Mr. November: Why the streak is even more impressive than you think

AndyVance's picture
December 6, 2013 at 6:04a

The Ohio State University football team will enter the 25th contest of the Urban Meyer era this Saturday in Indianapolis undefeated, with a 24-0 record untarnished by a loss in either of the past two regular seasons. The squad has "found a way to win" in a couple of close ones (Purdue and Michigan State last year, That Team Up North this year), and has posted more than a few good, old-fashioned beatdowns (Nebraska last year, Penn State this year).

But even holding the longest active winning streak in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision (a streak now tied for the 13th-longest in Division I history), some pundits aren't all that impressed. "Ohio State hasn't played anyone," they say. "The Big Ten is a weak conference," they say (it's still better than the ACC, as we've all pointed out in recent days, and I'd argue it's on par with the PAC-12 this year, at the same time the mighty SEC is clearly having its own down year, but I digress).

Former Buckeye running back and current ESPN analyst Robert Smith helped put Ohio State's current streak into perspective following then #1 Alabama's last-second (literally) loss to #4 Auburn with this gem of a Tweet:

Wait, you're telling me that the man I heard referred to on ESPN last week as "the greatest coach in college football history" has lost 5 games in November over the past four seasons? If you assume the average Alabama team plays four games in November, that's only a 60% winning percentage in what has traditionally been known as the most important month of the season.

What makes this even more striking is the fact that SEC scheduling has trended lately toward packing a couple of cupcakes into the November slate, while putting some marquee conference matchups upfront to take advantage of favorable pre-season ranking bias ("SEC good, B1G bad" say the voters) and help set the narrative cycle that the SEC is the toughest conference in the history of organized sports, ergo, November cupcakes are irrelevant because we've already been brainwashed in September that Alabama plays a veritable Murder's Row while the Ohio State's of the world are feasting on teams like San Diego State and Florida A&M (God that was a long sentence, but you get the gist).

Here's how the Tide's losses shake out: those five blunders include 2010 losses to #10 LSU and #2 Auburn, a 2011 loss to #1 LSU in that classic 6-9 OT debacle, a 2012 loss to #15 Texas A&M, and last weekend's flop against #4 Auburn.

Take that a step further, and in November since 2010, the Tide have lost 5 games to ranked opponents, while winning only three times against teams ranked in the top 25. And this is the team that has won three national championships in that timespan... What other team in the country could lose that many November games and even be considered for a bid in the title game at all, let along have won it all?

Smith called Saban the "anti-Belicick" because of the latter's stellar record in the playoffs and because of the connections between the two coaches. I'd say that Saban is the anti-Tressel, a man I came to think of as "Mr. November." Much like Reggie Jackson was known as "Mr. October" for his clutch hitting in baseball's postseason, The Vest was known for winning big games in November, when it traditionally matters most to a team's season.

Coach Tressel went an amazing 28-4 during his time as the Head Coach of the Buckeyes, including two losses during his first season at the tiller. His record against That Team Up North is well-known and ultimately his legacy (along with the National Championship in year two, of course), but his record in the final month of the season was almost flawless. By comparison, Urban Meyer has gone 39-7 in November during his stints at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and a 7-0 run in November play at Ohio State.

So while people can carp about Ohio State's schedule all they want, the fact that the "greatest coach in history" has dropped five games in November over the past four seasons underlines and highlights just how tough it is to go undefeated in a single season, let alone in back-to-back seasons.

By the way, should Ohio State win out this season, including a Bowl Game, they will be tied with Nebraska's longest streak in school history at 26 games, a feat the Huskers achieved between 1994-1996. At 27-0, they will tied the Spartan's longest streak in school history, a run Michigan State notched between 1950-1953. Winning next season's non-conference schedule will put the Buckeyes at 30-0, good enough for the longest streak in Big Ten history, besting the current record of 29-0, set by That Team Up North from 1901-1903.

The record of all streaks? Forty-seven in a row won by the Oklahoma Sooners between 1953-1957. But let's not worry about any of that right now - they best thing about being 24-0 is the chance to go 25-0. Go Buckeyes! We don't give a damn for the WHOLE state of Michigan!

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TMac's picture

Shhhhh! Nobody is supposed to know the narrative is a straw man. 
GO BUCKS!! Beat Sparty!!
P.S. Great Post!

ONE Not Done!

MN Buckeye's picture

Excellent take, Andy! Winning is never easy. Winning in November, after the long grind of fall camp and the toll of a full season, is even more difficult. Injuries accumulate, and physical and mental fatigue set in. This time of year is when the coaches really earn their salaries.

Hovenaut's picture

Like the man said himself (via, after last month's win over the 'Due):
".....And with a bye week next on the schedule for Ohio State, it will advanced (sic) to at least mid-November as one of the country’s last unbeaten teams. This is the month where championships are won, Meyer always says....."
Between recent September Heisman winners and just an overall withdrawal from early season media hype, I've learned (somewhat) to maintain until the late stages of the season to really invest myself emotionally.
And here we are.
Nice write-up, AV.

acBuckeye's picture

Good job, Andy. Although I'd argue that the Pac-12 is probably the best conference in the country this year. If not the best, they look like the deepest.

alust2013's picture

I'll agree that they're deep, but I don't think they have any truly great teams. They've got Stanford, Oregon, ASU and UCLA, who are all good teams for sure, but there isn't one team who has completely dominated the conference, although I suppose ASU is close. I'd rank it SEC barely over Pac 12, then B1G, then Big 12, then ACC.

...and Michigan still sucks.

AAStagg's picture

Best analysis I've read in a long time.  Props to Andy and Robert Smith for noticing that the Emperor is actually pretty scantily clad.

Keep calm.  It's only a game.

CALPOPPY's picture

Andy does a good job of laying out some additional arguments, but, in fairness to another poster, this has been going around since Sunday.
EDIT: This wasn't meant as an insult or a slam on Andy. I probably didn't need to post this but I'll leave here for posterity.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

AndyVance's picture

S'all good. I haven't been nearly as omnipresent here over the past couple of weeks... Work, Daddy duties, blah blah blah. Thanks for the link  to Chris' post.

sb97's picture

Wow I look at Saban's November record and think back to Tressel's record in November.  Yikes.
Edit:  Hit save too soon.  Of course, those losses were by and large to some good teams.

RedStorm45's picture

Hypothetical win 47? Penn State.  The new-record of 48?  At Rutgers.  Both meh.  If it gets that far haha
The Pac-12 is pretty good this year.  Stanford is no slouch (except when they play unranked Utah.  And USC).  ASU and UCLA have come along.  Arizona gave some teams trouble.  It's a fairly deep conference that's just missing an unbeaten or one-loss team to throw into the BCSNCG argument.

Old Sparty's picture

No B1G title game last year and no BCS Bowl game last year makes the streak less impressive than it would otherwise be.  Still a great streak but not quite as impressive.  I hope that you aren't using Saban and his record as the measure of impressiveness.

this is where we hold them, THIS IS WHERE THEY DIE!!! GIVE THEM NOTHING but take from them EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!

4thandinches's picture

Wow! You haven't played a top 5 team every week so your wins mean jack! Unbelievable. 

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

rekrul's picture

Great write up!!!
I expected to see this tidbit in at the end.
For Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer, it's the the fourth-best start (tied) to a tenure at a new school in major college football history, trailing only Pittsburgh's Pop Warner (30 in a row from 1915-18), Michigan's Fielding Yost (29 from 1901-03), Yale's Walter Camp (28 from 1888-89) and Miami's Larry Coker (24 from 2001-02)

Out Work, Out Think, Out Play!!!

acBuckeye's picture

And we all know who broke Coker's streak.

AndyVance's picture

That game was kind of the beginning of the end of Larry Coker's career... kind of amazing, really.
And great point about the legends Urban is coming close to eclipsing. It's a pretty darn amazing start to his tenure any way you slice it.

TMac's picture

Coker pretty much fell into it though. He was a pretty good OC, and inherited a lot of talent and rode that Talent to 24-0 before meeting the Buckeyes. 4 years later the Hurricanes are 7-6 and Coker's out of college FB all together

ONE Not Done!

Maestro's picture

I thought this was going to be about these famous Ohioans.

vacuuming sucks

dustinccc's picture

Great post, someone give him an UV, since I can't.

Travis's picture

I am pumped... PUMPED for tomorrow night.

They need a 2 to tie, a 3 to win it; Sylvester for threeeee... OOOOOOOOOHHHHHH OHHHHHHHHHHH WITH FIVE POINT ONE TO GO!!!

allbucksallthetime's picture

Andy...Thanks for the information.  Who would have thought that Alabama would have lost 5 of 8 to ranked teams in November since 2010?!  Go Bucks!