The Joy of Bye Weeks

By 11W Staff on October 29, 2008 at 2:00p
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For the first time in two months, you'll have to find
something else to do this weekend

Everyone has a different way of coping with a loss. You could go out for dinner at a nice restaurant, pick up a seasonal hobby, support a cause or make a new friend. Personally, I like to make life miserable for everyone around me. But perhaps you’re the optimistic type, and believe that a bye week will surely give Ohio State some time to right the wrongs. Surely The Vest has something up his short sleeve, you say.

Not so fast my friend.

In games immediately following a bye week, Jim Tressel’s record at Ohio State is a horrifying 1-4. Let’s survey the damage, shall we?

2001: Ohio State v. UCLA

Jim Tressel kicked off his tenure with two things in his pocket: a promise to beat Michigan, and a terrible football team. The Buckeyes had a bye week, then flew to Pasadena ranked #21 and with a ho-hum 28-14 victory over Akron in their pocket. Then they ran into #12 UCLA. Bob Toledo (who’s currently presiding over this train wreck) and his Bruins kept Ohio State out of the end zone entirely and roughed up Steve Bellisari, who completed only 5 of 23 passes for 45 yards and two interceptions. Ohio State’s only score came on a blocked punt; the Buckeyes even missed the PAT.

UCLA’s offense was largely stymied by a solid Ohio State defense that limited the them to only 61 yards rushing, but the Bruins did enough to win, and handed Ohio State its first of five defeats on the season. The six points scored by the Buckeyes were the lowest total since a 28-0 loss to Michigan in 1993. (Anyone care to remember that game? I didn’t think so.)

The Vest did beat the Wolverines that year, so we'll let him off the hook.

2002: Ohio State v. Kent State

It’s never bad to schedule a MAC school after a bye week. In fact, it’s almost never bad to schedule a MAC school at any time – well, almost never. Ohio State opened its season with a solid 45-21 victory over Texas Tech, took a week off, then happily welcomed the Golden Flashes (happily, because this guy was out of eligibility).

The Buckeye defense gave up 358 yards of offense, and Kent State held the ball for more than 39 minutes, but Ohio State scored quickly and often, and came away with a 51-17 win. Craig Krenzel tied Jim Karsatos’ record for consecutive completions in a game (12), and Mike Nugent kicked three field goals. Maurice Hall and Ryan Hamby scored, too.

Some other guy scored twice, as well and Tressel was batting .500 when playing after a bye week.

2003: Ohio State v. Wisconsin

Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes were unbeaten, ranked #6, the defending national champions and coming off a nondescript 20-0 victory over Northwestern. Wisconsin was 5-1 and unranked. Camp Randall is a crazy place to play, though, so OSU took a week off before heading to Madison for a game that proved to memorable for two reasons.

First, a national television audience got to see Buckeyes linebacker Robert Reynolds do his best Baron von Raschke impression when he choked Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi during a pile-up. Sorgi did not return to the game, and was replaced by Matt Schabert.

Second, that same audience got to see the rare sight of Chris Gamble being burnt on a deep ball. Ohio State trailed 10-3 going into the fourth quarter, but tied the game at 10 when Craig Krenzel found Michael Jenkins from six yards out. Just 49 seconds later, Schabert (who?) hit Lee Evans on a 79-yard “go” route. Gamble was beaten at the line of scrimmage, OSU safety Will Allen was late coming over to help, and Wisconsin beat Ohio State 17-10. Tressel’s record following a bye week now stood at 1-2.

2004: Ohio State v. Northwestern

Once again, Ohio State enjoyed a bye week before going on the road, ranked #6 in the nation. Once again, they played a trash-talking, unranked team at night. And, once again, they were beaten.

On second thought, don’t follow that link. Ohio State stunk. Northwestern outgained Ohio State 444-308, and Wildcats running back Noah Herron scored three touchdowns. The Buckeyes had to score ten points in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter just to force overtime. Mike Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal in Ohio State’s only overtime possession, and Northwestern promptly replied by scoring a touchdown that beat Ohio State 33-27.

How awful was this game? It was Northwestern’s first victory over Ohio State since 1971, and first win against a top-ten team since 2000. Ugh.

Under Jim Tressel, Ohio State fell to 1-3 after a bye week. Sensing a trend?

2005: Ohio State v. Penn State

Ohio State (3-1) had hammered Iowa 31-6 in Columbus. Now, repeat after me: The Buckeyes, ranked #6 in the nation, had a bye week, then went on the road to play a night game. Sound familiar?

At least the opponent wasn’t unranked. This time, it was #16 Penn State (5-0), experiencing something of a renaissance after a few years of the doldrums under Joe Paterno. It was also the first game in which school officials called for an insidious, sophomoric “white out.”

Whether blinded by the white shirts, or just so familiar with the previous year’s script that they thought it best to just play along, the Buckeyes turned in an awful performance. A senior-laden team with plenty of returning starters, widely expected to make a run at the national title was able to generate only 230 yards of offense, and committed two critical turnovers. Does this sound familiar?

See if you’ve heard this part before, too: In the game’s closing moments, Ohio State’s dual-threat quarterback was sacked and fumbled the ball away, eliminating any chance for a Buckeye comeback.

Tressel’s teams dropped to 1-4 following a bye week, and had lost three straight games after taking a week off. A trend now became a pattern.

2006 & 2007: Ohio State v. Scheduling Gods

At long last, Ohio State enjoyed two straight seasons without a bye week as Tressel lucked out with the scheduling gods. But the bye weeks had cleverly morphed into 50-day layoffs and you know how that went down.

Now, in 2008, Ohio State has a week off to lick its wounds, and will take a national ranking into a road game against an unranked opponent. The WWL has spoken and set kickoff for daylight, though, so maybe we’ll be safe.

Maybe.

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