Crazy Eights

By Ramzy Nasrallah on August 29, 2018 at 1:15 pm
crazy eights

The 1958 Buckeyes were defending national champions.

They were unsuccessful in repeating despite being more than equipped to do so - as is typically the case in sports. Ohio State couldn't hang onto its conference crown either; going winless over a disastrous three-week stretch was enough to crush the dream.

Three winless weeks. Going almost a month without a W barely happens once a decade for the Buckeyes, if ever - and this particular slump included two ties. Coincidentally, the concept of overtime would make its NFL postseason debut just a few weeks later. Extra frame opportunities wouldn't reach Buckeye games until 1996. This team was born too soon.

The top of the Big Ten in 1958 was littered with one-loss teams, and Ohio State fell to none of them. It either beat or kissed sisters with the tier, which meant it was the stunning 21-0 shutout loss to mediocre Northwestern which ultimately prevented the Buckeyes from returning to Pasadena. Fifty-nine seasons before the Iowa Ambush, the St. Nerdentine's Day Massacre took place just outside of Chicago.

Northwestern. Ohio State wouldn't lose in Evanston again until 2004. Speaking of the Hawkeyes (whom the Buckeyes soundly beat on their own field that November) they got the invitation instead. Pain.

As you're reminded each time you sit in Ohio Stadium and gaze toward C-Deck in the north end zone, the 1968 Buckeyes succeeded where the 1958 edition failed a decade earlier. The 2018 season is the silver anniversary for those national champions. Fifty years ago Woody Hayes, whom many in Columbus had begun to find stale and wanted removed, delivered perfection on the backs of a sophomore class. He wouldn't be going anywhere...

...for another ten years, when he abruptly concluded his coaching career in 1978 on live television in one of the most memorable and unfortunate events in sporting history. 

A decade after Woody bounced himself from the sidelines, Ohio State hired a new, non-Ohioan outsider head coach with a thick, country-ass accent. This was a departure from the norm, and Buckeye football's past and future hinged on 1988, the new Year Zero in Columbus.

Numerology may be a pseudoscience - but it's undeniable that the Eights have consistently made for some of the most memorable moments in Columbus.

It took John Cooper longer than he or anyone else would have liked to settle into the job, and his eleventh team opened the season at No.1. The 1998 Buckeyes beat everybody they faced by double-digits, except one. An eventual 6-7 Michigan State team that didn't qualify for postseason play was the cause of death for an otherwise immortal team in arguably the most memorable non-championship season the Buckeyes have had in their history, with a sad nod to 1968's title defense. 

A loss so memorable it overshadows every other incomprehensible setback from the decade. That's the first pain you feel when reliving the 1990s, let alone 1998.

All of those Eights. Something funny has been happening in Columbus toward the end of each decade that produces remarkably weird or wonderful things to take place during those seasons.

Numerology may be a pseudoscience, but it's undeniable that the Eights have consistently made for some of the most memorable moments in Columbus. Ten years after the 1998 Buckeyes gagged on Sparty, the 2008 team was trying to earn its way into a third-straight national title game.

That quest ended early, but it featured Terrelle Pryor - quite possibly Ohio State's most high-profile and captivating recruit ever - leading the team as the first true freshman to start at quarterback going back to...wait for it...1978, when Art Schlichter did it in Woody's final season.

Which brings us to 2018. We're here! Didn't have to play a single game for this season to get strange.

Urban Meyer has been unavailable for all of fall camp and will miss the first three games. A month ago, that was unimaginable. Ryan Day, the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach when Dwayne Haskins was a freshman - is getting his first-ever shot at running the show.

He's got two seasoned former head coaches in Kevin Wilson and Greg Schiano assisting him. No one can decide if Ohio State is a national championship candidate or derailed prior to leaving the station. You know, the usual.

And speaking of Haskins, Jim Tressel used to describe Ohio State's QB as the Most Important Person in Ohio, with apologies to the governor. These are the circumstances under which he assumes the throne vacated by J.T. Barrett, who is missing from the roster for the first time since 2012. If it feels weirder than usual, it should. We've breached the Eights again.

Haskins is surrounded by players who are all good enough to be the best at their positions in the conference, which is to say the 2018 Buckeyes should be national title contenders - under normal circumstances. At the same time, it's impossible to be fully invested in the excitement of this season, unless you're Haskins.

Because he predicted this moment for himself. Ten years ago. In 2008.

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