Nobody on Ohio State’s roster was alive the last time the Buckeyes played a home-and-home series with an SEC opponent, and none of the current players will still be on the roster when it finally happens next.
That’s unfortunate, and it underscores the fact that saying it took long enough for this to happen is a vast understatement. The Buckeyes haven’t played a regular-season game against an SEC team since completing a home-and-home series with LSU in 1987 and 1988. The decades-long drought should have ended years ago, but it didn’t. It just kept creeping on and on. Instead, it’ll come to a halt in seven years.
Last fall, Ohio State announced it had lined up a home-and-home series with Georgia in 2030 and 2031, and on Thursday afternoon the program dropped the news that it’ll take on Alabama in both the 2027 and 2028 regular seasons. It will be the first time the Buckeyes face both teams in Columbus and on their campuses, having only met them in the postseason and at neutral sites.
Whatever wall existed before that kept Ohio State and SEC teams from scheduling each other has evidently come down.
“About a year ago, we did the deal with Georgia, and that was able to kind of open the door a little bit more for SEC opponents and look at what that would mean to our program, to our student-athletes, to recruit,” deputy athletic director Diane Sabau said. “That's going to be the biggest game, right? Our student-athletes will benefit from it. Our coaches will benefit. Our recruits. It's just going to be tremendous for the game we love so much.”
She’s right. This will be a big deal. So it’s a wonder it took so long to happen again.
Of the 14 teams currently in the SEC, Ohio State has only played five – Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt – either in Columbus or on their campuses in the regular season in the 130 years of the football team’s existence. Both the on-campus games against Missouri and Texas A&M were played before each respective program was in the SEC, and the Kentucky and Vanderbilt games happened in the 1930s. LSU is the conference’s only team that has played a home-and-home regular-season series versus the Buckeyes since 1935.
Since then, all of Ohio State’s games against the rest of the SEC teams it has faced – Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee – either kicked off in the postseason or were set at neutral sites. The Buckeyes still haven’t ever taken on Mississippi and Mississippi State, either in the regular season or postseason, and they’re not on future schedules either.
|OPPONENT||OSU'S ALL-TIME RECORD||LAST GAME||LAST ON-CAMPUS REGULAR SEASON GAME|
|ALABAMA||1-3||2015, OSU WON 42-35||N/A|
|ARKANSAS||1-0||2011, OSU WON 31-26||N/A|
|AUBURN||0-1-1||1990, AUBURN WON 31-14||N/A|
|FLORIDA||0-2||2012, FLORIDA WON 24-17||N/A|
|GEORGIA||0-1||1993, GEORGIA WON 21-14||N/A|
|KENTUCKY||3-0||1935, OSU WON 19-6||1935, OSU WON 19-6|
|LSU||1-1-1||2008, LSU WON 38-24||1988, OSU WON 36-33|
|MISSOURI||10-1-1||1998, OSU WON 35-14||1998, OSU WON 35-14|
|SOUTH CAROLINA||0-2||2002, SOUTH CAROLINA WON 31-28||N/A|
|TENNESSEE||0-1||1996, TENNESSEE WON 20-14||N/A|
|TEXAS A&M||4-0||1999, OSU WON 24-14||1970, OSU WON 56-13|
|VANDERBILT||3-1||1933, OSU WON 20-0||1933, OSU WON 20-0|
The Buckeyes have collectively faced off with Alabama and Georgia five times in the 13 decades they’ve played football. They’ve played the Crimson Tide four times, going 1-3 in the games, which were located in New Orleans (Sugar Bowl, twice), Orlando (Florida Citrus Bowl) and East Rutherford, New Jersey (Kickoff Classic). The only game Ohio State has ever played versus the Bulldogs was also in Orlando, doing battle in the 1993 Florida Citrus Bowl.
Within the next 11 years, the Buckeyes will bring both Alabama and Georgia to play in front of a packed Ohio Stadium, while also returning the favor to travel for road games in Tuscaloosa and Athens.
“Our student-athletes want it because they want to play the top talent,” Sabau said. “They want to be elite. Our program wants it. Our fans, quite frankly, they have been clamoring for it for a long time, right? It really just started with some solid relationships to make the conversations and to be bold and to take it past a casual, 'Hey, wouldn't it be fun?' and to turn it into something of substance and to really get it in the books.”
As Sabau also mentioned, head coach Ryan Day signed off on it, as well.
“You know Ryan has that smile and that approach that he's going to conquer each day, and his team will rise to the occasion,” Sabau said. “He said, 'OK, let's do it.'”
Based on the recent action of Ohio State, it makes sense that athletic director Gene Smith and Day have decided to make the foray into SEC territory.
The Buckeyes' upcoming slate of games features home-and-home series against a number of national powers, including Oregon (2020, 2021), Notre Dame (2022, 2023), Washington (2024, 2025), Texas (2025, 2026), Alabama (2027, 2028) and Georgia (2030, 2031). Clearly, by scheduling games with the Ducks, Fighting Irish, Huskies and Longhorns, Ohio State is willing to take on some of the country's top programs. The Buckeyes have made it a priority to schedule a prominent team every year, and Alabama and Georgia certainly qualify as such.
In a sense, it might have made less sense to maintain the long-standing barrier standing between Ohio State and the SEC than to break it.
With all signs pointing to an eight-team College Football Playoff on the way potentially by the mid-2020s, there will likely be fewer consequences to losing regular-season games, meaning it's less of a risky move for Ohio State. The games will also help sell tickets down the line, which has become a larger issue in recent years. They'll invigorate both fan bases, too, and it's hard to imagine this not helping the Buckeyes recruit the south.
“I think that's what makes it really exciting, because we have to have these games and that's always been the scheduling philosophy at Ohio State,” Sabau said. “We just have not traditionally played an SEC school as a non-conference opponent. Why should we wait until the postseason?”
In both recent and long-term history, Ohio State's games against the SEC have almost exclusively been sequestered to December and January. They've mostly been played well after the regular season came to a close.
Within seven years, however, that will change. Whatever wall prevented the Buckeyes and SEC teams from meeting in September has fallen.