The Ultimate Challenge

By Kyle Rowland on July 17, 2013 at 9:30a
It won't be easy holding the Buckeyes back.

Winning every game is challenging. Look through the history books and you find it’s rare for more than two teams to finish undefeated in a season. Significant winning streaks are equally as difficult to come by.

In the 143-year history of college football, only 54 times has a team won 20 or more games in a row. Twenty-four of those were prior to the 1940s. Ohio State, winners of its past 12 games, owns the sport’s longest current win streak. The most consecutive victories in program history are the 22 won by the Craig Krenzel-led Buckeyes from 2002 to 20003. That number will be overtaken if Ohio State wins its first 11 games of the 2013 season.

The over/under for the Buckeyes’ regular-season win total was recently set at 11.5. One peek at the schedule reveals there are less than a handful of games that pose a serious challenge. But it remains difficult to go undefeated and even more so to stretch a streak into Year 2.

“The last door is a big one,” said Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. “Open it up, kick it open, do what you have to do to get through that door. Once you're in there, it smells different, it tastes different, it looks different. I'm hoping our guys get that taste and they want to go do it again because once you taste that, it tastes really good.”

Improving in the sense of wins and losses is impossible. Failure lingers with an imminent feeling, a letdown is almost inevitable. But the Buckeyes are in a unique position. The 2012 season ended prematurely due to a bowl ban. At 12-0, Ohio State likely would have appeared in the national championship game had it been eligible.

It knew from the get-go that the season’s end result would be bittersweet. Now a carrot is dangling at the end of the coming season. But while a postseason is happily welcomed, it can cause more on-filed angst.  

It isn’t often that teams can one-up an unbeaten season, but that is exactly what the Buckeyes will attempt to do – and many believe they will succeed. Last year was only the sixth perfect season for one of college football’s flagship programs. Primed for No. 7, Ohio State will enter the season as a top-five team.

“At Florida, year after year we were successful because (Coach Meyer) is so profound at managing a team, and he's doing it again this year,” said wide receivers coach Zach Smith. “You don't go to practice and feel like, ‘We went 12-0, we’re gonna win it all.’ That’s not what it feels like.”

The anticipation and beliefs in Columbus are for history. It’s been more than a decade since the Buckeyes were crowned national champions. But each of the 10 seasons since the triumph in 2002 has brought heightened expectations, only to have the balloon fizzle out.

“The key is how do they come together.”

Ohio State’s inability to finish a season undefeated or atop the polls with the level of talent it has fielded during that time frame is more evidence of the test that awaits. Potential pitfalls are hidden, as teams lose unexpectedly with regularity each season. The Buckeyes’ recent complications with Purdue are proof of that.

“Talent-wise, it’s never going to be a problem,” said defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. “The key is how do they come together. That's where the leadership comes in. That's where Coach (Meyer) is so good, and that's where most of his focus is on, motivation and leadership.”

When Ohio State won the 2002 national championship seven of its 14 wins came by a touchdown or less. Half of the Buckeyes’ 12 wins in 2012 also were by seven points or less. But one year prior, in a disastrous 6-7 campaign, Ohio State was just 2-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less. There is a fine line between greatness and mediocrity.

Braxton Miller, one of the sport’s most dynamic players, touches the ball on every play, which greatly enhances the Buckeyes’ chances of winning. He totaled more than 3,300 total yards a year ago and enters this season as one of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy. Potential first-round draft picks Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby patrol the defense. In charge of it all is a head coach who’s won big at every destination.

Even All-Americans and great coaching won’t guarantee national championships. An element of luck exists in all title contenders, making intangibles a key to each team’s optimism. In each of Ohio State’s past two undefeated seasons, the most indelible moments involved luck and other outside forces, even a ballroom in East Lansing.  

But the past is the past. This isn’t Bowling Green, Utah or Florida. And it isn’t 2012.

“The 2013 team doesn't have anything to do with (last year’s) record,” said cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. “It has everything to do with individual improvement, how the kids come together and what the leadership does with this team between now and when we come back into camp in August.”

Even then, the difficulty meter is flashing red – or scarlet.


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Chief B1G Dump's picture

Don't blow the bunnies...
We've got a big target on our backs.  The old cliche, 1 game at a time.  If we handle business, don't shit the bed and stay hongry - this could be a run for the ages.  So many story lines converging into one...Most wins, back to back undefeated, ending the SEC reign we started, Urban stamping the game and giving hater a big middle finger, etc...
I haven't been this jacked up without artificial energy in a loooooong time.
The sea is parted, we just need to make it to the other side. 

Cavluv23's picture

Man I'm stationed down here in Mississippi with all these damned Alabama fans, every morning I have to hear roll tide every five minutes on the radio .... everyday I go home I'm being tailgated by a hick in a huge truck with a bama license plate !!!! I am so ready for this season and the magic instored ... if we make it to the promise land and put a foot up Alabama's ass I would like to request the members of this site to put out a amber alert for me if you don't see me post anything in three days , cause I'm going to act a ass down here !!!!

World travel is my passion spreading the word and grace of Ohio in every corner of the world . 

buckeyedude's picture

When my brother was in the Marines back about 1980, he was stationed at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. He said he got so sick of hearing Sweet Home Alabama that he decided to become an Auburn fan for the Hell of it.



RunEddieRun1983's picture

I don't know if by the time I read this I'll be the first comment or not, but damn it, I am pumped the fuck up!  What a read!  Bring me football!  O-H-I-O!!!!!!!!!!!

I don't always downvote, but I do always downvote a Michigan fan trolling the Buckeye boards.

Bucks13's picture

Same, give me some pads and point me to the nearest wall so I can run through it. Go bucks

whobdis's picture

The mention of some measure of luck being needed is spot on..even Bama needed some things to fall into place. It seems that way every year. Even the best teams need some fortune to fall their way. Despite our 'weak schedule' we'll have some games that are down to the wire (like Purdue last year)..we'll see how Lady Luck treats us. Even though Cooper had some odd ball sayings I always liked his definition of 'luck''s when 'preperation meets opportunity'. Kenny Guiton epitomized that last season the the Purdue game. The foundation for wins like that are set well before the season even starts. I do believe with the staff we have..we are at least in good hands on that level.

CC's picture

I don't believe in "luck" per se but I'm with you.  Kenny G trained hard and got the job done.  In reality 2nd string QB's rarely do that.  It's a tribute to Kenny and the coaching staff.  That said there are definitely things that are out of our control, injuries, weather etc.  This team seems as prepared as any I've seen in the last 10-15 years.  The scary thing is that the 2014 team (assuming Brax and the coaching staff is back) seems better.

The Buck Guy's picture

I'm not a believer in luck either, but good fortune and bad fortune are obvious in every football game. Also, the zebras can (and have) skewed the playing field and caused losses and wins that should have gone the other way. With the new "targeting" rule this season, I can see some boneheaded ejections coming our way for certain. I do feel that this team has huge talent and potential with great coaches, but a lot of question marks as well. What worries me most is the poor tackling of the defensive secondary that never improved (yes, the stats were better in the latter part of the season, but those were against non-passing teams. I still saw DBs hitting instead of breaking down and wrapping up). As for 2014, that will be a rebuilding year, the team will be losing a ton of starters, especially from the O-line. I think that this team has to win it or we will have to wait a few more for another opportunity with this much experienced talent to have a realistic chance.

~ The Buck Guy
Go Bucks!!!!

Jabba the Hoke's picture

I hate the idea of refs being able to eject at will, but I hope it may actually lead to better tackling.  If players start wrapping up, the ejections for targeting  should become a non-issue. Hopefully this concept is being drilled into the players heads.

Haybucks's picture

I'm leery about the refs ejecting players until they can prove they can judge improper contact effectively.  B1G mandates to call these hits will put too much pressure on the refs to make the call whether they see it correctly or not.

If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later. -  Mark Twain


keithbyarsothershoe's picture

Tressel, NOT coop, said (basically) preparation + execution = good luck
... and its exactly right, that's what they work all summer for

The Buck Guy's picture

We all want to see this team go undefeated and win a BCS MNCG. But I"m realistic and so I wont be one of those who adamantly proclaim this team will do that. I've watched truly great Buckeyes teams who should have won it all (according to fans and media hype) fall short too many times over the past 50-some years. Remember our Super Sophs? I still feel they were the greatest collection of talent and best team ever. And the 1998 team was just a half-step behind them, but tripped up vs Sparty. The 2006 team was just behind them, and fell flat in the desert. This team has some good talent, but nothing close to those great teams. If they become a team of destiny and win it all, then I will forever be amazed and delighted. But I have to take this season one game at a time, just like last season. No way can I look any further then the next game.

~ The Buck Guy
Go Bucks!!!!

CC's picture

Those teams had some great talent, but this team has a guy that touches the ball every play who is significantly better than any qb on those teams. 
Oh and I'd take Urban over Coop... :)

The Buck Guy's picture

Significantly better than Rex Kern or Troy Smith or Joe Germaine? No way. Not even in the ball park with those guys yet. A hall of famer and a Heisman winner who both beat numerous #1 ranked teams and destroyed TTUN? Kern led his team to 22 consecutive wins and an undefeated consensus  national championship as one of the greatest (and earliest) dual threat quarterbacks in college football history. Troy Smith, originally a run-first QB, became the best pass-efficiency QB in college history in his Jr. season. Germaine was a winner who is on top of the season record book at tOSU. Miller is talented and a true competitor, and if his passing and decision making improves he has the potential to be up there with those guys, be he hasn't done that just yet.

~ The Buck Guy
Go Bucks!!!!

keithbyarsothershoe's picture

i couldnt agree more (...and dont forget #7 c. green in that Qb discussion), so you made me break out the13  spring game tape again, just to gage braxtons growth, and i must say, i like the improvement thus far, as long as he stays health...

Doc's picture

Well said.  My sentiments exactly.  But it is time for the games to start, damn I need some foozball!

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Michibuck's picture

Right on the money, BG. I've seen them all from Woody to Bruce to Cooper to Tressel. And I've seen each one lose out on NC's that we SHOULD have won. I'm hoping that with Urban Meyer we may have another Paul Brown, and that could be the difference.

avail31678's picture

Krenzel and co. only had 22 wins from 2002 to 20003?!  That's like .001 wins a year!
In all seriousness, cool write-up.  I can't decide for myself how "likely" it is we'll go undefeated.  I said last year we should be better than every team, but we HAVE to lose one or two, we just have to!  I see myself in the same boat this year.  We really could and should win every game, but probability and history says we just likely won't. 
I'd be perfectly content with 1 or 2 losses as long as those losses aren't against PSU or TTUN, and a B1G championship and a BCS bowl berth.

CC's picture

I think 11.5 seems about right.  12-2 would be tough to swallow which kind of assumes we win the B1G championship and lose the bowl game.

avail31678's picture

Yeah, I was assuming 2 regular season losses yet still making the B1G championship, which as you put, might not happen.  We might need 1 conference loss to get there.

Michibuck's picture

Great article, Kyle. Come on Aug. 31!

faux_maestro's picture

Correction: Krenzel and Co. won 19 straight from 2002-2003. The Buckeyes of 1967-1969 won 22 straight (last 4 games of '67, all 10 in '68, and the first 8 of '69).

Your mom told me she wants a Dicken Cidar.

nickma71's picture

Yep. Coach Tressel had two 19 game winning streaks.

Larryp713's picture

I have finally learned to temper expectations when it comes to college football, which has decreased my anxiety and increased my appreciation for these young men and the coaches. The real challenge is for the coaches to get/keep this team "angry", and I can see how the obnoxious SEC fans will help with that. While winning seven straight championships is impressive, the SEC champion has been blessed by the first round playoff game, ie the conference championship, in their preparation. This is Ohio State's first chance to really take advantage of that, in a season where they have a legit shot for the crystal ball.
How do the Buckeyes keep it week to week, prevent the letdown games vs a NW or Cal, for instance? There lies the beauty and tragedy of college football. I want the Buckeyes to reach their full potential this year, but the reality is we won't know until it plays out. For now, I am focused on Buffalo, and can't wait for kickoff - Go Bucks!!!



Hovenaut's picture

As a Buckeye born lifelong football fan, it's easy to get excited about the upcoming season. The rich Ohio State history helps stoke the flames, especially the successes the past twenty years has shown us.

But what could possibly lie ahead seems, in my opinion, a road full of new possibilities. This is a totally different program..not to knock those before this..but the change, the level of excitement in the air is unlike any I can remember.

Maybe it's being a faithful 11W reader along with some of TBDFITL, but I feel like a kid at Christmas.

The challenges are daunting, but I have a feeling we're in for a great trip.

Looking at that calendar again, excellent article Kyle.

harleymanjax's picture


"Because I couldn't go for 3"