A History Lesson

By Kyle Rowland on October 9, 2012 at 10:00a

Nineteen years ago, the Auburn Tigers entered the 1993 season coming off more than a year of turmoil and without its legendary head coach, Pat Dye.

During Dye’s final two seasons as coach, scandal gripped the Auburn football program. Former player Eric Ramsey accused Dye, several assistant coaches and a booster of orchestrating a vast and calculated payment plan for Auburn players. 

The Prize.

The allegations received widespread national media attention, including a segment on 60 Minutes. When the dust settled, Dye resigned as head coach and athletics director and the football program was hit with severe sanctions, the worst of which being a two-year postseason ban and one-year TV ban.

Dye coached 12 seasons at Auburn, finishing with 99 wins – 70 percent – four SEC titles, five top-10 finishes and a 6-6 record versus arch-rival Alabama.

During 1991 and ’92, the seasons the scandal was ongoing, a once-proud football program dipped to 5-6 and 5-5-1, respectively. The Tigers lost to Alabama in Dye’s final three seasons at the helm.

With a fan base anxious for an instant return to prominence, Auburn hired Terry Bowden, at that time more famous for being the son of Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden than winning football games. But the younger Bowden had already achieved a great deal of success at lower-division schools Salem College and Samford.

And in his first season on the Plains, Bowden led the Tigers to a perfect 11-0 season and No. 4 ranking in the final AP Poll. It remains one of the most famous seasons in college football history.

Auburn followed it up by winning its first nine games in 1994 before tying the 10th and losing Game No. 11 – the season finale – to Alabama. Bowden began his career by winning 20 consecutive games and being unbeaten in his first 21.

If that story sounds familiar, it’s because Ohio State is in the midst of a near carbon copy.

The 2011 season was doomed before it even began because of an unprecedented scandal. A legendary head coach was dismissed, there was plenty of media coverage, including a Sports Illustrated expose, the final record was an underwhelming 6-7 and a seven-year stranglehold on Michigan came to an end.

Tressel, like Dye, had won numerous conference championships, even a national title, and experienced a high level of success against his rival. But his Ramsey turned out to be quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

The 1993 Auburn season remains improbable.

After a miserable 2011 regular season ended with three straight losses, Ohio State hired two-time national championship winner Urban Meyer as head coach, and Buckeye Nation rejoiced.

Shortly after Meyer took the job, Ohio State was handed a stiff set of penalties by the NCAA, the worst of which included a one-year postseason ban. At that moment, murmurs of an AP national championship began.

But it wasn’t until the past two victories, both over ranked opponents, that the vision became so clear. At 6-0 – one of 16 remaining undefeated teams – the Buckeyes will likely be favored in their final six games – heavily so in the next four. It’s college football, though, a sport where upsets happen frequently.

Ohio State sits at eighth in the most recent AP Poll, up four spots from last week and 10 from the season opener. Soft opponents the next four games, however, will make it hard for the Buckeyes to rise without teams ahead of them losing. They will know where they rank at the beginning of each week.

“We’re not shy,” Meyer said. “We have state of the union every week with the players and they know. We're not hiding it. That's a top 10 football team, and the stakes are real high.

“The thing is, they’re going to talk about it when they go home, when they walk to class. Why not say, ‘Here's really where we're at?’”

It’s a differing approach than most coaches’ take. Shielding players from expectations and lowering the pressure is generally the route taken. Meyer doesn’t necessarily add pressure, but he wants them to be aware of their surroundings.

“These players are just playing football, and they have a right to know where they stand on a national level,” he said. “You come to Ohio State, and that's why we’re all here. You should have those discussions in the middle of October.”

The win-loss ledger reads “6-0” and the ranking says “8,” but Ohio State understands it has many areas to work on. The Buckeyes did allow 38 points and 437 yards of offense to Nebraska, the third time this season they’ve surrendered 400 or more yards. No team has been held below 300 yards, and there are major depth problems at linebacker now that senior captain Etienne Sabino will miss the better part of a month with a broken fibula.

“We expect to play better on defense,” Meyer said.

Urban Meyer has an opportunity to make more history.

“My biggest concern is you’re starting, like every team in America, to deal with physical games. Our last two games were really physical and we lost some players. Are the backups ready? Do they want to be ready? That is the challenge I have. There are some guys I'm very concerned about as backups. So that is the challenge right now.”

So much so that the younger players had a 25-minute scrimmage on Sunday. As the upper classmen celebrated the Nebraska win with the traditional “Victory Meal,” Meyer did his best to develop depth.

Due to scholarship limits imposed on the Buckeyes by the NCAA, Ohio State has less to work with than most teams. And if the freshmen aren’t getting into games, it’s even more challenging to have them ready to play when their moment arrives. One thing Meyer won’t do throughout the season is sit Braxton Miller down in practice.

“He absolutely will not miss a moment of practice,” Meyer said. “He can’t and won’t want to. Now we don't hit him.

“The reason those five (offensive) linemen are getting better, they get to block (Johnathan) Hankins every day on Tuesday because we go against each other. I mean, hard, violent practice. So we do back down, but that's why they've gotten better.”

The play of the offensive line, a unit that has been criticized by fans since the loss in the national championship game to Florida in January 2007, appears to have finally turned the corner. It’s one reason why an undefeated season is being talked about, especially after the line made 63 points possible Saturday night against Nebraska. Games are won in the trenches, and Ohio State has a line on each side of the ball that is likely better than the one it will face in each of the final six games.

One of those linemen – center Corey Linsley – is closely watching the Buckeyes’ progression up the rankings. 

“It’s what we play for,” he said. “We play for these polls, we play to be No. 1 in the country.”

Even defensive end John Simon, someone who carefully crafts his message to the media, didn’t shy away from making the team’s aspirations known, veering away from usually tempered approach that contains coachspeek.

“You try to get as (highly ranked) as you can, so there’s definitely something there,” he said. “We’re trying to get to No. 1 if at all possible. We’re doing everything we can.”

But then he delivered that message that has become oh-so-familiar over the years.

“We just have to make sure we’re taking it one week at a time.”


Comments Show All Comments

45OH4IO's picture

Retrospectively, I am kindo of impressed with how fickell held OSU together last year. I know the record was sub par, and they lost to TTUN, but look at that Arkansas trainwreck. Look at the Saints without their Head Coach. I know both of those teams won last week, but overall they are total disasters. 
All in all, I think Fickell kept the wheels on despite a loaded deck (uncertainty, negative recruiting, the Walrus (hahaha Boston College)). It was frustrating and ugly, but not a pathetic slop. Much respect.

Larryp713's picture

I did respect the job Fickell did as well. When you consider it was his first crack at head coach, with all that he had to deal with, the team did stay together and some of the young guys (Miller, Shazier, Roby, Hankins) got a lot of experience that prepared them for breakout years. Those guys did not appear to get down on the staff or the program. And with that, Coach Meyer came in and has elevated them to another level, through competition more than schematics. Good post, 45!



45OH4IO's picture

Same wavelength. Thanks!

acBuckeye's picture

I was wondering when the Auburn comparisons would start cropping up. Also, if an ineligible SEC team went undefeated nowdays, they'd be gift-wrapped the AP trophy, plus about a dozen others by the media hounds.

billy04's picture

The SEC would receive said gift because all they do is curb stomp teams from other conferences in the MNCG.  It'd be awesome if we all stopped whining about their dominance and focused on, oh, I dunno, actually beating them in a significant contest.

njc2o's picture

lol @ "Pay Dye"

Doc's picture

I think Urban's approach is healthy.  The guys know what they're ranked, they don't live in a bubble.  Talk about it, but don't focus to much time on it.  They still need to take one game at a time or the ranking will start going in the other direction.
Unfortunately I don't see 'Bama losing.  So the argument is mute.  Climb as high as they can for sure.

CJDPHoS Member

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Alhan's picture

I don't see Bama losing, but I didn't see us losing in '06 either.

LSU, A&M, and Auburn are probably their remaining threats, and I know, they aren't that threatening. However, though people like to compare Alabama to a pro team, the fact is they're still college students and prone to having a bad game.

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

Larryp713's picture

Alabama would have to be very flat to lose to any of those teams. Their only legitimate threats are SC (assuming they win the East) and the NC (Oregon?). I do not think it is a given that they will win the NC, based on how hard it has historically been for perennial favorites to prepare for that game.



chitown buckeye's picture

Florida could sneak up on Alabama in the SEC title game. They are quietly playing good football right now.
The only way it becomes even a discussion is if we are the ONLY undefeated team. I just don't believe strength of schedule is in our favor if we dont play a conference championship or a bowl team.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

theDuke's picture

dont mean to be a debbie downer here but the o-line made 49 points possible on saturday night.... :/
Good to see some meaningful progression from the entire team tho, methinks.This has all the feelings and sights of the 2005-6 team that ended up DEMOLISHING the irish in the fiesta bowl. 


Ahh Saturday's picture

Given the poor OOC performance of the B1G, there are no wins out there for the Buckeyes that will really impress voters.  Going undefeated and beating michigan by a greater margin than Bama did is the best the Buckeyes can do.  As hard as those two things will be, the Buckeyes still will not rise above any of the teams currently ahead of us as long as they remain undefeated.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

What really sucks is that OSU has legitimately beaten two top 25 teams in consecutive weeks, HOWEVER they're were at the bottom of the polls and OSU knocked them out. So because OSU beat them they fall out and OSU gets no credit for beating a ranked team as of now. 

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Boxley's picture

Awful facts, but that is what they are, facts.
Any unbeaten team including (domers) will remain ranked ahead of us at the end of the season, and if it is a tie, those teams get to go play another game 4-5 weeks later and get all that attention and votes too.
All we can do is go undefeated, win our division, and prepare for next year.
At least that will give us a higher starting spot in the polls next year. we will not have as high a mountain to climb as we have from the 18th position.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Jim Marshall's picture

Can we hold off on the comparisons to Auburn till we have beaten that team up north???

Ahh Saturday's picture

My guess is nobody on this board is putting on the pads this Saturday.  Speculation like this is exactly what message boards are for.
Oh, and you're running the wrong way.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

I wear pads on saturday, but it's more for the safety of others. Not my own. 

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Kurt's picture

Great write-up Kyle.  Enjoyed learning more about that Auburn team.  Being a high-expectation type of fan I've been thinking about the potential of this since early in the summer.

gutterwaste's picture

Put me in the camp that thinks Ohio State has no shot at a split national title this year.  Given the generally poor performance of the conference and Ohio State's recent history on the big stage (at least in national championship games against the vaunted SEC), not enough people will be impressed enough with the Buckeye's season to vote the split.  Even if everyone else in the conversation ends up with one loss, I think the sentiment will be "Yeah, but OSU won in the B1G, so they're not good enough."  (i.e. the Boise State argument)

Boxley's picture

Yes, I agree the B1G overall national perception is a big factor when talking about a split NC. no way do we get that chance.
Like I posted earlier, all we can play for this year is an undefeated season, and a good poll ranking start for next year.
however going undefeated is particularly sweet considering it means we finished the year beating the AACC and possibly squashing their BCS dreams.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

onetwentyeight's picture

Consider this BCS Apocalypse Scenario: Undefeated ND, Undefeated PAC champion Oregon, and 1 loss Bama (lets assume they drop one flukely OT game on the road say to UT or LSU but rebound to destroy in the SEC CG). Who gets left out? ND basically believes it's their birthright if they go undefated to go to the NCG, plus you got all that national fanbase money, the inherent ND bias amongst media/pollsters, and the massive TV contract payouts that would ensue. Oregon is Team Nike basically, one of the NCAA's biggest corporate sponsors and I see no way that they'd tell Phil Knight to take his undefeated, PAC12 champion team and shove it. That just isn't happening, Nike has too much $ and influence. That leaves ... 1 loss SEC Champ Bama on the outside. Which would ensure a riot in parts of that state, but the Tide for all their history doesn't have the national reach and $ potential of a ND or Oregon. However, let's say in the Sugar Bowl Alabama blasts whatever poor sacrifical lamb is put up against them. Seeing as that school has already "self-crowned" like 11 national championships for themselves, I'd imagine they'd just go ahead and declare themselves NCs regardless of who wins the ND-ORE game. 
NOW, imagine during all this ^, Ohio State also finishes undefeated. What happens to the AP poll then? ... 
[Edit: or even consider this scenario w/Alabama going undefeated. The same impossible choice still remains for the BCS]

Kurt's picture

Imagine South Carolina staying undefeated, beating Bama in the SEC Champ game.  I could see USC getting snubbed and the SEC going crazy.  Again.

sb97's picture

Honestly, I hope that we go undefeated AND get slighted in the polls.  Give the guys a chance to play the "No Respect" card and wallop some people!
Edit:  I meant to say give the guys next year a chance..

Bucksfan's picture

Yeah, the only difference here is that Auburn is a small school in rural Alabama that no one outside of Tuscaloosa gives a sh*t about.  If Ohio State goes undefeated and can't play in the post season, or doesn't finish #1 in the country, the sun might explode.

onetwentyeight's picture

The other thing about Auburn is that Terry Bowden at the time was a young (but well known due to his dad) coach who hadn't ever had sustained success at the highest level. Whereas Urban is one of the few coaches in CFB history to have Multiple NCs already. Urban is a known product, who has a system that has been proven to work before time and time again. A better analogy for Terry would be if Fickell had taken over from Tress and racked up a string of unexpected wins. Unknown, young coach having immediate success. 

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

The B1G could do a lot to help OSU and themselves if they can stack some unexpected wins in bowl games.  Big bowl wins can go a long way to improving the conferences image, maybe even more so than out of conf. games in September.
Having said that, I do not believe the B1G will have a >.500 bowl record this year.  I hope the other schools prove me wrong.  I don't see it happeneing when you compare the quality of the Wisconsin team that lost in the Rose bowl last year and look at the potential teams in the B1G that might play there this year.  I think either USC or Oregon would lay a beating on Nebraska, TTUN,  Mich. State, Wisconsin..etc..  It will really be bad if there is an upset in the B1G championship game and you end up seeing a 7-6 Purdue or Wisconsin go to the rose bowl.  We will all have egg on our gace if that happens.
We can hope (praying might help too) the B1G can regain some semblence of respect in Dec./Jan.

AngryWoody's picture

I think my favorite thing about Urban Meyer is that he never partakes in "coach speak". Whether it's a press conference or a speech, when you listen to Urban speak it's like a real person is talking to you. I would imagine that sort of thing really motivates players and impresses recruits. When I see a coach get asked about their ranking and I hear them say "We're just taking it one week at a time" or the infamous "We don't really pay attention to rankings" I just wanna laugh my ass off. If the press/fans really believed that then why would every damn coach who has even been ranked still get asked every year? So I think it's awesome that Urb the Mighty just tackles rankings head on and we don't have to listen to a bunch of "coach speak".

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sb97's picture

I don't know...  It was always fun to watch Tressel infuriate the media with bland answers :)

BuckeyeFanInBoulder's picture

I thought it was awesome too but at the same time it drove me nuts.

buckeye76BHop's picture

I wouldn't say it's all but wrapped up like many are insinuating...but I sure as hell wouldn't rule it out either.  If and this is a big if, but if Alabama loses and OSU go undefeated...it could get interesting.  You never know what may happen if there's no unbeaten teams besides OSU at years end and the BCS teams both have a loss.  It could happen...but with the B1G looking SO bad and there's no denying that.  So that could be OSU's demise if some other teams don't step it up.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987