Ohio State got into the College Football Playoff three times during its inaugural decade.
Finishing any regular season ranked in the top four requires a combination of elite talent, strategic coaching, optimal results and dumb luck. In 2014, 2016 and 2019 the Buckeyes benefited from each of those things - but those campaigns also shared a critical handful of common elements:
- Swept the state of Michigan
- Undefeated in November
- B1G QB of the Year
- B1G Defensive Lineman of the Year
- Winning at least one game by exactly 59 points *record scratch*
It's true. All three times!
The Buckeyes got into the 2016 CFP without the benefit of a B1G Championship Game appearance, so Indy's absence in our critical handful isn't a surprise. Ohio State lost at State College that season as well, so beating Penn State isn't in there. Melvin Gordon was the league MVP in 2014, so the Silver Football is out too.
And speaking of Gordon, his team's 59-point humiliation is the stuff of legend; you'll never forget that one, so - spoiler alert - Ohio State's top-ranked 59-point win of the decade isn't going to sneak up on anyone. But as it turned out, the Buckeyes were left out of the Final Four every season in which they failed to produce a 59-point win, whether it was 2015, 2017 or 2018.
Could that have been the missing ingredient in those three doorstep seasons? It makes you think, for sure. But instead of What Could Have Been, today we're going to relish What Actually Was and celebrate the 59ers that did happen, not the ones that didn't.
Well, except these two. They didn't qualify for the list, but damn it - they were right there.
HONORABLE MENTION I: (2) OHIO STATE 58, RUTGERS 0 (2016)
Where to begin...Earle Bruce dotting the i, Chris Ash's Horseshoe homecoming on Ohio State's literal Homecoming, Terry McLaurin's first collegiate TD catch, J.T. Barrett tying and breaking the record for the most TD passes in school history - all of it added up to the biggest shutout win in regular season conference play in school history.
And yet you forgot all of this, because: Rutgers. Rutgers is a magical brain eraser.
- The Buckeyes finished with a very nice 669 yards on the afternoon.
- The Scarlet Knights finished with 33 passing yards and punted 10 straight times.
- Joe Burrow stat line: 4/5 for 21 yards; 4 carries for 21 more yards.
Here lies Rutgers, who didn't lose 59-0 only because the Buckeyes missed their first PAT. That single biff kept them out of the 59ers Club. I had to create an honorable mention category to justify this section. I didn't have to; I chose to. Rutgers...you're welcome.
HONORABLE MENTION II: (22) OHIO STATE 66, KENT STATE 0 (2014)
The Buckeyes dropped 14 (f o u r t e e n) spots in the polls that week after losing to Virginia Tech and found themselves ranked in the 20s for the first time in awhile. Has any ranked team been punished like this by pollsters for losing to a formidable Power Five program? I'm not going to do the research but will go with: No.
Ohio State took out its frustrations on the Golden Flashes and former Jim Tressel assistant Paul Haynes that afternoon, forcing the visitors from Kent to earn every bit of the $850,000 paycheck they received for their troubles.
- Buckeyes posted a 66-point shutout and pollsters rewarded them by haha just kidding, they stayed at No.22 for two more weeks.
- Barrett ended an eight-year drought for any Ohio State QB passing for over 300 yards in a single game.
- You read that correctly; until that afternoon the Buckeyes hadn't had a 300-yard passer since Troy Smith in 2006.
Here lies Kent State, who should have lost 59-0 but they couldn't stop Ohio State from harmlessly running out the clock and allowed Curtis Samuel his first collegiate touchdown.
4TH PLACE: (1) OHIO STATE 73, MARYLAND 14 (2019)
Chase Young was suspended for the game against his home state flagship, which caused some people to whisper that Maryland might have had something to do with it. Rashod Berry played DE and TE that afternoon, becoming the first Buckeye since Zach Boren in 2012 to play both ways in a game. The home team scored 73 blessed football points in a conference game.
But if you have to pick one memory, it's probably the greatest onside kick ever conceived:
- Ohio State scored 83 against Iowa in 1950. This was the most points the Buckeyes had scored in a conference game in 69 seasons.
- Buckeyes were flagged 13 times for 141 yards and still won by 59 points. When you're good, you can be bad.
Here lies Maryland. Snitches get stitches.
3RD PLACE: (5) OHIO STATE 62, MARYLAND 3 (2016)
Oh hey look, Maryland again. People forget that when the decade began the Terrapins were in the ACC, Rutgers was in the Big East and Nebraska was in the Big XII. By the end of the decade, they were all Big Ten opponents and shamed 59ers.
Imagine telling 2009-you that the Buckeyes would win a bunch of conference games in the following decade by 59 points at the expense of Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska. You would have looked at you like you have two heads, and then you would have told yourself the Buckeyes would improve on their 8-2 record against Michigan that decade by going 9-1 and you would have hugged yourself until it got awkward.
Anyway, this classic took place on the same day that No.2 Clemson was shocked at home by Pitt, effectively ending the Tigers' 2016 playoff hopes and they were never heard from again in 2016 or anytime afterwards; such a shame.
- This was Ohio State's second-consecutive 62-3 pasting of a conference opponent. The previous week is coming up shortly.
- Joe Burrow's stat line: 6/9 for 75 yards and a TD pass to Binjimen Victor.
- Maryland was 1/15 on 3rd down. To their credit, they weren't losing the ball on 2nd down, so hey kudos.
Here lies Maryland, which lost to Michigan 59-3 the previous Saturday and thought, "you know what, it can't get any worse than this." It can always get worse. There's no bottom in life, let alone in college football. Did you know the officiating booth at this past Fiesta Bowl reviewed Jordan Fuller's scoop and score touchdown from seven different angles in slow motion and in HD, all of which confirmed the call on the field - and still reversed it? Hahaha what a fun sport.
RUNNER-UP: (6) OHIO STATE 62, (9) NEBRASKA 3 (2016)
We held the Eleven Dubgate that afternoon, and the Buckeyes wore Chic Harley-era throwbacks. Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong was sent to the hospital on what would have been reviewed for targeting today (or perhaps not, since nobody knows what targeting is) and this showdown between two top-10 teams was an absolute laugher under the lights.
During the pregame I stood on the field next to then-verbal commitment Tate Martell, who was enjoying warmups and piped-in music. He was wearing pleated acid-washed jeans that were pegged at the ankle and - unlike just about everyone on the field - was no taller than me. I'm 5'9" and had those exact jeans when I started high school in the late 1980s.
I liked him immediately. Miss you, Tathan.
- The Buckeyes had two pick-sixes in a single game for the second time that season.
- Joe Burrow's stat line: 6/6 for 62 yards and a touchdown scamper, capping off a 98-yard drive.
- Nebraska, ranked in the top 10 in November, finished the season unranked in any poll.
Here lies Nebraska, who fired Bo Pellini to hire Mike Riley and who could have possibly seen any of this coming.
1ST PLACE: (5) OHIO STATE 59, (11) WISCONSIN 0 (2014)
When the calendar turned to November 2014, the Buckeyes were projecting to play Missouri in the Outback Bowl. Then they upended defending champs Sparty in East Lansing, managed their way past Minnesota in the coldest game in Minnesota history and then escaped Indiana before taking down the Wolverines while losing freshman sensation Barrett to a shattered lower leg.
Kosta Karageorge went missing late in the month and was absent during the Michigan game. The emotions of that November were seething disrespect, euphoria, heartbreak, sadness, triumph. It's a lot for a 30-day stretch, and on December 6 - three days after the team attended Karageorge's funeral, the Buckeyes showed up in Indianapolis.
Ohio State turned to Cardale Jones, then best-known for an unfortunate tweet, to lead the team to a victory over West Division champions Wisconsin, which was favored by 3.5 points. Has any other college football team ever covered the spread by 62.5 points? I'm not going to do the research but will go with: No.
- If you bet on the underdog Buckeyes +62, congratulations on your Caribbean island.
- Wisconsin dominated Time of Possession, punting yards, kickoff return yards and had more receptions.
- Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 220 yards and it was his weakest output of the final three games.
Here lies Wisconsin, the welcome mat at the 2014 Ohio State team's doorway into immortality.