Picking the Greatest Ohio State Football Game of All Time: The G.O.A.T. Game Tournament, Elite 8

By D.J. Byrnes and Matt Gutridge on August 26, 2017 at 9:00 am
The Ohio State G.O.A.T. Game Tournament Elite 8

Welcome to the G.O.A.T. Game Tournament, Eleven Warriors' quest to crown the greatest Ohio State football game in history. We move on to the Elite 8, featuring iconic Buckeye wins from 1942 to 2015.

Let's take a look at the bracket:

  • Michigan: #1 2006 vs. #2 2002. "The Game of the Century” vs. Jim Tressel's first win in Columbus against Michigan.
  • Old School: #1 1942 Iowa Pre-Flight vs. #6 1950 Iowa. The win that sealed Ohio State's first national title against Vic Janowicz doing everything against Iowa.
  • Bowls: #1 2002 Fiesta vs. #3 CFP Championship. The tournament juggernaut takes on Urban Meyer's first championship victory at Ohio State.
  • Regular Season#1 1968 Purdue vs. #2 2002 Purdue. Woody Hayes' 13-point underdogs upending No. 1 Purdue against Ohio State holding off unranked Purdue in West Lafayette. 

Let's vote.

#1: 2006 — No. 2 michigan at no. 1 ohio state

Tournament Recap: In the first round, The Game of the Century demolished Earle Bruce's final game, 92 to 8 percent. It continued its dominance in the second round, rolling over fourth-seeded 2016, 75 to 25 percent.


  • Score: 42-39
  • T. Smith: 29-41, 316 YDS, 4 TD, 1 INT
  • A. Pittman: 18 CAR, 139 YDS, 1 TD
  • T. Ginn: 8 REC, 104 YDS, 1 TD

Now known as "The Game of the Century," Lloyd Carr's and Jim Tressel's offenses both scored on their opening possessions, with the Wolverines drawing first blood on a one-yard Mike Hart touchdown run, and the Buckeyes rebutting when Troy Smith found Roy Hall for a two-yard touchdown reception.

Ohio State true freshman Beanie Wells, a five-star recruit from Akron, Ohio, gutted Michigan on a 52-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter. The subsequent extra point from Aaron Pettrey made it 14-7, and the Buckeyes would never surrender the lead again.

Troy Smith went to work shortly thereafter, using his arm to mince the Wolverines defense. He finished with 29 completed passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers.

#2: 2002 — No. 9 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State

Tournament recap: 2002 steamrolled 1942, 73 to 27 percent in the first first round. It survived an upset bid from 1968 in the second round, 60 to 40 percent.


  • Score: 14-9
  • C. Krenzel: 10-14, 124 YDS
  • M. Clarett: 20 CAR, 119 YDS, 1 TD
  • M. Jenkins: 4 REC, 51 YDS

Jim Tressel's team had won its previous 12 contests, despite it requiring a handful of heart-stopping victories like "Holy Buckeye" in West Lafayette against Purdue in Week 11 and a come-from-behind OT victory at Illinois in Week 12. Now, in week 13, they stood on the cusp of the national title game.

The Buckeyes stuck to the game plan and gave the Wolverines a heavy dose of star freshman tailback Maurice Clarett. The former Warren G. Harding Raider anchored the offense on 20 rushes for 119 yards and a touchdown. He also chipped in two receptions for 35 yards.

Krenzel played the cool customer as always. He only threw 14 times but completed 10 for 124 yards. He didn't throw a touchdown. More importantly, he didn't throw an interception. He finished with a QBR of 145.8.

Per the Tressel Way, the Silver Bullets ultimately decided the game. Trailing 14-9 with one second left on the Buckeyes' 24-yard line, Wolverine quarterback John Navarre lobbed a prayer to receiver Braylon Edwards.

Defensive back Will Allen knifed across the goal line to deny Edwards' reception and Michigan's dreams. The Buckeyes finished the regular season as 13-0 co-Big Ten champions and were off to the first national title game since 1970.

"We might not go out and score 50 points. We might not hold teams to 10 yards," Clarett told reporters after the game, "but we make the plays when we have to."

#1: 1942 — Iowa Pre-flight AT No. 3 OHIO STATE

Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks
November 28, 1942 (source).

Tournament recap: 1942 Iowa Pre-Flight demolished 1945 Minnesota, 75 to 25 percent in the first round. It demolished 1930 Minnesota in Round 2, 74 to 26 percent.

The United States Navy commissioned pre-flight schools at colleges around the country in 1942 after America entered World War II.

Cadets were given "three months of rigorous physical instruction" before graduating to the Pacific Fleet. Sports were particularly stressed at these schools as the Navy thought they prepared young men for the rigors of military life.

Iowa's roster included Buckeye halfback Dick Fisher, a two-sport star and member of Ohio State Varsity "O" Hall of Fame, as well as former Buckeye Don Langhurst. 

On Nov. 28, 1942, Iowa Navy rolled into Columbus for a date with No. 3 Ohio State. The Buckeyes had trounced Michigan the week before to win the Big Nine title in front of 75,000 fans. 

Curiously, only 27,259 fans came to the Horseshoe that day to watch Ohio State's backfield stable led by Les Horvath, Paul Sarringhaus, and Gene Fekete. 

Paul Brown's men out gained Iowa Navy 277 to 200. Their overall team speed was too much for the Seahawks to handle as the Buckeyes rolled to a 41-6 win.

No. 1 Boston College and No. 2 Georgia Tech lost that same day, giving Ohio State its first national championship in school history.

#6: 1950 — Iowa at No. 6 OHIO STATE

Vic Janowicz
Vic Janowicz running wild vs. the Hawkeyes.

Tournament recap: 1950 Iowa usurped 1916 Oberlin, 54 to 46 percent in the first round. Its Cinderella run continued in Round 2, upsetting 1916 Northwestern, 58 to 42 percent.

Wes Fesler's sixth-ranked Ohio State team put on a clinic against Iowa in Ohio Stadium. Vic Janowicz returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown, scored on an 11-yard touchdown run, threw a 12-yard touchdown pass, recovered two fumbles on defense, blasted two kickoffs out of the end zone and made three extra points against the Hawkeyes — all within the first five minutes of the game.

Janowicz finished with four touchdowns and made a Big Ten record 10 extra points. The Buckeyes scored 55 points in the first half and defeated Iowa 83-21 — the most points scored against a Big Ten foe in school history.

#1: 2003 fiesta bowl — No. 2 ohio state vs. no. 1 miami

Tournament recap: The 2003 Fiesta Bowl mollywhopped the 1974 Rose Bowl, 98 to 2%. It made quick work of the 2015 Sugar Bowl in the second round, 62 to 38 percent.

Jim Tressel's Ohio State team entered the 2003 Fiesta Bowl ranked No. 2 in the country over heart-pounding wins over Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan to close the regular season at 13-0 for the first time in school history.


  • SCORE: 31-24
  • C. Krenzel: 7-21, 2 RUSH TD
  • M. Clarett: 23 CAR, 47 YDS, 2 TD
  • M. Doss: Defensive MVP, 1 INT

The Buckeyes faced their tallest task in the title game against defending national champion Miami, an undefeated team that had outscored opponents 503-217 and featured future NFL standbys like running back Willis McGahee, wide receiver Andre Johnson, tight end Kellen Winslow II, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, cornerback Antrel Rolle, and safety Sean Taylor.

Despite the disadvantage in future pros, the Buckeyes battled the Hurricanes to a 14-7 halftime lead behind two touchdown rushes from Craig Krenzel and Maurice Clarett. 

With the Hurricanes trailing 17-14 and McGahee sidelined by a Will Allen tackle, kicker Todd Sievers boomed a 40-yard field goal as time ran out to to send the a national championship game into overtime for the first time ever.

Dorsey found Winslow for a seven-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing drive to draw first blood. After a controversial (but ultimately correct) pass interference call extended the Buckeyes' rebuttal drive, Krenzel dove into the endzone to tie the game at 24.

Clarett's five-yard dash gave the Buckeyes a 31-24 lead on the next possession, which became the final score when linebacker Cie Grant threw Dorsey to the turf on 4th down after a goal line stand by the Silver Bullets.

#3: 2015 cfp championship — no. 4 OHIO STATE vs. No. 2 Oregon

Tournament recap: The 2015 championship secured the bag over the 1997 Rose Bowl, 62 to 38%. It upset the 1968 Rose Bowl in the closest match in all of Round 2, 51 to 49 percent.

As cathartic as dumping SEC kingpin Alabama in the 2015 Sugar Bowl was for Ohio State fans, their team still needed to defeat Oregon — a team that lambasted Florida State in the Rose Bowl semifinal — to win the national championship. 


  • Score: 42-20
  • C. Jones: 16-23, 242 YDS, 1 TD
  • E. Elliott: 36 CAR, 246 YDS, 4 TD
  • C. Smith: 2 REC, 76 YDS

Despite the miraculous run through the postseason, the Buckeyes entered the game as seven-point underdogs, a ranking that looked about right as Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota diced the Silver Bullets for a touchdown on the game's first possession.

The Buckeyes retaliated later that quarter, when Ezekiel Elliott bulldozed the undersized Duck defense on a 33-yard touchdown run. Three minutes later, Cardale Jones found tight end Nick Vannett in the endzone to help give Ohio State a 14-7 lead.

When the Ducks compiled 13 unanswered points to pull to the score to 21-20, Urban Meyer turned to his warhorse running back. Elliott pounded the Ducks for three consecutive touchdown runs to seal Meyer's first national championship at Ohio State despite losing the turnover battle four to one.

#1: 1968 — No. 1 Purdue at No. 4 Ohio State

Tournament recap: 1968 Purdue smashed LSU 1988, 69 to 31 percent. It thumped 1985 Iowa, 60 to 40 percent, in Round 2.

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.

#2: 2002 — No. 3 Ohio State at Purdue

Tournament recap: 2002 Purdue trounced Kenny G's Symphony from 2012, 80 to 20 percent. It ran over 1995 Notre Dame in Round 2, 65 to 35 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!"

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