2002 and What it Means for 2013

By Joe Beale on August 15, 2013 at 11:30a
The greatest night the world has ever known.Eleven Warriors 2013 Ohio State Football Preview

2002. That was the year. It was the year of close escapes, miracle finishes, and great triumphs. It was a year for veterans to go out with a bang, and for newcomers to announce their presence on the college football scene. It was a year to hang on tight, and a year to jump for joy. That was 2002.

This is not that year. But then again it could be. The story is not yet written, but the plot is already fleshed out in the imaginations of Ohio State fans everywhere. Once again it is time to dream big dreams, to picture another 14-0 season like that last glorious one in 2002. 2013 could be that year. 

It would mean more than just going undefeated and winning it all, because 2002 was more than that. It was a year that showed the previous season's victory at Michigan was no fluke by beating them for a second straight season, the first time OSU had done that in two decades. It was also a year to show the tenacity and grit of the players and their soft-spoken coach, and a year to shut down the cockiest team on the face of the planet.

If the 2013 season is to be as satisfying as the 2002 season was, it will require more than just a win in the BCS Championship Game. It will require the kind of storybook season that Krenzel and Company delivered with all of the accompanying drama, plus a thrilling victory at the end against desperate odds and perhaps even with a little luck on their side. A dominating march to glory is all fine and good, but a tough slog through treacherous terrain punctuated by a hard-fought triumph under difficult circumstances will thoroughly cleanse the collective souls of the Buckeye players and fans.

The greatness of the national championship season in 2002 was only partly due to the accomplishments; there was also a part that involved the vindication of a program. Too many times in the years leading up to that one great year, the team had looked unstoppable, only to stumble late in the season against some inferior foe. Not only that, but in the last couple years before the championship, the team had slipped to the point where they were no longer expected to win every game. At Ohio State, that's a bad place to be.

Winning it all in 2013 could be a vindication of a different sort. In the last few years of the Tressel era, the program had started to come under fire for the lack of imagination in offensive game-plans, and for accumulating tons of talent at skill positions only to waste them by calling the same old plays and sets repeatedly. The coaches' distrust of young quarterbacks had seemed to deepen in the last few years, leading to long "trial" periods where the playbook would be narrowed for the benefit of the inexperienced signal-caller and only expanded later after several games of Dave-heavy execution. 

Not only was the play-calling uninspired, but the blocking up front had slipped dramatically from those first glory years to the point where even highly-touted linemen seemed to regress upon donning the scarlet and gray. All of that changed last season as the line and the offense in general improved in both aesthetics and execution. But doing it again under the glare of increased expectations and against the sure-to-be-an-SEC-champion opponent in the BCS title game would be a resounding statement that the program was now truly elite. 

Another element brought to the fore during that glorious 2002 season was the image of Ohio State as an object of hatred. Prior to 2002, the Buckeyes were a marquee team but outsiders kind of felt sorry for them because of how often their bubble was burst by Michigan. When playing a team they were supposed to beat, Ohio State was generally dominant. But put them on the big stage against a team that was talented and well-prepared and OSU seemed to melt under the glare.

"How dare you display excellence! I hate you!"Open season on Buckeyes is about to commence. 

Most people remember OSU coach John Cooper's abysmal 2-10-1 record against Michigan, but it's worth noting that he was an almost equally abysmal 3-8 in bowl games. Included among those eight setbacks were ignominious losses to Air Force and South Carolina, the latter of which finally cost Cooper his job. Failure in the biggest games, and Cooper's "that's just the way it goes" responses to those failures afterward had made Ohio State seem like a paper tiger, not someone to be feared or taken seriously.

The magical run of 2002 changed everything, leading to the season-long antics of Trev Alberts and Mark May on ESPN and the dismissive articles in the run-up to the championship game. The nature of OSU's win over Miami, with all of the controversy and wails of protest, only intensified the hatred that the undefeated season had earned for them on the part of sportswriters and opposing fans. The Buckeyes were no longer loveable pooches who barked a lot but never bit; now they were being lumped in with the 2000 Yankees as one of the most hated teams in sports.

A victory on the biggest stage this season will produce a similar reaction, perhaps one that is even more intense. If Ohio State goes undefeated and wins the Big Ten Championship Game, they will undoubtedly find themselves in the BCS Championship Game. There will be many who will resent their presence there, thinking that a team with OSU's schedule has not really been tested. Many will predict a blowout loss to whatever SEC team they face, similar to the predictions prior to the game against Miami. 

Should the Buckeyes then proceed to do the unthinkable and dethrone the mighty SEC from their accustomed position as rulers of the college football world, then there will be more hatred than ever seen before. Mark May will grind his teeth so much it will require multiple root canals to repair the damage. Mike Bianchi and the entire troll-verse of wannabe raconteurs looking for cheap hits will go on a high-octane binge, accusing Urban Meyer of all manner of vile offenses and calling incessantly for the NCAA to launch an investigation. It will be vicious, chaotic, ugly, and beautiful at the same time.

There will be a certain harmony in the chorus of Buckeye hatred that will erupt in the event that they win it all. It will remind you of that glorious season when it all came together for OSU and no one in the college football world could stop them. It will mark the dawn of a new age of Buckeye dominance, one founded on a more solid foundation than the one launched only 11 years ago. Be of good cheer, Buckeye fans, for the howls of protest and catcalls of your enemies are but the college football equivalent of roses tossed at the feet of a great performer. It is a sound that you will cherish for many years to come, even as you wait for the next era of dominance to arrive.   


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Seattle Linga's picture

Great Article --- looking forward to reliving the days of 2002 with our new and improved version in 2013 and beyond!!!

spqr2008's picture

It still amuses me to go troll SEC boards with one simple comment: "Sherman should've marched west."  Hopefully the Buckeyes will march right on through the schedule and then burn Atlanta's champion.

zbd's picture

I'm tired of some obsessed with living in the rear view mirror of 2002.  I'm for looking ahead.  Just me.  

gravey's picture

This feels nothing like 2002 to me.  It feels like 2006 when the expectations were through the roof.  I hope we have the luck of the 2002 team and the talent at the end of 2005.
Sherman should have marched west.

RedStorm45's picture

Both years the offense was expected to be amazing, both years quite a bit of the defensive starters had to be replaced, both years a Heisman was a pretty good possibility from the QB.  2006 is much more similar to 2013.

SOF_Buckeye's picture

While no doubt the hatred will flourish should this occur, I believe there will be a period of calm outside the footprint of the SEC (and Bristol, CT). Other conferences and fans seizing the moment to chide and poke the dethroned sec, and know that the reign of arrogance has ended. Of course, that period of time will come to a close with chants of "It should have been us"; "Your'e schedule was pathetic"... And the great era of Buckeye dominance will have begun...and the various conferences, fans, et al, will take aim at the King.... "Hail Brutus!!"

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." Woody Hayes

InHartWeTrust's picture

I want to blow everyone out, including the SEC in the Championship,  That would be my "best season", putting the SEC shit to rest.
We have a weak schedule, we don't need any thrillers, except maybe against TTUN if they are a top team at the time.

OurHonorDefend09's picture

if OSU has a weak schedule, then 100 pt victories against every team should suffice in silencing the haters. 

Don't give up... Don't ever give up.

osu07asu10's picture

Hahahaha that has to be one of brutus' lowest moments (until David Perkins lowered the boom on him).  Poor guy has really taken a beating these last few years!

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The 0 is silent.


We will know soon enough how strong we're going to be. We struggle vs. SDSU or Cal or even vs. Wisconsin in the B1G opener it won't bode well. Two biggest concerns are injuries and off-the-field issues. Rub that lucky rabbit's foot Buckeye Nation!

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

Ahh Saturday's picture

"Struggle" is a tricky word.  Does it mean losing? Does it mean a margin of victory closer than expected? Or does it just mean a slow first quarter, or sloppy execution on the way to a comfortable victory?  I fully expect to see some struggles in the early season from the defensive side of the football.  There's just too much inexperience for there not to be some growing pains.  However, I think there's enough talent on the field and on the sideline that those struggles will end as the season progresses.  I do not expect to see the offense struggling, but if it does, we could be in trouble early.


True, "struggle" can mean a lot of things. I would say if we have problems being up by more than a touchdown vs. the likes of Buffalo, SDSU, Cal or FL A&M then that would be a huge red flag. We lose any of those games our NCG hopes are dead and buried so that goes without really saying. 
If the Cal game turns into the Indiana game last year where our defense struggles to stop anyone and we win, it will feel like a loss like last year. Another red flag.  I do not expect 40-point blowouts every week but we should utterly dominate our non-conference slate.
I believe Gary Anderson is a good coach, but we should be able to handle Wisconsin in the B1G opener (at least by 2 TDs). The Badgers shut our offense down like last season  and we lose or only beat them by a point that will be a telling sign, too.
The Northwestern game should be the first real test. Night road game on national TV. We struggle there I would hope its because the Wildcats are playing up to the challenge. Not us struggling. Again, we could lose there too.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

Hovenaut's picture

After being born in the 70's I was too young to have fully understood and supported Woody's teams. After moving away from Ohio in the 80's I missed out on the ups and downs in Earle's tenure.

A stint in the military (where I served with too many people from that state up north) and undergraduate school saw Cooper's teams revive a sleeping giant, but seemingly falling short when it mattered (re: late November, early January).

The arrival of Jim Tressel righted those wrongs, and brought forth the national championship I wondered if I would ever see. Unfortunately, after years of sustained excellence we bore witness to one of the lowest points in the programs history.

So with UFM becoming just the fifth head coach at tOSU since 1950, the promise of a new day is on the horizon.

It's easy to be impressed with the state of the program after 2012...but we all know better.

It's clear that the team is still striving for excellence even after finishing undefeated. That's exciting.

I like to think that one of the many changes awaiting the landscape of college football is the ending of the SEC's stranglehold on the sport.

There must be a team, a coach, out there that can rise to the challenge....

carence's picture

That was 1 of Brutus' worst moments but 1 of the most entertaining I have ever seen. I couldn't stop watching and laughing. I'm about to watch now! :)

Jonnferrell's picture

The best thing for us this year after an undefeated season last year, is the fact we didn't go to a bowl game or play for a national championship.  It sucked last year, but this year it gives the whole team something to work for that they didn't get last year.  It's time to put that SEC crap down the toilet where it belongs.  We started the end with Arkansas and will finish it with Alabama or whoever this year.  Go bucks!

"I miss Brady Hoke."

kalabuckzoo's picture

Imagine the SEC fanbase Media despair if we run the table and get in the BCS championship and then either stanford or oregon end up as the only other undefeated team and get sent to the game while a one loss alabama/georgia/a&m/florida is on the outside looking in.  That rhetoric would be epic.


^ I've long believed there's an excellent chance of that precise scenario happening at some point. ESPN would implode upon itself like a dying star.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

CC's picture

This is sad to say, but I think I will get more joy out of watching the SEC fans fall of their perch than I will in pride of my Bucks.  My pride remains through thick and thin but they are just awful.  I just can't stand the "SEC Team" vs. Ohio State.  I hope we get a crack at Bama and end the reign in a big way.  I would actually hate to play and beat Oregon (vs. an SEC school) because it would forever be hollow to many college football fans. 

buckeyepastor's picture

Unlike 2002, I think this team needs to dominate.   With our schedule this year, if we struggle through half the schedule as we did last year, I think many will have us not in the title game even if we are a perfect 13-0.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

ChazBuckeye's picture

Great point!

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

CC's picture

I disagree.
It would be really hard to keep a team out who hadn't lost in 2 years, has a 2 time NC coach and has a Heisman trophy contender.
Think about that for a second, a team that hasn't lost in 2 years not playing for an NC.  That would be as hollow as a SEC school not playing in the game.

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

I will never forget that 2002 game. It will be one of the few memories that persist in my life.

ChazBuckeye's picture

I would agree with much of the sentiments that this year has a completely different feel than 2002.  That year I had NO clue that OSU could or would get to Arizona.  I started to believe after PSU.  Then after beating Wiscy, Holy Buckeye, and then Illinois, I knew we had a chance.
This years team is SO different offensively.  Now defensively, I could see it being similar.  A bend but don't break style could be exactly what we may see.  I'm hoping for more of a dominating D but I'll take the latter;-)

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

gwalther's picture

Uh... Tressel won 5 BCS games, was 9-1 against TSUN, and won 7 B1G titles.. That's a pretty "solid foundation" he built back in 01-02. Gotta remind people, after the 2010 Sugar Bowl win, prior to the sanctions, we were a favorite to contend for a BCS title in 2011.

Class of 2008

RedStorm45's picture

With core guys out 5 games? I don't know...Then again, I've pretty much blacked out that time period from my memory.

gwalther's picture

"Prior to the sanctions"

Class of 2008

RedStorm45's picture

Yeah, prior to the sanctions those guys were suspended a few games.  After the sanctions, we were banned from the post-season.

Joe Beale's picture

Sure it was solid, but what I wrote was that now OSU has a "more solid foundation", i.e. one that includes a competent offensive line coach and a true offensive coordinator.

gwalther's picture

It could've been a more thoughtful response on my part. With that said, I do actually agree we're likely better positioned for the future. However, before I fully subscribe to that opinion, Meyer needs to approach Tressel's success here at Ohio State. To do that, he needs to be headed towards 5 BCS game wins, consistent domination of TSUN, and win at least one national title. 

Class of 2008

Doc's picture

Their tears and cries are like "Mother's Milk".  Lap it up in copious amounts.  One game at a time fellas!

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Doc's picture

Three down votes on the entire thread and they are all are anti eeessseeeeccceee.  I smell a troll. Butthurt much?

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buckskin's picture

Great coaches get their team believing against all odds.  Meyer will follow in Tressel's footsteps and win the NC in his 2nd year.  

Berniebucks78's picture

"Should the Buckeyes then proceed to do the unthinkable and dethrone the mighty SEC from their accustomed position as rulers of the college football world, then there will be more hatred than ever seen before."
Joe, good article, but I think we will be surprised how many allies will come out of the trenches if we meet an SEC opponent in the NCG. Most people (other than a few media outlets) want to see the SEC streak come to an end. The anti-SEC sentiment is pretty strong for all those that don't live within two minutes of a Waffle House.

"Indecision may (or may not) be my downfall."

gwin321's picture

As much as I HATE to admit it, I feel next year will be a better year for us. I just think as talented as our D' will be they are just a lil too fresh to win the big one. Next year though will be a lot different. I might be wrong and hopefully I will be!!!!!!
Buckeye Fan For Life No Matter Where I Am

cbusbuckeye's picture

Not so fast my friend. The D may be better than this year (probably will be) but replacing four seniors on the offensive line is no small task at all. 

Berniebucks78's picture

Good call CBUS. replacing our offensive line freaks me out! 

"Indecision may (or may not) be my downfall."

pjtobin's picture

To me 02 was a surprise. I didn't expect to run the table. It was the best season I have been alive to see. With that said I've never been so excited pre season before. I think we have a great chance this year to take it all. Very high hopes. I just hope they execute the game plan every game. If they don't overlook anyone and play each game like it is the nc game, it is going to be a great year. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

2002osubuck's picture

I have a feeling that our O is going to be unbelievable and put us up by a lot, causing teams to throw more. Having what seems to be a great secondary, we will create a lot of turnovers with teams trying to catch up, giving the O more possessions to develope the young players. I think we dominate this season and the D matures as it goes on, as well, becoming one of the best in the country. Just in time to beat down scum, play in both championship games and win with great play on all sides of the ball. Urban is going to make a run at NCs vs saban for the next several years in college football. For us to go undefeated last year and the players admitting not knowing what they were  doing, leaves me to believe we are going to just dominate because everyone seems to be on the same page now. Then add in the freshman, that contribute right away, and its going to be one hell of a season. The Buffalo game can't get here soon enough!

vitaminB's picture

If we don't win it all this year I will not be disappointed.  I'm just glad we have a first rate organization that will contend for the foreseeable future.  I refuse to be butt hurt if "all we get" is a Rose Bowl berth. 

gwalther's picture

If we lost to TSUN or didn't win the Rose I don't think I'd count it as a successful season though. 

Class of 2008