Decade in Review: Ohio State Football's 10 Most Memorable Victories of the 2010s

By Dan Hope on January 20, 2020 at 8:35 am
Ezekiel Elliott vs. Alabama in the 2015 Sugar Bowl

Picking only 10 games as Ohio State’s best football games of the past decade is no easy task.

Decade in Review: The 2010s

The Buckeyes won 117 of the 135 games they played over the last 10 years, including a pair of College Football Playoff games, four Big Ten Championship Games and nine of 10 games against Michigan. They made some unforgettable big plays to win thrilling games that came down to the wire, while they also exerted their dominance to blow out inferior opponents in many games.

As Eleven Warriors’ Decade in Review series continues, it’s time to highlight the most memorable victories of the Buckeyes’ past 10 seasons. 10 games that provided some of the defining moments of the past decade and that should continue to be replayed and have their stories retold for decades to come.

We’ll start, though, with some honorable mentions since there were far more than 10 games that ought to be remembered from the 2010s.

Honorable Mentions

Jan. 4, 2011 (Sugar Bowl): Ohio State 31, Arkansas 26

Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas no longer officially counts in the record books, as the Buckeyes vacated all 12 of their wins from the 2010 season as part of self-imposed punishments for NCAA violations, but at the time, it was Ohio State’s first-ever bowl win over an SEC opponent. The Buckeyes took a 28-7 lead in the first half before Arkansas clawed its way back into the game, but Ohio State held on for a five-point victory after Solomon Thomas intercepted Ryan Mallett in the game’s final minute.

Nov. 24, 2012: Ohio State 26, Michigan 21

Banned from the postseason for one year, Ohio State capped off a 12-0 season and started Urban Meyer’s seven years of dominance over Michigan with a one-score win over the Wolverines. The Buckeyes trailed 21-20 at halftime but shut out the Wolverines in the second half and secured a five-point win, after which the team celebrated its undefeated year with its fans on the field at Ohio Stadium.

Oct. 25, 2014: Ohio State 31, Penn State 24 (2OT)
Nov. 8, 2014: Ohio State 49, Michigan State 37

Neither of these games were even among the top three most memorable games from the 2014 season, but both of them were crucial to keeping Ohio State’s national championship hopes alive and still had a case to make the top 10 games of the decade. 

The Buckeyes’ championship hopes nearly ended in State College in October, when Penn State took Ohio State to double overtime, but the Buckeyes won in memorable fashion when Joey Bosa took down Christian Hackenberg for a walk-off sack. Another game to remember in Ohio State’s 2014 run came at Michigan State in November, when J.T. Barrett had 386 total yards and five total touchdowns and Ezekiel Elliott added 154 yards and another two touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes to a 49-37 victory, avenging their defeat to the Spartans in the Big Ten Championship Game one year earlier.

Nov. 30, 2019: Ohio State 56, Michigan 27

As dominant as Ohio State was for the most of this past season, it wouldn’t be right to leave the 2019 Buckeyes off without at least an honorable mention. While most of their 13 wins were blowouts, the one that stood out was certainly the 29-point rivalry game win over Michigan, in which Ryan Day earned his first victory over the Wolverines as a head coach after Justin Fields threw four touchdown passes and J.K. Dobbins had four touchdown runs.

10. Oct. 20, 2012: Ohio State 29, Purdue 22 (OT)

Ten years after the “Holy Buckeye” game, when Craig Krenzel completed a game-winning, 4th-and-1, 37-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins for one of Ohio State’s most memorable victories of the 2000s, the Buckeyes were taken to the wire by Purdue again before pulling out another thrilling victory.

When Braxton Miller was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with an apparent head injury, Ohio State was trailing 20-14 and looked like it could be headed for its first loss of the Urban Meyer era. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton struggled initially after entering the game, and he threw an interception with less than three minutes to play – and Purdue leading 22-14 – that looked like it could seal Ohio State’s fate.

The Buckeyes’ defense forced a punt to get the ball back with less than a minute to play, though, and that’s when Guiton wrote his name into Ohio State lore. He completed a 39-yard pass to Devin Smith to quickly get Ohio State deep into Purdue territory, and with just two seconds remaining, Guiton completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Chris Fields – followed by a 2-point conversion pass to Jeff Heuerman – to tie the game at 22 apiece and force overtime.

Ohio State scored on the first possession of overtime on a 1-yard Carlos Hyde run, then its defense held Purdue without a first down to seal a 29-22 win and keep its undefeated season alive.

9. Sept. 29, 2018: Ohio State 27, Penn State 26

Two years removed from a 24-21 loss to Penn State at Beaver Stadium, Ohio State looked like it could be headed for defeat in State College again when the Nittany Lions took a 26-14 lead with just eight minutes to play. From there, though, the Buckeyes would score two touchdowns and shut the Nittany Lions down on their final two possessions for a 27-26 comeback win.

Binjimen Victor sparked the comeback when he caught a downfield pass from Dwayne Haskins and weaved his way to a 47-yard touchdown, cutting Penn State’s lead to just five points with 6:42 to play. After Ohio State forced a punt on Penn State’s next series, K.J. Hill took a Haskins pass into the end zone a 24-yard touchdown – with the assistance of a spectacular block by Terry McLaurin that knocked down three Nittany Lions defense – that would ultimately be the game-winning score.

Penn State had one more chance to win the game in the final two minutes, but Chase Young locked up the victory when he buried Miles Sanders for a tackle for loss on a 4th-and-5 rushing attempt, and Ohio State celebrated a thrilling victory in front of Penn State’s “White Out” crowd.

8. Nov. 30, 2013: Ohio State 42, Michigan 41

The 2013 edition of The Game in Ann Arbor was an offensive shootout, in which both teams scored six touchdowns and gained more than 500 yards each, but it was a defensive play by Ohio State in response to a bold decision by Michigan that ensured this game’s place as one of the Buckeyes’ most memorable victories of the decade.

After Devin Gardner completed a touchdown pass to Devin Funchess with just 32 seconds remaining, Michigan could have opted to tie the game and send it to overtime. Instead, Brady Hoke made the call to go for a two-point conversion and try to upset Ohio State in regulation. Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs correctly predicted which play Michigan would run, though, and Tyvis Powell used his coach’s tip to break in front of Gardner’s two-point conversion pass attempt and intercept it to keep the Buckeyes on top on the scoreboard.

The rivalry game win, in which Braxton Miller had 286 yards and five total touchdowns and Carlos Hyde ran for 226 yards in a touchdown, capped off a 12-0 regular season for the Buckeyes.

7. Oct. 29, 2011: Ohio State 33, Wisconsin 29

In a season where Ohio State went 2-6 in games that were decided by seven points or less, there weren’t many great victories to remember, but Luke Fickell’s squad did pull off one of the most thrilling wins of the decade when Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes outdueled Russell Wilson and the Badgers in a primetime upset at Ohio Stadium.

Ohio State was just 4-3 entering that game while Wisconsin was ranked 15th in the country, but the Buckeyes held Wilson in check for most of the game and took a 26-14 lead on a 44-yard Miller run with less than five minutes to play. After that, though, Wilson led back-to-back touchdown drives for the Badgers – both capped with passes to Jared Abbrederis – to put the road favorites ahead, 29-26, with just 1:18 to play.

Miller landed the final blow, however, when he launched a deep ball back across his body while scrambling out toward the sideline and connected with Devin Smith in the middle of the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown with just 20 seconds remaining, propelling the Buckeyes to a 33-29 victory that sent the home crowd into a frenzy and stands out as the major highlight of an otherwise rough year.

6. Jan. 12, 2015 (National Championship Game): Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

If this game hadn’t been a national championship game, it probably wouldn’t even make the top 10. The game itself wasn’t as memorable as the two games that preceded it (more to come on those), and it was evident from early in the game that the Buckeyes were the better team on the field, yet they didn’t run away with a victory the way they probably could have because of four turnovers in the second and third quarters.

After allowing Oregon to cut its lead to 21-20 midway through the third quarter, however, Ohio State dominated the remainder of the game, as Ezekiel Elliott scored three second-half touchdowns – on a night where he ran for 246 yards and four total touchdowns – for the Buckeyes to prove they were the best team in the country and win the first-ever College Football Playoff.

Even though Ohio State was pretty clearly the better football team on that night, Oregon entered the game as the betting favorite – led by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota – adding to just how impressive the Buckeyes’ ultimately decisive victory on college football’s biggest stage was.

There were more memorable wins in the 2010s based on what actually happened during the games themselves, but the outcome of this game will certainly be remembered as the Ohio State’s crowning achievement of the decade, and for that reason, this is a game that will be replayed and remembered by Ohio State fans for decades to come.

5. Nov. 24, 2018: Ohio State 62, Michigan 39

For the first and only time during Meyer’s seven years at Ohio State, the Buckeyes were underdogs going into their 2018 game against Michigan. They were home underdogs for the only time in any game during Meyer’s tenure, and against Michigan for the first time since 2004, because the Wolverines were on a 10-game winning streak while Ohio State had just barely escaped with an overtime win at Maryland one week earlier.

Ohio State ended up scoring 62 points – its most ever against Michigan – to embarrass its northern rivals and make its standing as the dominant team in the rivalry as clear as it’s ever been.

Dwayne Haskins threw for 396 yards and six touchdowns, also both records for Ohio State against Michigan. Parris Campbell caught six passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, including a 78-yard score, while Chris Olave caught the first two touchdown passes of his career and blocked a punt that Sevyn Banks returned for a touchdown.

The Buckeyes never trailed at any point in the game, and in the process, they brought Michigan’s self-proclaimed “Revenge Tour” to a screeching halt while clinching the Big Ten Championship Game berth that was on the line for both teams.

4. Oct. 28, 2017: Ohio State 39, Penn State 38

While Ohio State’s 13-point fourth quarter against Penn State in 2018 was great, its 19-point fourth-quarter comeback against the Nittany Lions one year earlier was even more spectacular.

The 2017 game between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium looked like it could go the visiting team’s way right from the jump, when Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Penn State dominated most of the first half, taking an early 21-3 lead and entering halftime with a 28-17 advantage. The Nittany Lions scored another touchdown late in the third quarter to enter the fourth quarter with a 35-20 lead.

A blocked punt by Denzel Ward early in the fourth quarter gave Ohio State a boost of momentum, though, and J.T. Barrett took over from there. On a night where he completed 33 of 39 passing attempts for 328 yards and four touchdowns and ran for an additional 95 yards, Barrett completed all 13 of his fourth-quarter passing attempts including three touchdown passes – two to Johnnie Dixon, and the game-winner to Marcus Baugh – to propel the Buckeyes to a 39-38 victory in front of a “blackout” home crowd.

That game also spawned perhaps the greatest video that Ohio State’s social media team has ever produced, a nine-minute retelling of the game you can watch below that encapsulates why the Buckeyes’ 2017 win over Penn State was one of the most memorable victories of the last 10 years.

3. Nov. 26, 2016: Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (2OT)

Ten years removed from the “Game of the Century” between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan in 2006, which would have certainly ranked near the top of a most memorable victories of the 2000s list, the Buckeyes hosted the Wolverines for a battle of No. 2 vs. No. 3 in 2016, and it lived up to the hype – and then some.

It wasn’t one of the more impressive games of the decade offensively for the Buckeyes, who managed just one offensive touchdown in regulation – paired with a pick-six by Malik Hooker – in a game that went to overtime tied 17-17. Two overtimes, though, led to what was not only perhaps the most memorable game ending of the decade for the Buckeyes, but one of the most memorable in the history of the 116-year Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.

Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime, but the Buckeyes held Michigan to a field goal attempt in double overtime. Then, after J.T. Barrett just barely ran for a 4th-and-1 conversion on a spot that is still disputed by Michigan fans to this day, Curtis Samuel scampered into the end zone on a 15-yard run that is now known simply as the “Brooklyn Dagger,” clinching a 30-27 victory for the home team at Ohio Stadium and ultimately propelling the Buckeyes into the College Football Playoff.

2. Dec. 6, 2014 (Big Ten Championship Game): Ohio State 59, Wisconsin 0

When Ohio State wins a game by 59 points, as it did on several occasions throughout the past decade, that usually means the Buckeyes are beating up on an opponent with inferior talent who was expected to be blown out. Those games are usually quickly forgotten, and don’t come close to making lists like these.

Ohio State’s 59-0 win against Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game, however, won’t be forgotten for a long time.

In Cardale Jones’ first-ever start for the Buckeyes – a position he was only in because both Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett were out for the season – the third-string quarterback led Ohio State in a jaw-dropping display of dominance that made exactly the kind of statement the Buckeyes needed to sway the College Football Playoff committee to select them as the fourth seed over Baylor and TCU.

Jones’ cannon arm provided a jolt of lightning to Ohio State’s offense, as Jones passed for three touchdowns while Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel each ran for two, while the Buckeyes’ defense smothered the Badgers, keeping them off the scoreboard and holding them to 258 yards while forcing four turnovers, including a fumble that Joey Bosa returned for a touchdown.

In the span of just a few hours, Ohio State went from a team whose championship hopes appeared to be in serious jeopardy after Barrett broke his ankle against Michigan to an undeniable title contender, and 59-0 has been an instantly recognizable score for Ohio State fans ever since.

1. Jan. 1, 2015 (CFP Semifinal): Ohio State 42, Alabama 35 

There are many different elements that can make a college football game memorable, all of which are represented to some degree throughout this list: the stakes, the opponent, the big plays, how the game plays out and how the outcome compares to what people expected to happen.

Ohio State’s 42-35 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, the No. 1 game on this list, had everything.

With a trip to the first-ever College Football Playoff national championship game on the line, Alabama was the No. 1 seed in the CFP and favored to win by more than a touchdown. The Crimson Tide was established as college football’s top powerhouse, having won national championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012, and Alabama was considered the frontrunner to win the title once again.

In the early stages of the Sugar Bowl, it looked like the Crimson Tide were in fact the better team, as the Buckeyes fell into a 21-6 deficit in the second quarter. Ohio State stormed back, though, scoring four straight touchdowns – including a 47-yard pass from Cardale Jones to Devin Smith and a 41-yard interception return score by Steve Miller – to take a 34-21 lead late in the third quarter.

Alabama hit back, cutting the lead back down to six on its subsequent possession, then held Ohio State to three straight punts as the two teams locked in a defensive struggle for most of the fourth quarter. But with less than four minutes remaining on the clock, Ohio State’s offensive line opened a hole and Ezekiel Elliott exploded through it for an 85-yard touchdown run that extended the Buckeyes’ lead to two scores.

The Crimson Tide scored quickly enough and forced another punt to have one last chance at tying the game at the end of regulation, but Blake Sims’ last-ditch hail mary attempt was picked off by Tyvis Powell in the end zone to punch Ohio State’s ticket to the national championship game and secure the Buckeyes’ most memorable victory of the 2010s.

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