Welcome to the Eleven Warriors Barbershop, where the fades are tight, the beard trims are on point, and we will literally argue about anything.
In this episode, we're playing the "What if?" game, gathering together to answer one simple question: If you could change anything in Buckeye athletics history, what would it be?
We start with a wound that might never heal – the 2015 season.
A lot of things didn’t go right that year, but the 2015 season’s failure is always connected to Braxton’s move to wide receiver. The offense was a mess already without Herman, but they forced the ball into his hands out of loyalty, and yet he was so limited at the position that it made the entire unit left-handed. So, I’d have much rather seen Curtis Samuel get those reps at H alongside Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall, which sure seems like a solid WR crew for whoever is playing QB.
I think a lot of issues in Urban’s last few years were because of his loyalty, for better or worse.
Yes, I don’t blame Braxton at all, he was doing what anyone would have. But the way he was used was so incredibly frustrating to watch.
I think the only way Braxton Miller could have been effective the way he was used was if he could throw the ball. And he quite clearly could not.
Jones, do you see that as the difference between a title and no title? What would you do with Braxton in hindsight?
Let him return kicks and occasionally see the field as a playmaker and decoy. He offered almost nothing as a slot compared to everyone else in that era (Philly Brown, Marshall, Samuel, Hill)
That's an interesting thought. I always tied the 2015 offense's ineptitude to Tim Beck and Ed Warinner taking turns kicking each other in the balls.
Well, the coordinator change definitely didn’t help, but watching such a talented offense run one failed jet sweep after another was tough to watch.
I've always felt the QB situation was a bigger issue than where Braxton lined up but I agree with Jones, it was frustrating to watch Braxton square-peg-round-holed.
Exactly, I just wonder what difference it makes if Samuel is on the field against MSU instead
Is that 2015 season the most frustrating of your life as an Ohio State football fan?
No, that would be 2018 thank you very much
Watching JT Barrett trying to throw a ball against anyone not named Penn State took years off my life.
2016 might have been my most frustrating, to be honest. Just because the defense was so damn good and the offense was somehow even worse and more frustrating than the year before after an entire year to fix the problems.
Absolutely it was 2015 for me - all the tools were there! It’s just what David said a minute ago, it felt like they were kicking each other in the nuts all season long.
Sparty '98 is still The One for me. Was going to be the first natty of my lifetime. Had the lead late in the 3rd quarter - at home. I'll stop now.
That’s the one you’d change, Chris?
If we're talking about a singular game, yes. But if I could change one thing about Ohio State football overall, it would be that Woody Hayes wouldn't throw a punch and go out that way. He's on the Mount Rushmore for Ohio State and I hate that non-Buckeye fans immediately go that game (I get it) when they think of him. He still needed to be on his way out in next year or two anyway and it's not like Earle did anything so great that revisionist history would cost the program a title or anything. I was raised by a Woody disciple so it still stings that the old man went out that way. He did too much good on the field and off it.
Amen to that. I came across this academic once in my travels who did their Ph.D. at Ohio State during Woody’s tenure, and she hated Woody. Just went on and on about the terrible example he set for his men. I said, but what about his focus on education, and all the great things he did for the community? She went right back to “the punch,” like that was the only thing that mattered.
Honestly, I don't know that Woody's tenure was ever going to end with everyone on good terms. The game was passing him by but he probably had no intention of either acknowledging that or changing how he coached. I don't know that anyone could ever gently nudge him into retirement. It's awful he ended up punching a player, and that obviously overshadows the good he did, but I wonder how things would've turned out otherwise.
How amazingly ironic that the day before that Gator Bowl, Keith Jackson gifted Woody a pair of boxing gloves.
Speaking as one of those Ohio State outsiders, other than knowing how historically great of a coach he was in a general sense, that punch was the main thing I knew about him before coming here.
I agree it probably would've been tumultuous removing him but still, punching an opponent on the field is like the worst possible outcome.
If Woody doesn’t throw that punch, how many more seasons is he coaching Ohio State?
I'd guess between 1-3 years for reasons Johnny mentioned. The game, and how it needed to be coached, was passing him by.
We saw how tough it was for Florida State to manage Bobby Bowden out. You kind of wonder if the university leadership had the stomach to do the same to Woody. And he seemed like the kind of guy who’d want to hang on longer than he should.
I think Woody's age and health would've maybe helped nudged him a bit to hang up the whistle. Remember, he died less than 10 years after he coached his last game.
Getting back to the original question, for me, it was really difficult narrowing this down to one thing. Ted Ginn’s broken foot against Florida, Archie Griffin’s fumble against USC in the 1975 Rose Bowl, Shawn Springs slipping on the 2nd and 9 play against Michigan, Gene Smith letting the 2011 team play in the Gator Bowl and the 2012 team getting the bowl ban, Knute Rockne leaving New Orleans with the intent to become Ohio State’s head coach for the 1929 season…with all of that said, I think I’ll go with Paul Brown’s Buckeye coaching career-ending because of World War II. What if Brown is able to stay with the program? What if Ohio State was tied to the Navy ROTC instead of the Army ROTC? Brown had the Buckeyes rolling and would have likely won multiple national championships.
Wait, wouldn't that eliminate both the Browns and the Bengals?
Ooooh, this might’ve been the best thing for all of us
Yeah, whoa man why are you trying to take the greatest source of misery from me as a Browns fan?
Yeah, Matt might've just given us the greatest gift of all.
Seriously, though, that completely changes the trajectory of Ohio State football. The Woody era maybe never happens.
Honestly, that might be the most important missed butterfly effect in the history of mankind. Does it change the trajectory of Ohio State football dramatically if Brown stays? It’s not like they ended up with bums coaching the team in the 50s and 60s.
It really does – Paul Brown stays and wins a few, and Woody never comes to Columbus. There is no 10 Year War, and who knows where we are today. Look no farther than That Team Up North to see how much victories 90 years ago really matter to the trajectory of the program. Ohio State needed Woody.
I think it could’ve actually been bad for OSU in the long run. Brown was probably going to go to the pro ranks eventually anyway, and Ohio State could have missed out on Woody entirely.
I was just wondering if that would've impacted Michigan's trajectory of becoming the winningest college football program. I wouldn't trade that for the relevancy Ohio State has now.
I think the butterfly effects here are interesting because that’s what made this whole exercise so hard for me. Anything you change could ruin Ohio State’s recent dominance. And I’m not sure I’d make any of those changes, since Ohio State is currently in its golden years and things only seem to be getting better on the recruiting front.
What would you change, Kevin?
For all the reasons I just listed, I would change Ohio State’s most recent loss to Clemson. There’s a chance Ohio State would have just gotten smacked against LSU in the next game, but I think a win against Clemson sets Ohio State up as the other contender opposite of Clemson – both on the field and on the recruiting trail – for the foreseeable future. Instead, the narrative is still that Ohio State is trying to catch Clemson and can't quite get over that hump. If the Buckeyes win that game, the narrative entering this season is much different. I think that change, more than anything else, helps Ohio State in the future and doesn’t just give the Buckeyes something else they missed out on in the past.
I’d love to have a different outcome in that Clemson game, trust me. I went to the game. It sucked. It’s a bad night in my life that I’ll never get back. I’m just not convinced anyone is beating Joe Burrow in 2019-20.
That’s fine, but I think the reality is that Clemson and Ohio State are going to be the two title contenders every year for the foreseeable future. And I think a win against them this year would go a long way in that narrative and how this era is going to be remembered. My decision is honestly irrelevant to if they beat LSU. That would have been a nice bonus, but I’d be fine making that switch even if they lost to LSU in the next game.
I was just thinking about that exact scenario today. Even if Ohio State loses to LSU, that Clemson win would never come off my DVR and it's getting replayed heavily.
Okudah-Chase would’ve been a heck of a lot of fun to watch, but that LSU defense created some problems of its own, too
Losing to LSU in the title game would've been the easiest to swallow because that means Joe Burrow gets a ring, and I am a fan of the dude. (Of the collective title losses, obviously)
I’m the biggest Joe Burrow fan here after being the biggest Joe Burrow hater here, but if Ohio State would have gotten to the title game and lost I’d be more furious at the 2019 outcome than I am now. So I am not making that change.
All of the changes I considered have to do with righting karmic wrongs, and making Dabo upset certainly falls under that category. But the one I chose was Ohio State beats LSU the 2007 national championship; 2006 was awful for a number of reasons, but if I'm worried about various butterfly effect ramifications I'm okay with Ohio State as a whole learning that a fast defensive line is better than a chunky offensive line and that Urban Meyer can coach a little. 2007 though... that whole thing codified the absolutely insufferable "SEC rules, B1G drools" meme for years afterward and it sucked.
That Ohio State team wasn't great, but to beat LSU on their home turf and win a natty? Yeah, I think I'd have enjoyed that for a long time.
I thought about that as well. This moment could be boiled down to Austin Spitler actually getting a hand on that punt
I think that’s the correct way to address the 2006 game, to be honest. Because winning that game makes the 2006 loss to Florida much easier to stomach and kills that whole “SEC!” narrative while probably not causing quite so many butterfly effect ripples.
I completely agree on the SEC slant that took off after that game.
That’s true too, Jones. I would love to have Ohio State crowned the national champion of the most insane season of all time. That would absolutely rule.
Ohio State had to wait until 2010 to redeem itself against the SEC, and I cannot possibly overemphasize how hyped I was for a game against freaking Arkansas just to slightly change the narrative.
“Ohio State had to wait until 2010 to redeem itself against the SEC, and I cannot possibly overemphasize how hyped I was for a game against freaking Arkansas just to slightly change the narrative.”
I honestly don't think Ohio State got that monkey off its back until 2014. Does Arkansas really count?
It counts in my shriveled, withered walnut of a heart.
I was at that game, and despite what the NCAA says, Ohio State won, dammit, and it mattered!
I was there, too, and it was one of the best atmospheres for a football game I’ve ever been in. Thousands of Buckeye fans chanting “S-E-C!” S-E-C!” with that thicc first-half lead was glorious. Plus it turned out to be Tressel’s final game.
I’m a little surprised no one has mentioned the end of the Tressel era as their moment to change. I assume that means everyone was happy to take the L that was 2011 due to the Urban era that has followed?
Jones, that’s my big struggle with some of the changes that popped to my mind. I’m pretty vocal about my love of Jim Tressel, and will state without reservation that he’s my favorite Ohio State coach of my lifetime to date. But I can’t hate on the success Ohio State has had since he left.
Actually the one thing I’d change is that they accept the 2011 bowl ban. Because it probably leads to them whacking a bad Notre Dame team in the 2012 championship game.
That’s a really interesting one, because it probably means a national championship with the least amount of effort. That Irish team was not good.
Oh wow, that might actually be my new pick. I hadn't thought of that. It basically gives Ohio State another national title with no longterm repercussions or ripple effects.
Such a good what-if, David. Urban "only" won one national championship at Ohio State, and taking that bowl ban in 2011 almost certainly gets him at least two titles and hushes the critics of Urban underachieving despite all the talent he accumulated here.
Also, it’s one less Bama championship for their dynasty. So killing two birds with one stone.
I know we all love to clown on Notre Dame - myself included - but I don't think it's a lock 2012 Ohio State beats Notre Dame. Braxton wasn't much of a passer yet and the defense wasn't exactly the steel curtain. Just sayin.
I think we romanticize how good that team was because the second number in their record is a zero.
Agreed. That offense had serious limitations.
Yep. That team only played two ranked teams and both were barely in the Top 20.
If we're talking about lost championships, I'm stunned no one else would reverse the title game against Florida. We talked about the LSU loss and the stigma it created, but the root here of that was getting blitzed by Florida. That '06 Ohio State team was perfect up until that point. Redemption against No. 2 Texas early. Iconic win over No. 2 Michigan to end the season. Heisman Trophy. All that was left was the title game. And Ohio State didn't just lose. It got trucked.
“All that was left was the title game. And Ohio State didn't just lose. It got trucked.”
That’s why I have less desire to see it changed. It was clear who the better team was that night. That has never eaten at me. SEC fans earned the right to crow after that.
But if Ohio State wins, the narrative that Ohio State can't hang with the elite SEC teams is eliminated. I don't think that's as much the case against LSU and the season of chaos. Especially since the Buckeyes were in a year that they had to replace the Heisman Trophy winner, it's top rusher in Antonio Pittman and its top two pass-catchers in Tedd Ginn and Santonio Holmes.
I think the difference is that the 2007 Ohio State team was at least somewhat on par with LSU. The only way 2006 Ohio State beats Florida is if they're better/different in some really fundamental ways.
That’s why I’m okay with what you said earlier, Johnny. If Ohio State sticks it out against the Bayou Bengals, the narrative is totally different.
This goes back to Ted Ginn breaking his foot on the opening kickoff. What if Ginn doesn't get injured? He's the fastest guy on the field and changes Florida defensively. With Ginn on the field, Anthony Gonzalez is a great No. 2 receiver. The shame of this is that we will never know what would have happened if Ginn isn't injured. I think the game would have been more competitive and the Buckeyes having a legit shot at winning.
Well I don’t think a healthy Ted Ginn was going to do anything to slow down Derrick Harvey that night
Yeah, Ginn wasn't stopping that D-line. I'm just saying, to that point, that Ohio State team was immortal for three months. And Florida mortalized it in about three hours.
They mortalized 'em in about five minutes.
Ginn was awesome but one man isn't changing the outcome of that game. Ginn only had 3 games all season over 100 yards receiving and that kickoff return was only his second special teams TD that year, I believe. Again, Teddy was awesome, but he wasn't utilized enough in the passing game to be a game-changer all by himself against that Florida D on that night.
I remember Ginn striking, then the Florida offense waltzing down the field without any issue. The ensuing kickoff, I said aloud to my watch party, "Okay, our turn." Still waiting for our turn.
A shame that we didn't get to see how it would have played out. I think the threat of Ginn's speed would have made a difference against Florida's defense and that the injury had a negative impact on the entire team. Especially because it was a freak thing. I agree with David and would definitely take a win over Florida that year.
Maybe it’s the passage of time, but that one doesn’t haunt me as much as it once did. I still get irate thinking about Clemson and 31-0, though. and the last Clemson game rankles me because it really did feel like Ohio State was robbed that night. But somewhere about 2014 I guess I made peace with 2006.
I feel like 2019 Clemson hurt more. I knew Ohio State had no chance against Florida pretty quickly. But I still feel like Ohio State should've beat Clemson.
So I know we've talked about football what-ifs all night, and there are so many good ones to choose from. But what about the basketball what-ifs over the last decade-plus? What if Buford's three against Kentucky in the 2011 Sweet 16 goes down? That team was loaded. Maybe the best team in Ohio State history and had a great path to the Final Four as the No. 1 seed.
Uuuugh, that was a dagger of a loss. That 2011 hoops team was so good.
Oh man, that team deserved a natty. 34–2 entering the game, and loaded. Sully, Lighty, Diebler in his final form, Willie Bu. They win that game and there’s a decent chance they go on to win it all, sparing America from an incredibly boring UConn-Butler final.
That was an unbelievable team. Still remember, that was my pick to win it all in my bracket and still remember screaming from inches away from the TV "give it to Diebler!" Rewatched that game a few weeks ago and he was trailing the whole way asking Buford for the ball.
William Buckets just didn't have it that night. Still hurts. Sullinger, Buford, Diebler, Lighty, Craft, Thomas, Lauderdale. Loaded.
The final that season was UConn 53, Butler 41. Gotta be one of the worst championship games in the last 25 years, right? Ohio State beats Kentucky and it does America a favor by beating North Carolina, and then UConn on the way to the title game.
I was in Cleveland covering the Buckeyes in the opening two rounds that year. After Ohio State beat George Mason in the second round I heard one of their players say, "That team is unbeatable," as they walked off the court after the game. I asked David Lighty about enforcing that thought into an opponent and he looked at me all confused and said, "Wisconsin and Purdue beat us."
And I still don't think UConn was that great of a team. At least not better than Ohio State that year. That was a special run with Kemba and Jeremy Lamb, but Ohio State just has to put the clamps on Kemba (not an easy ask, I know) and they cruise to a natty over Butler that year
But I remember selection Sunday that year and thinking, holy hell Ohio State got screwed.
One of the worst draws I can think Ohio State ever getting.
Congrats! You’re the No. 1 seed in the whole Tournament. We’re going to put UNC, Kentucky and Syracuse in your region.
Guys, this was a lot of fun. Any parting thoughts?
None of us mentioned Maurice Clarett playing his full Buckeye career.
Or Ryan Hamby catching that ball in the end zone against Texas.
Maybe if Urban Meyer picked a different dude to be his best man?
If Braxton Miller would have connected on the TD pass late in the 2011 game. Had they won, the Buckeyes would currently have a 16-game winning streak against Michigan.
How did we not all come to this very obvious and correct conclusion? Three consecutive Michigan coaches would be (currently) winless against Ohio State.
There are seriously so many things. I'm sure our commenters will think of a few more we didn't even consider, too.