Picking the Greatest Ohio State Football Game of All Time: The G.O.A.T. Game Tournament, Regular Season Bracket

By D.J. Byrnes on August 23, 2017 at 4:00 pm
G.O.A.T. Game Tournament — Regular Season

The G.O.A.T. Game Tournament, Eleven Warriors' quest to crown the greatest game in Ohio State football lore, continues with the regular season semifinals that span victories from 1968 over No. 1 Purdue to unranked Purdue in 2002.

Let's meet the regular season bracket semifinals:

  • #1 Purdue 1968 vs. #4 Iowa 1985: 13-point underdog Buckeyes upend No. 1 Boilermakers vs. Buckeyes beating No. 1 Hawkeyes sans Keith Byars.
  • #2 Purdue 2002 vs. #3 Notre Dame 1995:  Holy Buckeye vs. Holy Eddie George dumping Notre Dame.

Let's vote.

#1: 1968 — No. 1 purdue at no. 4 Ohio State

In the first round: 1968 Purdue smashed LSU 1988, 69 to 31 percent.

No. 2 Purdue waltzed into Ohio Stadium in 1967 and thumped Ohio State, 41-6. The Boilermakers rolled into town the following year as the No. 1 team in the land, fueled by a vaunted aerial attack led by Mike Phipps and halfback Leroy Keyes. 


  • The score: 13-0
  • J. Otis: 29 CAR, 144 YDS
  • R. Kern: 8-16, 79 YDS; 11 CAR, 45 YDS
  • J. Brockington: 10 CAR, 69 YDS

Oddsmakers listed Purdue as 13 point favorites, and Keyes openly boasted nobody could cover him one-on-one in space — a challenge Ohio State sophomore safety Jack Tatum took personally. 

The Buckeyes controlled the line of scrimmage from the jump, with only a series of penalties and special team mishaps keeping the local team off the scoreboard. The defensive struggle ended in a 0-0 halftime score.

Phipps made a critical error in the third quarter, when Buckeye defensive back Ted Provost jumped a route and returned an interception for a touchdown to make it 6-0 (the ensuing PAT was missed).

Later that quarter, quarterback Rex Kern was injured on the Purdue 14-yard line after sweeping QB keeper. Woody Hayes tapped senior Bill Long, whom he recently demoted to third-string, because he wanted experience in a pivotal moment.

It proved a masterstroke, as Long pulled down a drop back attempt on the next play and darted up the middle for a touchdown. This time, the Buckeyes converted the extra point to make it 13-0 in favor of the 13-point underdogs. It would be the final score of the game.

Afterwards, Woody Hayes called it the greatest defensive performance he had ever seen.

#4: 1985 — No. 1 Iowa at No. 8 ohio State

In the first round: 1985 Iowa rolled over 1984 Illinois, 71 to 29 percent.

Iowa rolled into Columbus in 1985 as the top team in the country with Ohio State already having lost the fabled Illibuck to Illinois a month earlier. 


  • Score: 22-13
  • G. Cooper: 17 CAR, 104 YDS
  • J. Karsatos: 10-17, 151 YDS, 2 INT
  • M. Lanese: 4 REC, 63 YDS

Hayden Fry's team had dynamited their first seven opponents by a combined score of 282-87.

The Buckeyes received terrible news in the lead up to the game as running back Keith Byars was unable to play due to a foot injury that plagued him all season. (The Iowa City Press-Citizen that Friday ran a headline asking, "Without Byars, alibis for OSU?")

As it turned out, the Buckeyes would not need Byars' services to quell Hawkeyes.

During a torrential downpour, freshman linebacker (and future Lombardi Award winner) Chris Spielman introduced himself to America, going ballistic for 19 tackles, two interceptions, and a pass breakout as the talisman of the defense that stymied the Bill Snyder-coordinated offense all afternoon.

Running back John Woolridge scored on a 57-yard run and Vince Workman, the third-stringer-turned-starter, put the daggers into the gut of the Hawkeyes late in the third quarter.

"We thought we were going to pass the ball on them,'' Hawkeye right tackle Mike Haight told reporters after the game about Ohio State's four interceptions. ''They must have had a crystal ball or something. They seemed to know exactly where the ball was going."

#2: 2002 — No. 3 Ohio State at Purdue

In the first round: 2002 Purdue trounced Kenny G's Symphony from 2012, 80 to 20 percent.

The 2002 national championship team made a calling card of thrilling victories and improbable comebacks.


  • Score: 17-13
  • C. Krenzel: 13-20, 173, 1 TD, 1 INT
  • M. Clarett: 14 CAR, 52 YDS
  • M. Jenkins: 5 REC, 87 YDS, 1 TD

After three wins against Wisconsin, No. 17 Penn State, and No. 23 Minnesota, Ohio State appeared to entire softer two-week stretch of trips to unranked Purdue and unranked Illinois ahead of its annual knuckleduster with Michigan in Columbus.

But the Boilermakers didn't get the memo. The game devolved into a battle of field goals, usually a recipe of success for Jim Tressel. But things took a turn for the worst when Purdue used his own weapon against him midway through the fourth quarter to take a 6-3 lead.

With 1:52 left in the game, the anemic Buckeye offense faced 4th and 1 on Purdue's 37-yard line. Tressel threw his nature to the wind and dialed up King Right 64 Y Shallow Swap.

Craig Krenzel linked up with Michael Jenkins for the game's only touchdown with a play-by-play call from ABC announcer Brent Musberger that will live forever. 

"They're going to show the I-Back behind the Fullback on Fourth down. It could be up to the Offensive Line... no, Krenzel's going to throw for it! Gotta get it off! They go for the ballgame... touchdown! Touchdown! Michael Jenkins! On fourth and one! Would you believe it!? Craig Krenzel strikes with a minute and a half left! Holy Buckeye!"

#3: 1995 — No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 7 Ohio State

In the first round: 1995 Notre Dame survived the closest match of the opening round against 2014 Penn State, 56 to 44 percent.

Despite a mere 250 miles separating the two traditional Midwest football powers, Ohio State and Notre Dame hadn't played since a home-and-home series in 1935 and 1936 — a series in which the Irish swept the Buckeyes.


  • Score: 45-26
  • E. George: 32 CAR, 207 YDS, 2 TD
  • B. Hoying: 14-22, 272 YDS, 4 TD
  • T. Glenn: 4 REC, 128 YDS, 2 TD

That drought ended 59 years later when the No. 15 Irish rolled into Columbus for a date with Orlando Pace, Eddie George, and the No. 7 Buckeyes.

Lou Holtz's team looked prime for the upset bid, too, as they jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. 

Buckeye quarterback Bobby Hoying quickly executed two touchdown drives culminating strikes to Terry Glenn and Dimitrious Stanley to claw back into the game, 17-14, at halftime. 

The Buckeyes exploded for 31 points in the second half. Hoying added two more touchdown passes, a 51 yard to Buster Tillman and an 82-yarder to Terry Glenn.

But it was Eddie George who won the day, rampaging his way to 207 yards and two touchdowns, including a 61-yard scamper that set up the Irish death knell and catapulted the Buckeye running back into Heisman favorite status. Not that it mattered to him.

"I really don’t know (about the Heisman),” George told reporters after the game. “All I know is I played the game today against Notre Dame and I did my job to the best of my ability. If I’m up for it, that’s great. If I’m not, we’ve got to play Penn State next week, then Wisconsin and Purdue and it just goes on and on.”

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