Five Stings: Most Crushing Defeats Over the Last 25 Years of Buckeye Football

By Chris Lauderback on May 25, 2017 at 11:05 am
Ohio State's loss at home to Michigan State in 2015 ended any shot at a repeat national championship.

Ohio State football's storied tradition features eight national titles, 35 Big Ten championships and a host of other team and individual accolades. No matter how successful a program, however, bad things still happen along the way. 

As noted the past few weeks, with the offseason in full force, I'm filling my Thursday posting slot bastardizing my postgame Five Things article with offshoots looking at various aspects of Buckeye football history. 

Kicking things off a few weeks ago, I examined the most impressive individual streaks of greatness in school history before last week selecting the five most ridiculous receptions

Today, it switches as we walk down a dark path and revisit Five Stings, aka the most gut-wrenching losses over the last 25 years. 


The 2006 edition of Buckeye football was shaping up to be one of the most elite in school history before it all came crashing down via a 41-14 spanking doled out by Urban Meyer's Florida Gators in the 2007 BCS Championship. 

Behind Troy Smith's Heisman-worthy season-to-date, the Buckeyes chewed through the regular season slate scoring at least 35 points in nine of the first 12 outings including a 42-39 decision over then-No.2 Michigan and entered the title tilt as 7-point favorites. 

The betting line looked solid after Teddy Ginn ran back the opening kick for six but not only did Ginn's wheel fall off when Roy Hall twisted it during the post-score celebration but so did the collective wheels of Ohio State's entire team. 

Florida raced out to a 34-14 halftime lead and Meyer could've made it far worse but instead called off the dogs. 

Ohio State's offense moved the chains a mere eight times, tallying a grand total of 82 yards while Smith, looking a tad hefty after enjoying the banquet circuit and forced to run for his life on virtually every snap, went 4/14 through the air for 35 yards with a pick and five sacks. 

Even worse, the win vaulted the SEC to new heights while launching the shit-eating the B1G would endure basically until Meyer signed on as Ohio State's head coach in time for the 2012 season. 


The 1998 team remains the finest Buckeye squad I've ever seen that didn't win a national title. I'm sure many will argue others, 2015 even, but I'll take '98. 

Already 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in the land, the Buckeyes welcomed Nick Saban's Spartans into the Shoe as more than a two touchdown favorite. 

John Cooper's juggernaut had already banked three wins over top-21 teams including No. 11 West Virginia (34-17), No. 21 Missouri (35-14) and No. 7 Penn State (28-9). 

This one started out like virtually every other game that year with the Buckeyes boasting what seemed like a commanding 24-9 lead late in the 3rd quarter. 

From there however the collapse was on as what ended up as a bowl-less 6-6 Sparty scored 19 unanswered points to win 28-24. 

The only worthy Superfan in OSU history laments a shocking loss. (P.S. Eat shit, Buck-I-Guy and Big Nut)

Huge fumbles by Mike Wiley and Joe Germaine down the stretch fueled the heartbreaker but even with those miscues it still appeared Ohio State could salvage the season after gaining possession at midfield with just over a minute to play. 

Germaine quickly advanced the Buckeyes to the Spartan 15-yard line on back-to-back completions but three straight incompletions followed before a 4th down toss toward Dee Miller at the front left pylon of the end zone was intercepted by Renaldo Hall sending the Neutron Man and the rest of Buckeye Nation into shock. 

The crushing defeat became increasingly painful over the following weeks as the Buckeyes smoked Iowa (45-14) and No. 11 Michigan (31-16) before taking care of No. 8 Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl (24-14) but ended the season No. 2 in the polls behind an undefeated Tennessee Volunteers squad. 

It still stings to think/talk about how the 1998 Buckeyes let a natty slip away. 


The slip. The end. 

#WellActually the 1996 version isn't quite that simple. 

Ohio State entered the '96 clash ranked No. 2 in the land on the strength of a 10-0 record including wins over No. 5 Notre Dame (29-16), No. 4 Penn State (38-7) and No. 20 Iowa (38-26) behind a lethal defense featuring names like Katzenmoyer, Springs, Vrabel, Finkes, Winfield, Moore and others. 

Meanwhile No. 21 Michigan arrived in the Shoe as 17-point underdogs thanks to an 8-3 record including losses to barely-ranked Northwestern and unranked Purdue. 

Even more ridiculous, the Wolverines were forced to lean on backup Brian Griese under center due to Scott Driesbach's elbow injury. Griese had attempted 10 passes heading into The Game. 

The opening half saw the Buckeyes build a 9-0 lead but there was definitely a sense of frustration after three trips inside the red zone (2, 4 and 19 yard lines) failed to produce a touchdown. 

Sure enough, the second play of the 3rd quarter saw Griese hit Tai Streets for a 68-yard slant for six after Shawn Springs slipped on the Ohio Stadium turf cutting the lead to 9-7. 

Later, Michigan would cap the 3rd quarter with a field goal to take a 10-9 lead before breaking Ohio State's back with a 12-play, 67-yard field goal drive that stretched from the 6:52 mark to the 1:16 mark of the 4th quarter. 

The Buckeyes had plenty of chances starting three possessions inside Michigan territory during the 2nd half but the offense simply couldn't get anything going totaling  84 yards including five on the ground. 

Meanwhile Michigan, behind Chris Howard who became the only back that season to rush for more than 100 yards against the Silver Bullets, chewed up 237 2nd half yards on the way to the winner's circle.

The agonizing defeat ended another bid at an undefeated season and potential national title and only became more tormenting as the Buckeyes rebounded to take down No. 4 Arizona State and Jake Plummer in the Rose Bowl to once again finish as bridesmaids in the national polls. 


Similar to the '96 loss to Michigan, the 2015 squad saw a heavy underdog Spartan team invade the Shoe with a backup quarterback and escape with an upset. 

This time around the Buckeyes entered No. 3 in the CFP rankings while the Spartans slotted a respectable No. 9. 

Also similar to '96 Michigan, the offense stunk out loud managing to run only 45 plays for the entire freaking game. 

Of course, the lack of total plays contributed to the problem of Ezekiel Elliott earning just 12 carries for 33 yards ending his streak of 15 straight 100-yard outings and causing him to blow a gasket postgame proclaiming the obvious that this would be his last season in scarlet and gray. 

Rare photo of Ezekiel Elliott touching the football against Michigan State on November 21, 2015.

While the rant was lauded by some and frowned upon by others there's no question the Buckeyes beat themselves that day with frightened playcalling (132 total yards of offense) and an inability to get off the field when it mattered most. 

Ohio State's two scores came via short fields including a 10-play, 32-yard touchdown drive to go up 7-0 and a 1-play, 6-yard drive to go up 14-7 in the 3rd quarter. 

Unfortunately, the Buckeye defense allowed Sparty to answer each OSU touchdown with a 75-yard march to the end zone tying the game both times before the green and white finally ended Ohio State's hopes of repeating as national champs with a walk-off 41-yard field goal to prevail 17-14. 

Like the '98 loss to MSU and the '96 loss to Michigan, this '15 decision to Sparty only burned hotter as the Buckeyes followed up the dreadful day with a 42-13 blistering of No. 12 Michigan and a 44-28 schooling of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the season with a 12-1 mark.   

2008: LSU 38, OHIO STATE 24

All right. Last one, I promise. 

A season after Florida punked Ohio State in the BCS Championship the Buckeyes found themselves back in the national title game despite losing to an unranked Illinois squad the second-to-last week of the regular season. 

Entering as roughly a touchdown underdog the Buckeyes actually held a 10-3 lead after one quarter of play but unfortunately the 2nd quarter turned out to be one of the biggest floating turds in school history. 

The Bullets would yield three touchdowns over the 15 minute span including two via Matt Flynn passes capping 84 and 66 yard drives, respectively, before Jacob Hester capped a short drive with a one-yard plunge making it 24-10 bad guys at the half. 

The quarter featured a handful of stupid penalties extending scoring drives, a blocked field goal attempt by Ryan Pretorius and a Todd Boeckman interception. That might've also been the quarter Brian Robiskie had a great shot at a touchdown catch in the end zone but.. no dice. I don't even want to check. 

I do know the 3rd quarter saw Austin Spitler somehow miss blocking a punt that must have went through his soul resulting in a roughing the kicker penalty setting up another LSU touchdown and a 31-10 lead. Curtains. 

The game was also frustrating in that Beanie Wells did work totaling 146 yards on 20 carries including a 65-yarder to open the scoring but too often he was split wide while Boeckman was scrambling for his life. 

And then of course the S-E-C chants began to swirl from a fanbase too lit to realize conference pride is lame. 

You know what, I'm done. List over. 

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