An Unforgiveable Crime

By Ramzy Nasrallah on January 22, 2014 at 11:15a
Brandon Mitchell looking at Jamario O'Neal like HOW COULD YOU BE THIS BAD?

The Orange Bowl recording currently sits in my DVR queue, unwatched, begging to be deleted.

As part of both the BCS postmortem coupled with Ohio State bringing back that unwanted Cooper Era tradition of triumphantly running the table until the final two goddamn games I've been struggling with Buckeye football for the last month and a half.

Are they always overrated? Are we always disappointed? Or is this one of those Buckeye Nation quirks where it's just impossible to ever be satisfied?

That stupid Clemson game was the capstone on a football season where every single week there was some sort of argument over how overrated the Buckeyes were, even while they kept winning.

Ohio State ended up playing three upper echelon teams...and lost to two of them. There's your neatly-packaged closing argument, narrative.

Losing isn't the worst crime in sports. No, the worst crime in sports is being overrated. It's also the worst chant in sports and - where college football is concerned - the loci for all debates and arguments.

That's because teams exposed as being overrated have been effectively been caught willfully deceiving their audiences. The BCS spanned 16 seasons and the Buckeyes feasted on it - but the perception is they only won one title game (with the help of refs hurrrrr) and exposed an entire conference in each of its other two shots at the crown.

Now that it's all over, was Ohio State truly overrated throughout the BCS era? Take a guess before continuing. It's X out of 16 seasons.

The indomitable Chris Stassen has been comprehensively aggregating preseason predictions and making postseason overrated/underrated determinations based on them for all of those 20 years since the Buckeyes' rebirth in 1993.

So we do have a definitive answer to this question. You'll find it below. 

But before you delete that Orange Bowl recording from your DVR out of self-loathing, consider the evidence for Ohio State being justly ranked more often than not.


Joe Bauserman started this game. On purpose.

The way that this works is as follows: This past season, Ohio State's consensus preseason rank (using 20 outlets and media polls) was 3rd.

Unfortunately for us, it finished the season ranked 12th in the AP Poll, meaning the Buckeyes were the nation's fifth-most overrated team for 2013. The most overrated team was the Georgia Bulldogs, followed by Texas, Florida and Texas A&M.

But yes, three SEC teams were among the five most overrated programs in the country this past season. Prepare yourselves for this to be a major part of the narrative heading into the 2014 season. [laugh track]

Two of Ohio State's three best opponents - Clemson and Wisconsin - finished the season ranked exactly at the preseason consensus. The other, Michigan State, was grossly underrated. Yeah, you already knew that.

Based on the numbers, Ohio State was categorically overrated during these six seasons of the BCS era:

Season Most OVERRATED (Like Ohio State) Most Underrated
1999 Arizona, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Colorado, Southern Cal Michigan State, Kansas State, Marshall, Mississippi State, Southern Miss
2000 Alabama, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Southern Cal, Georgia Oregon State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington & Colorado State (tie)
2004 West Virginia, Kansas State, Florida, LSU, Missouri & Ohio State (tie) Louisville, Utah, Virginia Tech, Boise State, Iowa
2008 Clemson, LSU, West Virginia, Auburn, Wisconsin & Missouri (tie) Utah, TCU, Alabama, Boise State, Penn State
2011 Florida State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech Southern Cal, Michigan, Baylor, Kansas State, Michigan State
2013 Georgia, Texas, Florida, Texas A&M, Ohio State & Michigan (tie) Auburn, Missouri, Michigan State, Central Florida, Baylor

The Buckeyes were badly overrated three times out of 16 BCS seasons and modestly overrated three other times. Four of those six seasons - 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2011 - represent the most soul-crushing disappointing years for Ohio State football in that span, so the potential for also being overrated was justifiably high.

The other two - 2008 and 2013 - were years where the Buckeyes were undeniably loaded with veteran talent, highly-ranked to start the season but just couldn't win a big game when it mattered most. In Glengarry Glen Ross terms, they were teams that absolutely did not deserve to have coffee.

Michigan State was one of the most underrated programs during three of those disappointing seasons - and the most underrated in 1999. So half of the time when Ohio State failed to meet expectations, Sparty significantly exceeds its own.

the two programs most chronically underrated during the BCS era WERE both from the Big Ten.

In fact, the two programs who were the most chronically underrated during the BCS era are both from the Big Ten, and the other one was Iowa.

Michigan State never made the most overrated list even once during the span, while Iowa is feckless with prognosticators: When it wasn't one of the nation's biggest surprises (four separate times, along with Sparty) it was one of the biggest disappointments (three other times).

The lesson here is that Kirk Ferentz is an enemy to all gamblers. The three-time B1G Coach of the Year runs the most unpredictable program in the country.

Case in point: The three seasons following his COY honors - 2003, 2005 and 2010 - his Hawkeyes were among the most underrated, overrated and overrated programs in the country, respectively.

Nothing is regular in Iowa City. It is college football's irritable bowel syndrome.



Ohio State was consensus preseason #10 in 2002. It was #11 in 2007 and #12 in 2012.

It finished those seasons #1, #4 and #3. Significantly underrated, underrated and...underrated, respectively. It happens. Even to Ohio State.

If you look at the reasons why, it's simple: The 2002 Buckeyes emerged from three lost years where they finished each campaign unranked. The 2007 Buckeyes had to replace every play maker from its BCS title run and made it back to the title game without a defensive line (which, sadly, LSU noticed in reviewing the film).

The 2011 Buckeyes went 6-7. Urban Meyer's hiring gave the 2012 team a modest bump to the consensus #12 spot, but they ran the table and finished nine places higher than where they started.

Season Most Overrated Most Underrated (Like Ohio State)
2002 Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska, Florida State, Washington Kansas State, Iowa, NC State / Alabama / Southern Cal (3-way tie)
2007 Wisconsin, Louisville, Michigan, California, UCLA Missouri, Kansas, Boston College, BYU & Georgia (tie)
2012 Southern Cal, Michigan, Arkansas, Wisconsin, West Virginia Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Louisville, Stanford, Florida

Two of Ohio State's victims in 2007 - Wisconsin and Michigan - both began the year as top ten squads and finished bowl season in the teens. Michigan also lost at home to Appalachian State to mark the debut of the Big Ten Network. It's something that's always worth mentioning.

The Buckeyes were significantly underrated in 2002, 2007 and 2012.

The 2012 season is interesting because Notre Dame, whom Ohio State would have played had it been allowed to destroy Nebraska in the Big Ten title game, wasn't the most underrated team of the year. You can thank the emergence of Johnny Football for that.

Also - note Florida was one of the nation's most underrated programs of 2012, before collapsing in 2013. You can decide which season is Urban's fault.

That dynamic of going from most underrated to most overrated happened routinely during the BCS era, but only Ferentz at Iowa was able to consistently harness that magic and use it to entertain himself at our expense.

That must be why he makes Kirk Ferentz dollars. People love those plot twists.



The big reveal: Ohio State was accurately ranked or badly underrated 10 out of 16 years during the BCS era.

Meanwhile, almost half of Bret Bielema's Wisconsin teams (2007, 2008, 2012) were among the most overrated nationally. That little stretch matches Notre Dame's for the entire BCS era.

The Buckeyes, hard as it may seem to believe with all the narrative you're subjected to, are actually quite predictable: They were the preseason #1 to start the BCS era and finished 1998 ranked #2. They were the preseason #6 in 2005 and finished the season ranked fourth.

Yet both of those seasons felt kind of squandered and disappointing, right? In reality, the preseason consensus had them virtually nailed.

Here's who blew it/surprised everyone during those seasons where the Buckeyes simply met expectations:

Season Most Overrated Most Underrated
1998 LSU, Arizona State, West Virginia, North Carolina, Nebraska & Colorado State Arizona, Tulane, Georgia Tech, Air Force & Wisconsin (tie)
2001 Kansas State, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech & Northwestern (tie) Washington State, Maryland, Illinois, Colorado, Syracuse
2003 Auburn, Virginia Tech, Pitt, Washington, NC State Iowa, Washington State, Miami (OH), Ole Miss, LSU
2005 Tennessee, Michigan, Oklahoma, Iowa, Purdue Penn State, West Virginia, Notre Dame, TCU, Oregon
2006 Notre Dame & Florida State (tie), Miami-FL, Iowa, Texas Boise State, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Arkansas, BYU
2009 Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Oklahoma State, Cal, Georgia Cincinnati, Iowa, Nebraska, TCU, BYU & Pitt (tie)
2010 Florida, Texas, Iowa, Miami (FL), Southern Cal Auburn & Stanford (tie), Nevada, Oklahoma State, Michigan State

As it turns out, the most chronically overrated teams of the BCS era were Southern Cal (5 times) Michigan (4) West Virginia (4) Florida (4) and Wisconsin (4). Ohio State was badly overrated three times, along with Notre Dame, Iowa, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas.

Ohio State was accurately ranked or underrated 10 out of 16 years during the BCS.

It's not terrible company to keep, if even for what amounts to letting everyone down. Most other programs would enjoy being where those ones are.

The most underrated teams of the BCS era were Sparty (4 times) Iowa (4) BYU (3) Boise State (3) Kansas State (3) and TCU (3), all of whom earned sweetheart status at some point during the BCS era. Iowa under Ferentz is the only program that seems to baffle everyone.

So where Ohio State was concerned, it really wasn't as bad as it seemed. I'll probably rewatch the Orange Bowl after all.

Maybe in June.


Comments Show All Comments

BierStube's picture

So where Ohio State was concerned, it really wasn't as bad as it seemed. I'll probably rewatch the Orange Bowl after all.
Maybe in June.

I will be right there with you .. June of 2093!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture

Delete it! Delete it now!
On second thought, watch the Vonn Bell pick and then delete it. 

BamaBuckeye144's picture

I will never understand this whole "overrated/underrated" deal.
Think about it. A bunch of people not named Ohio State get together and decide who should be where on a list of football teams each year.
Then everyone proceeds to bash the school and players for not living up the the expectations of others, when they should be bashing the idiots that can't accurately judge a team or tries to judge a team 365 days before the start of the stupid season!
This would be different if, like the Bambino, Ohio State called it's shot over the left field fence and dribbled one off the bat towards the pitcher. But no, we're not calling anything. Someone else is calling it for us. And if we fail, it's OUR fault. If we don't, WHO CARES!
Talk about an effed up situation.


dumpus's picture

a million times this.  the whole phenomenon of "overrated" vs "underrated" would be plausible if the ratings process was scientific or somehow objectively grounded, but its not.  
if anything, the exercise is more indicative of systemic biases of rankers than the performance of teams.

McFate's picture

I look at it differently.  I don't see it as "bashing" a school to note they they received an outsized share of preseason hype.  As you note, that's not their fault.
Being on covers of preseason magazines, and appearing in the top-ten list beside the glossy picture... that's a benefit that perennially good teams get.  Maybe because they're safer bets to be good, maybe because it sells more magazines.
I don't think it's unreasonable to see how well teams live up to that.  For a team as good as they usually are, Ohio State is actually rated pretty well (~1.1 poll spots too high per year since 1992).  Contrast with Miami (~2.8), Florida (~3.2), Florida State (~3.5), Notre Dame (~3.6), Oklahoma (~4.0), Michigan (~4.0), Nebraska (~4.0), Southern Cal (~4.3), and Texas (~5.1).

OSUFlash's picture

Well beyond my attention span. You can tell these type of stories are going to be running at full strength until the spring game supplants them.


TMac's picture

Or is this one of those Buckeye Nation quirks were it's just impossible to ever be satisfied?

Ever is a very long time, even longer than back to 2002 when we were quite satisfied!

ONE Not Done!

RufusVonDufus's picture

No, don't delete it, watch it so you will remember what happens when one of our games turns into the Braxton Miller show.  


wyatt's picture

Great article. It must be contagious because now the bb team has also had the overrated virus.

Stinson's picture

The people calling this team or that team "overrated" often have a vote in the polls.

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

Maestro's picture

Struggling with the season for the past 6 weeks as well.  One of the main reasons I haven't been around here much lately.  I am not a masochist.

vacuuming sucks

Boxley's picture

Yes, you are, and that's what we love about you, you self flagellating bundle of joy ;)
Or are you? hmmm. very confusing. Very masochistically manipulative of you to say so.

"...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

Maestro's picture

I haven't been called a bundle of joy in a few days.  Thanks for building me back up.  I was starting to become a masochist.

vacuuming sucks

Sleepy's picture

The problem with this is that preseason rankings are based on a school's reputation more than anything.  Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, Texas, USC, etc. are ranked EVERY year in the preseason simply because they're Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, etc.  Michigan will go into 2014 ranked somewhere in the 20's despite a two-year stretch of 15-11.  Voters don't watch them play, they just see "Michigan" and write them down somewhere using the logic, "Oh, Michigan, they're good and stuff."  Same with every other "blue blood" program.


The underrated/overrated tag is used solely for the purpose of trolling to get the result they prefer. The narrative does not want Ohio State in the national spotlight, so let's call them "overrated" and when they lose it backs up the argument and somehow ruins an awesome season that 90% of college teams wish they can have. We saw that the entire season in the BCS rankings. But when the Buckeyes win, OSU is suddenly "underrated" so they can all start covering their butts.
All it does is creates drama, which drives mouse clicks/page views. What angers me is when that level of crap is accepted as fact WHEN IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO MEASURE ANYWAY. They're drumming up their own BS and trying to get us to eat it.

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

acBuckeye's picture

I didn't bother re-watching the Orange Bowl or the B1G title game on my DVR. Deleted them both b/c I couldn't stand it.
***give the ball to Hyde*** ***give the ball to Hyde*** ***give the ball to Hyde***
It does kinda suck when your team is labeled as overrated, but i don't pay too much attention to it. But the dumbest thing a fanbase can do is to chant "Overrated!" to a higher ranked team they just beat. It takes away from the accomplishment of your own team.

Joe Beale's picture

"...and made it back to the title game without a defensive line..."

The Nader Abdallah fan club is coming after you.

bcarp87's picture

This is only part of what people are talking about when they say OSU is overrated. They claim we are overrated all season long (because we don't play anyone). Hence in week 8 when we are 7-0 and ranked #2 or #3 or whatever, they think other undefeated teams below us are better. I think a good indication of underrated / overrated is the points spread. Vegas sets points spreads in a manner that encourages as much "action" (money bet) on the game as possible. For famous teams like OSU, they tend to sway the spread a half point or so in their direction since most average people are more likely to bet on a team they know or have heard of. So it is really a good indication of how good "people think they are" if you will. OSU was 6-7-1 against the spread this year (this can vary slightly depending on the service you use). Which is obviously very close to average.
IMO, we are not really overrated by smart people, we just have a bunch of fans because of the huge alumni base, and if you have a bunch of vans a certain % of those are going to be blatant homers. Blatant homers make people chant overrated in games and make fans of other teams talk crap to us randomly.

Furious George 27's picture

How is Alabama not on the list for being overrated this year? I get they are the defending champ, but they also played a pretty weak schedule and were beaten pretty  badly the last 2 games considering their D was supposed to be their strength.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

NitroBuck's picture

Don't you know that in the sinister eyes of worldwide leader, there is no such thing as an overrated SEC team?  Contractual ties trump reality every time.

Ferio.  Tego.

Chise47's picture

The, "solution", to all this over/under rated crap is the hiring of UFM, right ? Especially w/the new 'playoff' system being implemented this year.
Year 2 was supposed to be the magical year for UFM according to past statistics from his prior teams/years w/other teams. BG, Utah, & even Florida,(no matter what anyone else thinks), were not at the level of The Ohio State University.
Year 3 is still up for grabs because we will be in a transitory state. Completely new OL, LB spots uncertain, a secondary riddle unsolved, talented, yet untested WR's & RB's. On top of all THAT, a new kicker to boot. (Pun intended) So, house money states we will be 'under-rated' !! And rightly so.
Here's the beauty of being a fan of The Ohio State University though: No matter where we start or finish, we will ALWAYS be a topic of discussion just because of who the fuck we are: The Ohio State University !!!!
Ramzy taught me this past year that while I was debating with fools about my home team, I was missing out on something that didn't happen often, & nearly ever at all. I was missing out on a 20 plus game win streak thinking about what some other teams fan was thinking about my team. I almost missed that. Almost.
A 6-7 football team ? A 4 straight loss basketball squad ? Hold your breath haters till it happens again, see how that works out for ya !!!
We will have our disappointments,(complete failures in some folks eyes), we will have our triumphs. I can live with that. And the easiest part of that is knowing I don't have to be a, "Glass 1/2 full", optimistic type of guy. Why ? Because my shit is always 85% full !!!
That's the luxury of being a Buckeye !!!!
P.S. You should hear this song while reading this post:

Ericgobucks's picture

Ramsy, as much as I enjoy your sarcastic and or funny tweets, it's your writing that keeps me coming back.