SEC Struggles at the Forefront of Sugar Bowl Talk

By Kyle Rowland on December 30, 2010 at 3:00p

The 900 pound monkey on the back.


We all know what that record signifies. Ohio State has never beaten a school from the Southeastern Conference in the post season. ESPN, CBS and every other network shoves it down your throat.

Players, coaches, fans and the media have all their theories on why Ohio State can’t beat SEC schools. If you go back and look at the seasons and games, though, it isn’t that much of a revelation to say the better team won. A nine-game sample size is extremely big when it comes to football. When you lose nine times to teams from a certain conference, it isn’t a coincidence.

The losses have come under legends such as Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel and also under the often scrutinized John Cooper. Ohio State has lost in national championship games to SEC teams and in middle-tier bowls such as the Outback.

This season Ohio State has once again been afforded the chance to redeem themselves. They get that opportunity in front of a national television audience in one of the most prestigious bowl games. It is also where “The Streak” began.

The first game Ohio State played against an SEC foe was the 1978 Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama. The 9-3 and eighth-ranked Buckeyes took on the No. 3 (11-1) Crimson Tide. It was actually a surprise that the two teams were matched up. Notre Dame also had one loss and many thought an Irish-Crimson Tide show down was too good to pass up. The Sugar Bowl had other ideas, though, and felt matching Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes against one-another was a golden opportunity. It also marked the first time a Big Ten school had played in the Sugar Bowl.

Ohio State and Alabama had two of the best offenses and defenses in the country that season. You certainly would have believed it watching 'Bama, but not the Buckeyes (not the offense anyway). The Crimson Tide racked up almost 400 yards of offense and 25 first downs en route to a 35-6 shellacking of the Buckeyes. The score was 20-0 before Ohio State even put points on the board. The 'Bama defense pressured Rod Gerald into three interceptions. Amazingly, Alabama fumbled the ball 10 times, but only two were recovered by Ohio State.

Ohio State would go 12 years without matching up against an SEC team in a bowl game. But over the next 20 years, starting in 1990, it would happen on nine different occasions, including this season.

In John Cooper’s second season, he guided the Buckeyes to their first bowl game under his guidance. Ohio State was selected for the Hall of Fame Bowl where it met an Auburn team that was ranked in the Top 10. The game is most remembered for Zack Dumas’s hit on Stacy Danley. Unfortunately for Ohio State, that play actually swung momentum to Auburn’s side and started a 28-point surge that ended with the Tigers winning 31-14. Auburn limited Ohio State to just 81 yards in the second half. This was the beginning of a dismal record in bowl games for Coop.  

Three seasons later the state of Florida was again the site of a Buckeye loss to the SEC. This time it was the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The Kirk Herbstreit and Robert Smith-led Buckeyes lost a 21-14 heartbreaker to Garrison Hearst and the Georgia Bulldogs. The game was the first and only meeting (until 2020) between the historical powers and Hearst, an All-American, racked up 163 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs scored the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter after an Ohio State turnover deep in Georgia territory.

The Buckeyes were back in Orlando two years later to play an Alabama squad that had its national title hopes dashed in the SEC Championship Game. Ohio State struggled through a 9-3 season that included the infamous 63-14 thrashing to Penn State but on the positive side, Coop finally beat Michigan after six consecutive losses. The game itself was bizarre. Alabama outgained Ohio State 521-276, but should/could have lost the game. They won 24-17 on a 50-yard pass play from Jay Barker to Sherman Williams in the final minute. The Buckeyes blocked a punt and field goal, had 12 tackles for loss and recovered three ‘Bama fumbles to keep things close.

Following the 1995 season, Ohio State entered the Citrus Bowl heartbroken. While Eddie George had won the Heisman Trophy a few weeks prior, the Buckeyes hopes at a Rose Bowl and national championship were dashed by Michigan and Tim Biakabutuka. The game was a marquee matchup, though, pitting two one-loss teams and star players against each other. Tennesee-Ohio State. Peyton Manning-Eddie George. The game was knotted at 14 in the fourth quarter before two Tennessee field goals provided the final margin, 20-14. George had 101 yards and a touchdown, however, the game was marred when it was revealed Tennessee had used illegal spikes in the rainy and muddy conditions.

The Buckeyes would get a five year break from the SEC and after an embarrassing display against South Carolina that cost Cooper his job, they probably wish it would have been 500 years. Surprise, surprise, Ohio State was coming off yet another loss to Michigan heading into the 2001 Outback Bowl. Despite that, fans were confident and why not? The Buckeyes were going against the upstart Gamecocks from South Carolina. Lou Holtz was a legendary coach, but Cooper had already defeated him twice in decisive fashion while he was at Notre Dame. Well, former Mr. Football in the state of Ohio, Ryan Brewer, would come back and haunt Cooper. Brewer had 214 yards of offense and scored three touchdowns in the 24-7 beat down. The margin, Brewer’s performance and team conduct was alarming. Ultimately, those things coupled with Cooper’s record against Michigan led to his ouster the next day.

Damn you, Ryan Brewer

The two teams would play one another again the very next season in the same bowl. Jim Tressel was in his first season and had just beaten Michigan in Ann Arbor. It was Ohio State’s first victory over Michigan in three seasons and the first in the Big House since 1987. Needless to say, the excitement was palpable in Columbus. There was one big question heading into the game: would Steve Bellisari start? The senior captain was suspended from the final two games of the regular season after being arrested and charged with DUI. Bellisari didn’t start, but he did play arguably his finest game as a Buckeye. After South Carolina took a 28-0 lead, Ohio State rallied to tie the game at 28 before a last second field goal lifted the Gamecocks to victory.

What happened in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game in University of Phoenix stadium still leaves Buckeye fans scratching their heads. How did that happen? What did I just see? How could everything go so wrong? Just when Tressel was about to be crowned a King, he lost his midas touch. The Buckeyes rolled through the 2006 season and were heavy favorites to win a second national title in five seasons. Instead, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith was disastrous, as was every other facet of the Ohio State football team, en route to a 41-14 humiliation. Ted Ginn returned the opening kickoff, but it was all downhill from there. Roy Hall twisted Ginn’s ankle in a celebration pile up. The Buckeye offense could not move the ball and the defense could not stop Florida to save their lives.

The next season Ohio State found itself playing for another national title. This time the opponent was LSU. Despite the previous year’s meltdown to Florida, Ohio State and its fans were extremely confident entering the game. And why not? LSU had already lost twice. In eerily similar fashion to the 2007 title game, OSU jumped out to a quick 10-0 before the apocalypse arrived again. LSU rattled off 31 straight points to take a 31-10 lead. The Buckeyes cut the lead to 14 and had the ball, but Todd Boeckman and a porous offensive line spelled doom for Ohio State. LSU won the game 38-17 to captures it second national championship in five years. 

A win could do wonders for Ohio State’s national perception, but with Tatgate swirling, who knows if it will be positive or negative. One thing can be said, though: Last season Ohio State got the proverbial BCS monkey off its back with a victory over Oregon in the Rose Bowl. If the Buckeyes beat Arkansas Tuesday night, the same can be said of the SEC.

In the what have you done for me lately world that we live in, high profile loses hurt the perception of your program and anger fans. Losing to an SEC school in the Sugar Bowl is not the way to end a season that began with national championship aspirations. It sounds silly considering Ohio State’s stature, but a victory against Arkansas could be a program defining win.

With USC, Texas and Florida all struggling this season, you can make an argument that Ohio State is the gold standard of college football the past decade. Other teams might have won more national titles in that span, but no team has consistently been at the top like Ohio State.

A 12-1 season in 2010 will add another carat. 


Comments Show All Comments

painterlad's picture

At this point I would take a win over Vandy, with ten of their starters out with the flu. I can't see us losing to Arkansas, but I also couldn't see a loss to Florida or LSU either. I'm not sure a win over an SEC team will change anything (perception wise), because hillbillies/CBS/ESPN will never believe that the SEC is not the best conference. By far. Every. Single. Year.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

k-chiz-10's picture

Well the SEC has been the best conference over the last several years. Not by as much as they and some supposedly knowledgeable sports analysis think. The SEC rarely leaves the comfort of the south east.....that includes for bowl games. Must be nice to have home or almost home bowl games every year. If any of the top schools from the SEC had to play a big ten schedule they would end up with 2 to 3 losses every year. Why pratell? Because they are not built for the often harsh big ten weather or the pounding they would receive every week.. Think they'll win at the big house in late November? or Happy Valley? I  think not. Still Any big ten club would also lose 2 to 3 in the SEC. We are not built for the speed and wide open offenses week in week out. The gap is closing and will turn to the big ten soon enough.

***************I BLEED SCARLET AND GRAY !********************

Natty Light's picture

SEC players take less of a beating every week.  look at RichRod's offense falling apart once it gets into the B10 schedule every year.  It's flashy 1 game at a time. 


i cant see why some bowls dont just move to NY, chicago, etc.  they would still be a decent destination for people to travel to, and would get extra publicity as being the only bowls in harsh weather.  The problem is norther schools/fanbases are too willing to go south to bowl games

RedQueenRace's picture

The SEC is not a bunch of fast guys in dresses.

After the Florida NC game our own players expressed surprise at how physical Florida was and said that was the difference, not the speed.

tampa buckeye's picture

This current team has never lost a game to the SEC.  

Natty Light's picture

this year's seniors were frosh vs LSU.  5th yr seniors (Tyler Moeller) were frosh vs Florida.


dont know of anyone that played, (maybe checkwa since he started as a soph) but it still hurts that your teammates got outplayed

tampa buckeye's picture

New team every year and we haven't played the SEC this year.  

AcrossTheField11's picture

David Lighty :)

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

BuckeyeChief's picture

Well, now I want to fall on my sword. All I can say is this:


No excuses. Do or don't do, there is no try.


On a related note, a coworker of mine, big time Bama fan expressed his disgust that Cam Newton got off but after a 20 second investigation Ohio State should have those five suspended. He also had a funny story: One of his Sailors was a big time Bama fan and got accepted for an Officer Program; Bama doesn't have a Navy ROTC, but Auburn does...the guy hated Auburn so much, he went to Ohio State instead.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Buckeye Black's picture

LSU won 38-24 instead of 38-17, but it still sucked....

k-chiz-10's picture

We gave them 2 td's from turnovers. You cant turn the ball over and win. OSU actully outplayed LSU that game, just too many mistakes.

***************I BLEED SCARLET AND GRAY !********************

btalbert25's picture

I don't know what I'd go that far, they came out on fire, but really once LSU got the lead I had the feeling they were just too good for Ohio State to get it back.  I really don't feel like OHio State outplayed LSU in that game.  Turnovers and missed opportunities did hurt, but they won by two TD's.  Despite the quick start really after the first couple of drives it never seemed like that game was in doubt for LSU, in my opinion.   It wasn't the thumping Florida put on us, but it really wasn't that close, they were just a better team.

BuckeyeChief's picture

2 plays killed us...Robiskie dropping the TD and Spitler's punt block attempt.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Go Buckeyes14's picture

The field goal Pretorious had blocked had a hand in killing us too.

BuckeyeChief's picture

If memory serves me correct, they had to kick it 'cause Robo had dropped the TD on 3rd down...

"2014 National with it!!!"

btalbert25's picture

I don't know, just didn't seem all that close to me.  Seemed like once they took the lead, if we scored so did they and it didn't get close.  Hard to say what happens if they convert those plays, but they didn't.  LSU may get the ball right back and score again.  Just seemed like they were too good for us to me. 

buckeyedude's picture

I cannot believe you guy's memory! I can't even remember what I had for dinner last night. Wait. I know I had corn... Holy Toledo!



Bucksfan's picture

0-9 doesn't make any goddamn sense.  To me, it's the most baffling record in all of sports.  You might be able to point to the city of Cleveland having all those championship chances over the last 45 years and not getting it done.  But over the last 100 years, Ohio State really has never had a down decade (even went to the Rose Bowl twice in the 1980s).  Ohio State is without question a top-5 program over the last 2 decades...6 regular seasons with 1 loss or less, two Heismans, two Rose Bowl victories, 1 national championship, most BCS appearances of any school, only 1 season without a bowl appearance.

The rest of the Big Ten has done fine against the SEC in bowls, and Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten.  The year Florida crushed the Buckeyes, the Big Ten went 2-1 against the SEC, including a win over runner-up Arkansas.

If this crop of Buckeyes can't do it (when they're pretty much built to do just that), then I don't know who will, Tatgate or no Tatgate.

It's time for this shit to end, Buckeye fans.

Powers's picture

Taint Forcier ineligible for the gator bowl (failed to meet university standards)

buckeyedude's picture

This from the ToledoBlade/Detroit Free Press:

"Forcier struggled academically as a freshman but remained eligible throughout the season." In an interview this week with the Detroit Free Press, he suggested his grades and maturity have improved. "You really have to try to flunk out here," Forcier told the Free Press. "All you have to do is go to class, it's not that hard." — Ryan Autullo



Irricoir's picture

Are the officials that officiated the Syracuse/Kansas State game the same that officiated the OSU/_ichagan game? They got to be. A salute was ruled excessive celebration and KSU was penalized 15 yards when going for two to tie the game. KSU didn't lose solely on that penalty but it is kind of a crap call.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

NW Buckeye's picture

The NC UT game also has Big 10 officials.  Lots of salutes, no penalties.  The Big 10 officiating crews are the biggest embarassment of the country.  Delany needs to take action. 

JakeBuckeye's picture

Love Lou Holtz. The guys weren't even talking about the tat five but somehow one of the championship rings May was wearing came up. Lou Holtz informed the nation and the host that Mark May tried to sell that ring for profit.

buckeyedude's picture

+1 for Lou. Say what you want about this guy's lisp, but he is a smart man.



gravey's picture

I watched every one of those games.  Each is separate from the others.  We cannot fall into the gambler's fallacy to think they are related.  We've lost those games in various ways, none of which was due to a lack of speed, except maybe for the FLA disaster.   The one common theme in many of those games was that we traveled to their home turf, and we were frequently the worse team whose tremendous TV / travel audience put us in a position to play a team that was better than we were.  On a few occasions we just didn't play well.  It happens.  I've seen super bowl teams choke, the world champion Lakers/Celtics choke, World Cup Teams choke.  It happens, especially in bowl games.   


The thing that drives me nuts is that so often during that stretch, we've hammered MSU, PSU, TSUN, Wisky or some other B10 team during the regular season and they've gone on to beat up an SEC team in a bowl game.

k-chiz-10's picture

Unfortunatly...or ...fortunatly Tress won early with a conservative game plan in 2002. Now, he doesnt deviate. We play not to loose. The SEC teams play to win. Untill Tress sees he needs to "let the dogs out" during bowl games we'll have a tough time showing our true talent.

***************I BLEED SCARLET AND GRAY !********************

buckeyedude's picture

Doesn't Oklahoma choke quite a bit? They don't seem to get it shoved in their face like Ohio State does. Go figure.



BuckeyeChief's picture


"2014 National with it!!!"

Buckinnc's picture

Tennecheat getting some home cooking

TLB's picture

These two teams have no discipline

Irricoir's picture

It ain't over. The real ass in all of this is the officials. That whole last minute looked like a Cluster Frick. Inarticulate refs and then to call the game over, knowing that there needed to be an official review, the refs caused all of that confusion. They brought it onto the field. There were many calls they had to have reversed tonight. They did get the call about the Tennessee player launch, drive lengthening penalty correct.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

BuckeyeChief's picture

+1 and they missed the late hit on the run.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Irricoir's picture


I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

My favorite was when Bama lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl two years ago. I went on a satirical rant about how the SEC couldn't hang with "mountain speed," that "them mountain boys" had to trudge six-miles through the snow to get to school, etc., and it gave them stronger calves, etc. Because they could relate to such convoluted reasoning, the SEC geniuses actually thought I was being serious. Fun times. Hopefully, we can theorize about the scientific origins of untouchable rustbelt speeeeed!! after Tuesday night.  

btalbert25's picture

Yeah but don't you remember, Bama didn't care about that game since Florida beat them in the SEC title game.  It wasn't because Utah was good. At least that's what every fan of an SEC team, and Vern Lundquist told me.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Was the BT ref crew in the Tenn v. UNC game the same as the crew for the Ohio State v. Indy game? Just wondering, because there was some fishy stuff in the latter game, even though Ohio State still managed to cover a big spread in that game.

Until the ruling on the final second "spike" and the overtime, it seemed like UNC was getting jobbed. After all the dust had cleared, though, the refs had sort of evened out their suckiness.  

William's picture

So the fat, slow Big Ten is undefeated, and the swift, speedy, "superior" SEC is winless, and to top it off they lost to a mediocre ACC team. Also love how a 7-5 Big Ten team beat a 10-2 Big 12 team, but of course Missouri was downplayed after the loss, wonder if the same would have been done if the circumstances were switched and Iowa was the 10-2 team? I doubt it.

Irricoir's picture

I hope our boys show the same desire Washington is showing at the moment. Of course I hope our play is more balanced than theirs but they want this game and are playing with a chip on their shoulder. I certainly hope we don't go in like Nebraska. That's my big fear. I can visualize it with all the distractions.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

buckeyedude's picture

If the Tat-6(mostly, TP, Boom, Adams and Posey) are truly coming back next year, then they have a lot to play for and win the game vs. the RazorPigs.

If the Tat-6 are thinking, "Hell with it. I'm going to declare for the NFL after the bowl game. To hell with Tressel." Then I think they will not play 100% in the bowl game. And they could do just that, even if they give Tress their "word." I hope they don't. Really would like to see them all stay.

 Just my opinion.



Poe McKnoe's picture

I don't want to say I'm completely anti-Bo Pelini as the next Ohio State coach, I'm just anti-Bo Pelini as the next Ohio State coach.