Are the Buckeyes Chokers?

GregB's picture
December 14, 2013 at 8:34a

I have to listen to this claim almost constantly down here in SEC country.  "They cant win the big one!!" is the chorus.

I used to smile, nod and dismiss (which I should probably continue to do) but I have become more prone to politely challenge that notion. One reason is that one can only stay quiet so long when listening to things you disagree with and another reason is, I believe outside of a couple teams the last decade, like Alabama, USC and possibly LSU, no team hasnt choked on some opportunities. So I set out to see just exactly how the Bucks have done in big games since 2002. Are they worse than most?

Now defining big game is first criteria.  Here is how I defined big games 1) Games against nonconference opponents of note in regular season 2) Games played while you inhabit a number 1-4 BCS ranking  where a loss removes your likely consideration for BCS title game 3) Games against arch rival 4) Bowl games

Going back to 2002 the Buckeyes have lost 11 games which can be considered big by the above criteria.  They have also won 19 at the very least.   I say at the very least because I only give the Buckeyes credit for 2 big wins n 2002, the Michigan game (my first ever seen at the Shoe!) and the Miami game.   I cant remember exactly when the Bucks reached top 3-4 in BCS that year but a good argument could be made that each of the last 4 reg season games were big, but Im going to be generous to the critics and only count the last two.

In 2003 we lost to Wiscy ranked #1 and to Michigan when we might have been able to play ourselves back in with a win and some fortunate events the last weekend

In 2004 we had no big losses and just a rival win and bowl win

In 2005 we had the Texas loss and our rival and bowl wins.  PSU may not meet above criteria cuz I dont know where we were ranked relative to everyone else at time, although it was big loss to us it didnt meet my above criteria for sure.

In 2006 we had Texas and rival win and the "Loss which should only be mentioned while gazing downward"

In 2007 we had the rival win and Illinois LSU losses

In 2008 we had rival win USC, Texas losses

In 2009 we had rival and bowl win and USC loss (that one still stings too!)

In 2010 we had rival, Miami, Iowa and Arkansas wins (screw you NCAA, I saw the game!) and the debacle in Madison while ranked #1

In 2011.............

2012 I give us Wisc and rival. Wisconsin only because the only title we could play for was the division title and we needed that to win it

In 2013 we had rival win, Sparty loss and Clemson.....................


So 19-11 in big games by above criteria is not bad at all.  Far from chokers I think the Bucks have won almost 2/3 of games with a lot on the line.  I imagine that compares pretty well with anyone in CFB the last decade.  Yes a couple of the L's are still stinging, but I can tell you how much UGA fans still hurt form losing to Florida in 2002 when they might have been the #2 BCS team and removed our chances and how much Bama fans still hate the come from ahead loss to Auburn (giving their arch rival a title game chance) and how hard Fla fans take Tebows loss his senior year to Bama in SEC title game.

Im proud of the Bucks when a lot is on the line, they usually rise up..... not wilt.

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Phoenix824's picture

Ask them what team has the most BCS wins and most BCS appearances.    No one can match our 6-3 record in BCS games.

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Good God I hope we move to 7-3.    You make a great point Phoenix, but it's hell trying to get anyone to pay attention to that fact.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

buckeyeEddie27's picture

The USC, Texas, 41-14, LSU, and unexplainable conference losses will be how the country remembers OSU until The Buckeyes win another National Championship.  Not saying it's right or how I view them, that's just the perception.  Now I know what your thinking right now: The Rose Bowl!  We curb stomped Oregon!  The Sugar Bowl!  I saw it!  We beat an SEC team!   .....Doesn't matter.  It's not enough. 
Reality to the rest of CFB fans outside of Ohio? 
Unfortunately yes.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

GregB's picture

Agreed eddie.  Only another win in a title game, probably against an SEC team or FSU will silence them...... for a while.

SPreston2001's picture

This is spot on Eddie! Nobody remembers the so so bowl games. Its winning when all eyes are on us. We choked in the B1G championship game when everyone pretty much thought we were penciled in to play FSU. The National perception is that we are chokers. Only winning on the biggest stage will cure that unfortunately...

WOLFofOHIO's picture

yeah..but look at this. who has had more sucess than alabama/auburn the past few years. the fact that anyone other than alabama/auburn can talk smack on ohio state is just downright funny to me..a LSU fan was talking smack to me today saying  ''haha we beat you in 2007 ur buckeyes suk!!!'' and i said..ok what has lsu done recently? Lose to clemson?!?
he walked away. people hold on to the past alot in CFB. Buckeyes however can do that and be here in the present. We are relevant. 24 straight wins and a bcs birth is DAMMMMMN good in my eyes.

there is no greater joy than watching Michigan get slammed. in anything

buckeyefanatic's picture

You can't write this same post for the large majority of schools in the nation.  Know why?  They aren't good enough to be included in the conversation and they are good enough on a regular basis to be seen as having this problem.
Can Texas win the big one?  Hell they can't win the small ones these days.  Not all of them.
With Ohio State, we are lucky enough to have played at a high level for a long time.  (I slept through 2011 - nope doesnt count)  Like little Nicky said in his post-Iron Bowl game presser - it is not enough to be the best team.  You have to be the best team and PLAY the best.  No awards for being the best team, you have to perform.
So we have performed at a high level for years.  Every game is "big" if we dont win it.  I dunno what else to say I guess.  If you are being baited into the above conversation with SEC fans, you are being trolled and you are losing by participating.  (IMHO)

How many batteries does it take to beat Michigan football?   1AA
Want to beat Michigan? There's an App for that.

GregB's picture

Correct. You have to play well enough first to even put yourself in position to lose something of meaning.
And yes, I will not win these discussions with these folks, I know that.  I have simply, after 20+ years, decided not to just let some of their stuff go uncontested.  Glutton for punishment I guess.

rock flag and eagle's picture

You started by saying defining big games is the first criteria.  But, I didn't see a second.  Don't you have to define "choking" as well? What do you mean?  Is choking any time you lose when you were favored to win?  Or, is choking when a team is noticeably playing under their potential because of nerves, or because the stage is too big?
OSU losing to LSU in the championship game didn't seem like a choke job.  LSU was better at football.  LSU was favored to win.  OSU losing to USC in 2008 seemed like a choke job.  OSU seemed intimidated.  The stage seemed too big.  They didn't seem like they belonged on the same field as USC.  But, USC was still favored to win.  Did OSU choke, or did the better team simply perform to expectation?
We can't really answer the question if the term "choker" isn't defined.

SPreston2001's picture

2006 they def choked. I still cant forget about that game.... I cringe anytime its brought up smh

GregB's picture

Yes I didnt define choking but mostly I am defining it as taking/not taking care of business in big games.  OSU has had very few times they lost inexplicably to unranked teams when they were a top 5 or better ranked team.  Any loss after Penn St in '02 would have been a choke but the Michigan game was THE ticket to the desert and all knew it.
The 03 loss to Wiscy was as #1 but it was early  enough(game 6 I believe) that we still had time to get back..... til the Mich loss.
Any loss prior to Michigan in 06 would have been a choke, as heavily favored as the Bucks were usually, but again we rose to the occasion against Mich and won when everything was on the line.
I agree about LSU '07 and USC '08.  LSU was much closer than the score indicated. We were not beaten by a team at a different level. They made more plays, we had some costly stupid penalties and............ we essentially were on the road.  They rarely stopped us that night but we stopped them fewer.  But it was not men against boys, the way '06 appeared.  USC was way better at that time of year but that was far from a choke.
Unfortunately too many CFB conversations start out as both guys playing defense to the "Your team sucks" kind of garbage and dont really look to shed light, only bring heat.  Choker is one of those terms

Hovenaut's picture

Choke in big games. 
Well, the Buckeyes have been to plenty of big games. I'd say more than most of the southern schools. 
I don't ever recall Ohio State losing a game on a missed field goal return, but I may be wrong.
(no need for the SF there I hope)

4thandinches's picture

Nobody has choked bigger than OU during the BCS era, not even close. But the media never seems to notice/mention this. 

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

GregB's picture

Agreed.  When you look at the number of times they have controlled their own destiny and just had to win their last 3 games to play for it all they likely have one of the worst records. But really this just shows how hard it is to win them all.
USC had a number of years during their big run that they lost to Cal, Oreg St or UCLA and lost a chance for a sure BCS title game.
I havent run the numbers but Ill say OSU is in the top 5 in the last decade of winning % in big games according to the definitions I used.  Plus they have few inexplicable losses to really subpar teams.

buckeyedude's picture

I think the reason that OU doesn't get talked about and OSU does as far as losing big games is because OSU is considered an NC contender almost every year, and Okie is pretty irrelevant these days. That wasn't always the case. 



Brent Clay's picture

I feel like we have lost a lot of games that we should have won.... I graduated high school in 1988 and through the years I have seen quite a few games, where I thought we were out coached and or choked!
I'm sorry, but the whole scheme of "Play not to Lose" did not fair out too well for the Buckeyes in the past.  This was a reason Cooper and Tress lost the few games that they did.
  I felt the MSU game was played this way last week.  WE could have won that game easily, if the bucks were coached to dominate, instead "Play not to lose."

-1 HS
bigbadbuck's picture

This year with the defensive letdowns and breakdowns I believe they over achieved and eventually their weaknesses were going to be exposed

Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, its a war room

AlphaMaleBettor's picture

The 3 most frustrating for me are probably the home Texas game in '05 because of missed opportunities, dropped TDs, etc.. Frustrating. Also the USC game in '09 and MSU game last week. The latter two because of playcalling.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Three bad performances five or more years ago, with a sprinkling of a few losses over the years (which happens to Every.  Single.  Program.) does not make the Buckeyes chokers.  The logic that people use to say the Buckeyes are chokers would make everybody chokers in general over the years. 

Class of 2010.

Hoody Wayes's picture

Unfortunately, the answer to your question is, yes. Unfortunately, the history is longer than you note. We have choked our way out of 15 MNC's, since 1968. 
A chronology of Buckeye chokeology:
1970 (tOSU counts this one. I don't. We lost the Rose Bowl, to Stanford.)
1974 (Thanks, MSU)
1998 (Thanks, MSU)
2013 (Thanks, MSU)

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Agree there is a bunch of history to take into account here but you can go ahead and take 2012 off that list.  There was no choke job on that.  What happened regarding that situation is a horse of a different color.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Meh, a lot of big programs have managed to find a way to lose that one game that costs them conference or national championships.  That does not make anybody a choker.  All this means is that instead of 7 MNCs, OSU should have far the most ever, 6 more than Alabama claims has. 

Class of 2010.

Zimmy07's picture

Alabama since 1968:
1971 - L to Nebraska in Orange finished 11-1
1972 - L to Auburn & Texas in last 2 games to finish 10-2
1973 - L to ND in Sugar to finish 11-1
1974 - L to ND in Orange to finish 11-1
1989 - L to Auburn & Miami in last 2 games to finish 10-2
1994 - L to UF in SECCG to finish 12-1
2005 - L to LSU & Auburn in last 2 reg season games to finish 10-2*  (vacated all 10 wins)
2008 - L to UF & Utah in last 2 games to finish 12-2
2013 - L to Auburn in last reg season game currently 11-1.
There are more seasons where they lost 1 game early in the year as their only loss that I didn't include.

GregB's picture

Going back to 1968 certainly doesnt improve OSUs numbers very much, if at all.  I was an enthusiastic teenager during the 70s and had my heart broken virtually every year but I take your point.  
As much as we lionize 'Bama, they have had their share of missed ops too.  There are more than you even caught in the 2000s but ALL the great programs have that history. No one has won them all and tough losses are part of every coaches resume.  The good ones get back again and again to try.

Indy_Buck87's picture

No our most recent failure was due to an acute case of shouldhavegiventheballmoretohyditis. The staff sought out a specialist who prescribed 35 carries in the orange bowl for the big man. Should do it.   

I know of only two things that are infinite, space and human stupidity.....and I'm not sure about space". Albert Einstein.

BuckeyeEd's picture

I would not like having to tackle Carlos 35 times......ouch!!

Buckeyejason's picture

Tell them to go look at Oklahoma then get back to you...


GOOMBAY's picture

I'm ripping this off/aggregating great points made by others, but still:
When we speak of choking and disappointment at 24-1, we might want to flush out our headgear. The big prize awaits, yes, but let's not forget to savour good fortune and what looks to be an uptick in talent joining the ranks in years to come.

Buckeyeneer's picture

The haters? F 'em. It is and has long been a great time to be a Buckeye!

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

GregB's picture

Right, especially when you include Mattas boys!

aabuckeye's picture

I agree with the posters above that just being in the biggest of games, year in year out, is a badge of honor most programs can't wear.. Nobody can win 'em all. No shame in that. At least we were in the mix -- A LOT!  Buckeyes chokers? No. Sour grapes of other teams' fans? Yes!

BAR43's picture

By this logic of "Choking" every team in College football are joking artists. No matter the odds of any game, anything can and will happen. Interesting that when we don't hit perfection, it is considering "choking". Seems like a lofty and unrealistic goal to me.

BuckeyeAtHeart22's picture

1) Don't forget about the beatdown we put on Washington State in 2002- I believe they were #7.  And they endede up in a BCS bowl game.
2) If we win the Orange Bowl, I am pretty sure we will be the only team in the nation with wins in the Fiesta, Rose, Sugar, and Orange Bowls, plus a National Championship, in the BCS era.

BamaBuckeye144's picture

If you're taking a lot of flak,'re over your target.


Zimmy07's picture

It's easy for fans of SEC teams to claim OSU chokes because they compare Ohio St to the Best team in the SEC every year no matter which teams they are.
If you do the same scenario as you did for Ohio State for all the SEC teams you'll be surprised, I bet.  Here is Alabama vs Ranked teams, bowls, & their rival Auburn (And I didn't even remove vacated wins):
2002 - #1 OK=L #20 UGA = L #22 LSU = W #18 Aub = L NR Haw = W (2-3)
2003 - #3 OK = L #7 UGA = L #15 Tenn = L #2 LSU = L NR Aub = L NR Haw = L (0-6)
2004 - #13 Tenn = L #16 LSU = L #2 Aub = L NR Minn = L (0-4)
2005 - #12 UF = W #6 LSU = L #14 Aub = L #20 TT = W (2-2)
2006 - #15 Ark = L #1 UF = L #25 Tenn = L #3 LSU = L #9 Aub = L NR OK ST = L (0-6)
2007 - #2 UGA = L #1 LSU = L #15 Aub = L NR Col = L (0-4)
2008 - #13 UGA = W #14 Miss = W NR Aub = W #1 UF = L #2 Utah = L (3-2)
2009 - #10 VT = W #20 Miss = W #17 LSU = W NR Aub = W #2 Tex = W (5-0)
2010 - #22 Scar = W #8 LSU = L #1 Aub = L  #14 Mich St = W (1-3)
2011 - #15 Ark = W #2 LSU = L NR Aub = W #2 LSU = W (3-1)
2012 - #24 Mich = W #5 Tamu = L NR Aub = W #5 UGA = W #4 ND = W (4-1)
2013 - #21 Tamu = W #16 LSU = W #2 Aub = L (2-1)
That's 21-33.  What was OSU again?

GrantgetstoDorsey's picture

Critics love to overlook 2006, when for the first time in CFB history, #1 played #2 three times, where we beat Texas by three scores at their house, beat Michigan a day after Schembechler died which I am sure many expected us to lose because of, and Florida. Add wins against ranked Iowa and I think Penn State, that was a year of five big games, where we went 4 of 5. 

BAR43's picture

How dare you use verifiable statistical information to debunk espins secism!

Concord's picture

Well losing the Big Ten Championship to Michigan St after going undefeated for two seasons with a chance to play in the National Championship on the line isn't a good way to change peoples perceptions.

Bucksfan's picture

I've got an idea.  Stop living in SEC country.  There.  Just solved your problem.  You're welcome.