have dominated the conference the past decade, winning five consecutive Big Ten titles and they are favored to win the title again this year.  During this stretch, they have winning records against every team in the league.  No team is remotely close to their achievements. 

The question that nags Ohio State is the lack of national championships over the last forty years.  They had an upset win for the title in 2002, but that’s it. They were annihilated in two other championship games.  

These losses and the inability to win other big games make them look suspect.

Some think the Buckeyes are only a regional power.   Others think they are overrated.  Many think the Buckeyes under-perform on the “big stage.”  

What accounts for the Buckeyes not having a collection of national championship trophies over the past forty years?  Let’s look closer to see why the Buckeyes falter so often.

Ohio State has a big advantage recruiting players.  They own the state of Ohio.  There are no major teams in Ohio other than MAC teams and the emerging Big East power Cincinnati.  Ohio State gets most of the quality athletes in the state and tops that with good connections in Florida. 

Between 2002 and 2010, Ohio State enrolled 180 players.  Of those players, 91 were 4 star and 12 were 5 star according to Rivals.  Ohio State’s recruiting classes were ranked 6th in the country during this time period. 

Unfortunately, these high-caliber recruits failed to deliver Ohio State a national championship.  It could be that some of the key players didn’t mature until the senior or junior year and then they bolted for the NFL. 

Others could have gotten hurt or were overrated.   Whatever the case, it minimized the player’s contribution to the team and may have diminished the true strength of the Ohio State roster.

Another theory is the Buckeyes have the superstars but many other starting players are average or marginal at their positions.  This explanation merits consideration when compared to other Big Ten teams.

In contrast to Ohio State, Wisconsin had 21 four star and 2 five star recruits during this same recruiting time period.  Iowa had 26 and 2.  Even with the discrepancy in talent, these teams are considered formidable enough to compete with Ohio State for Big Ten championship.

The Big Ten itself may be a reason why Ohio State sputters when faced with stronger opposition from outside the league. The conference lacks parity.  The Buckeyes have dominated the league with all-time winning records over every team except Michigan.

 Ohio State wins a lot of games to enhance its image, but these games are against a number of non-conference cupcakes and their questionable Big Ten brethren. 

This lack of stiff competition during the season seems to hurt the Buckeyes when they play elite teams in the post-season.

The Big Ten can claim only two national championships in forty years, which lends credence to the argument that Ohio State is only a regional power. 

Now Buckeye fans will counter that claim by pointing to recent victories over Miami and Oregon. 

This thin argument lacks credibility when the Buckeye 40-year record is revealed against the SEC 1-10-1, Southern California 1-8, and Texas 1-2.  That’s three wins in twenty-four attempts.

It also appears that AP voters are infatuated with the Buckeyes win-loss record and place them on a pedestal that is higher than they deserve.  Ohio State is ranked number two in the all-time AP poll appearances, having been in the weekly top twenty-five 703 times. 

 Ohio State has high ratings and Big Ten titles, but they pale when compared to other teams with national championship rings. 

Nebraska has four AP national championships in the last forty years and they have one of the poorest recruiting bases in the country.  Miami has five.  Alabama has four. Oklahoma has four. Florida has three.  Even Brigham Young has one title. 

 All of these teams have equaled or surpassed the title accomplishments of Ohio State. 

Some Buckeye fans think they know why Ohio State has fallen short of its title aspirations.  They claim that the Buckeyes were reloading or not prepared for their championship losses. 

Others state that the weather and the location of bowl games have been a detriment to Buckeye victories.  A few blame the assistant coaches for the losses.

The excuses for the Buckeye shortcomings on the football field will never end for the self-righteous Ohio State fan. 

The sophomoric nature of these rationalizations tells us something about the sophistication of Ohio State fans who cling to them. These excuses have nothing to do with the realism that is taking place on the gridiron. 

Based on the evidence, it’s hard to tell if the Buckeyes are an underperforming team, overrated or just a regional power.  It’s possible that they are a little of each.

The bottom line is the Buckeyes have advantages that most teams would envy.  They have squandered many opportunities, yet they are still considered one of the best teams in college football.

 The question still begs an answer.  Why don’t the Buckeyes win more national championships?

 Maybe it’s the obvious.  They simply aren’t good enough to win them.


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