Strange Times: Ohio State's Struggles Against the SEC Continued When Les Miles Bested Jim Tressel in New Orleans

By Andrew Ellis on May 26, 2020 at 8:35 am
Jim Tressel's SEC struggles continued against LSU.

The 2007 season could have put an end to an annoying narrative.

I don't think many expected Ohio State to make a BCS title run in 2007. Jim Tressel's team was ranked No. 11 when the season kicked off, Troy Smith was gone, and no one really knew what to expect from Todd Boeckman. The junior from St. Henry had taken both a redshirt and a grayshirt – a rarity for a quarterback – before making his presence felt in Columbus. 

The Buckeyes' resume included wins over four ranked opponents – Purdue, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan – and an unexpected home loss against Juice Williams and the Fighting Illini. LSU earned its spot despite having losses at Kentucky and at home against an unranked Arkansas team. The Big Ten and SEC programs would meet for the title on Jan. 7 of 2008; the second-straight time the Buckeyes battled the SEC to cap things off.

  1 2 3 4 F
LSU 3 21 7 7 38
OHIO STATE 10 0 7 7 24

As a whole, the 2007 season ended up being a bit of an oddity. Arguably the most enjoyable part came during the opening weekend when Mike Hart and the No. 5 Wolverines fell at home to mighty Appalachian State. Perhaps the strangest piece of the 2007 puzzle was the events that helped to set the stage in New Orleans. 

I remember watching the slate of games on Dec. 1 of 2007 and thinking we may never see another day quite like it. We were actually on track to see a BCS title game between No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia (which in hindsight is sort of hilarious), but both teams fell on that fateful day to open the door for the Buckeyes and Tigers. Mizzou lost in the Big-12 title game against Oklahoma while the Mountaineers fell in the Backyard Brawl rivalry against LeSean McCoy and unranked Pitt. 

The championship host site format didn't do any favors for the Buckeyes as facing the Bayou Bengals in New Orleans was the worst possible scenario among the four options. To add even more intrigue to this one, the game came just a few weeks after Kirk Herbstreit inaccurately reported that Les Miles would replace Lloyd Carr as the next head coach at Michigan. 

Jim Tressel's roster featured the likes of Beanie Wells, Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline, James Laurinaitis, Vernon Gholston (and his 14 sacks), Marcus Freeman, Malcolm Jenkins, and Kurt Coleman. LSU's offense was led by quarterback Matt Flynn and tailback Jacob Hester. Defensive stars included Ali Highsmith, Craig Steltz, Chevis Jackson, and two-time All-American nose tackle Glen Dorsey.

Things actually started off quite well in New Orleans as Ohio State got up to 10-0 first-quarter lead. It was less than 90 seconds into the game when Beanie Wells dashed for a 65-yard score. Todd Boeckman hit Brandon Saine on a 44-yard pass that eventually led to a field goal to put the Buckeyes up 10-0 early on in the first. 

Things didn't go quite as well after the game's opening quarter. The Tigers scored 31 unanswered points thanks mostly to a 21-point barrage in the second frame. Beanie Wells ended up with 20 carries for 146 yards and the touchdown, and many felt the Buckeyes gave up on the run a bit too early.

LSU didn't have much of an answer for the ground game – at least not early on – and things took a turn for the worse when Todd Boeckman tossed a second-quarter interception that led to a two-touchdown Tiger lead. A blocked Ryan Pretorius field goal attempt also didn't help matters.

It clearly wasn't Boeckman's day as he went 15 of 26 for 208 yards with two scores and three turnovers. LSU brought constant pressure and it helped to bring his season total up to 14 interceptions. Brian Hartline was the game's leading receiver with six catches for 75 yards and a score. Robiskie pitched in with five for 50 and a score of his own. 

Quarterback Matt Flynn earned MVP honors for the Tigers as he threw for 174 yards with four touchdowns and one interception courtesy of Malcolm Jenkins. Hester ran for 86 and a score while tight end Richard Dickson added two receiving touchdowns. Ohio State outgained LSU 353 to 326 total yards, but turnovers, penalties, and some missed opportunities were too much to overcome.

The game itself only helped to perpetuate the "SEC owns Ohio State" theory as it brought the Buckeyes to 0-9 in bowl games against teams from the Southeast. We were living in a weird world where fans of Tennessee and South Carolina were pounding their chests when Florida or LSU took home the trophy. And that really only made things worse. 

The Buckeyes were able to take down Arkansas two years later in the Sugar Bowl (though later vacated), but the program really didn't get over the SEC hump until Urban Meyer came to town and Ezekiel Elliott put an end to the 2014 Alabama hype train. 

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