Ohio State vs SEC:  Still 0-9

This is turning into quite a saga. I need to update this page yet again because Ohio State has voluntarily vacated all its wins from last season, including its 2011 Sugar Bowl win against Arkansas. So, Ohio State is back to 0-fer against the SEC in bowl games -- all time. Wow, the most amazing stat in the world of sports lives on!!


Prior discussion: Check out our What Will Happen to Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes?

Congrats to the Ohio State Buckeyes for hanging on to beat the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. The win raises the OSU all-time record vs the SEC in bowl games to 1-9 (still an amazing statistic). Congrats to the Buckeye Nation!

[Note however, that the OSU win is becoming increasingly controversial as more facts come to light about the NCAA violations by star OSU players that Jim Tressel knew about and failed to report before the game. Much more to come on this. But, hey, Ohio State did get the SEC monkey off their back. The question is whether the price paid in sacrificing integrity was worth it.]

Great News!! We are always wanting more SEC vs Big Ten match-ups (especially in the regular season). Well, now we've got one. Tennessee and Ohio State just announced they will play each other in 2018 (at Tenn) and 2019 (at OSU) seasons.

The last time the Vols and Buckeye's played was in the 1996 Florida Citrus Bowl -- with UT winning -- of course.

2008 - 2009 Update -- Here's a very up-to-date story about Ohio State vs the SEC: Buckeyes Strong 2009 Class Ensures More Losses to SEC. You can also read more about the '08 Nat'l Championship game (the 9th OSU loss to the SEC in Bowl games as well as just general Buckeye vs SEC futility) at BCS Unfair to SEC and College Football Playoff.

Article (written by a Big Ten fan) three years ago follows:

Ohio State vs. The SEC: 0-8

Find out why the BCS made the right call picking LSU and Ohio State for the BCS Championship Game -- And, why it further supports the need for a college football playoff system. Click Ohio State vs LSU BCS Controversy.

Ohio State is 0-8 vs the SEC in bowl games. Chalk up one for the SEC. Heck, chalk up eight for the SEC. 0-8 is 0-8. It can't be defended. But in this case it can be explained.

The mounting second number after the dash is brought to the forefront each year around bowl time when the Big Ten vs the SEC, which is the best conference, debate rages at its most fierce. That second number reached eight when Ohio State was unexpectedly humiliated by Florida in the National Championship game.

As a Buckeyes' fan it seemed as though 0-8 was plastered all over every ESPN family of networks' graphic for the ensuing 24 hours. My co-workers who love to debate college football picked up on the newly adjusted record and quickly used it as bullet number one in the battle over best conference.

For weeks we had been punching and counter-punching Big Ten vs SEC. Starting on January 9th, I would've thought the Buckeyes' lost eight games to the SEC this year. My pro-SEC debaters would boldly proclaim SEC superiority followed by their most convincing argument: Ohio State is 0-8 vs the SEC. It was used so many times against me I started to doubt what I'd seen for the past three months. I checked the Buckeyes' schedule for that shocking defeat to Vanderbilt at the Horseshoe and what about that embarrassment at Scott Field in Starkville, MS?

In reality, what I did was first explain in a most sarcastic tone that they could only use 0-1 as part of their argument for best conference. I took even great joy in asking them when this streak started. I knew no one had a clue.

The streak started under Woody Hayes. Most of my debaters know the name; know about the famous tantrums, but if they've ever seen the man stroll the sidelines it was on Zibrudor film quality on ESPN Classic.

On January 1, 1978, one year prior to winning their first of two consecutive national championships, Alabama whipped Ohio State 35-6. I watched that Sugar Bowl in horror. But my first two seasons as a Buckeyes' fan were also Woody Hayes' final two as Buckeyes' coach. Never a tactical genius, Woody had obviously lost the edge that drove his teams to outwork and out-will their opponents. Penn State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Michigan and Clemson in his last game. Woody lost all the big games in his final two seasons. That Alabama team finished 11-1 and # 2 in the country.

Tony Nathan vaults pile for touchdown in 1978 Sugar Bowl

Tony Nathan scores first TD in Alabama's drubbing of Ohio State (35-6) in the 1978 Sugar Bowl. Another SEC win vs OSU! Thanks to Historic Photos of University of Alabama Football for this picture. You can purchase the book at right of the follows.

Earle Bruce succeeded Hayes and went 81-26-1 over nine seasons. He won four Big Ten Championships, finished in the Top Ten four times, went 5-4 vs Michigan and 5-3 in bowl games. Bruce never faced the SEC in a bowl game, losing to Alabama in the 1986 Kickoff Classic 16-10 and tying LSU in Baton Rouge in 1987. The Bama game was a hard fought clash between top ten teams. In '87 LSU and Ohio State faced as top five teams, but OSU stumbled to a 6-4-1 finish. LSU went 10-1-1.

Now we talk the John Cooper factor. Despite a number of accomplishments on paper, Buckeyes' fans look back on those 13 years with disappointment and disgust. Cooper coached 157 games in Columbus. Change the result of just a few of those contests and Cooper is now a legend. Despite winning 11 games three times and 10 games twice Cooper's legacy is losing the big game.

The SEC beat Cooper five times. But Cooper was an equal opportunity whipping boy. Michigan beat him 10 times out of 12 decisions and he lost 8 of 11 bowl games. Cooper lost the 1990 Liberty Bowl to Air Force as a 17 point favorite. He lost that game with Robert Smith in the backfield, three NFL receivers and a defense stocked with more pros. Some coaches know how to find a way to win. Cooper found a way to lose.

That said, Cooper's best teams didn't play the SEC in the postseason. The 1996 and '98 squads finished # 2 in the country after winning the Rose and Sugar Bowls against the Pac Ten and Big 12.

Before the current format of bowl slotting, prestigous programs like Ohio State were elevated to bowl games they didn't deserve. The 1989 Buckeyes finished 24th in the country, but played a top five Auburn team in the Hall of Fame Bowl. The '92 edition lost on a late touchdown to Georgia in the Citrus. UGA finished 8th. OSU finished 18th.

In 1994, 12-1 Alabama scored a touchdown in the closing minute to beat four times beaten Ohio State. Buckeyes' fans should credit Cooper with re-establishing OSU as a talent factory. But those teams routinely underachieved against everybody. Matching them up against higher rated SEC teams skews the equation greatly.

Following two paragraphs of Cooper bashing, I let the embattled coach exit this article with a blaze of glory. His first team at OSU; that terrible 4-6-1 group, beat a top five LSU team 36-33. Thank you Greg Frey and Bobby Olive. Go Bucks!

On the dawn of January 8th Jim Tressel was nearing sainthood. A few hours later such talk had been silenced. The Buckeyes were demolished. I've watched the game three times and each look makes it even less believable.

For as badly as the players were beaten, Tressel was outwitted ten times over. The man with a velvet touch in the big game served up a ragged game plan. He left his offensive tackles to fend for themselves well after it was proven that help was needed. He called three straight pass plays after his running game accounted for a touchdown to close the game to 21-14.

And worst of all, he refused to let the defense loose. He never challenged receivers and never forced Chris Leak to make a difficult throw. Florida's offense somehow thrived by running for 3.4 yards per carry and throwing the ball downfield once.

Buckeye defenders missed few tackles. It simply took an eternity to close on the ball. I never saw an OSU cornerback lineup on my TV screen. I begged Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock to force Leak to make an NFL throw. Just one, please?

Tressel's glossy big game record has picked up two smudges courtesy the SEC. His first team lost on a last second field goal to South Carolina 31-28. That team lost five games. That game could've gone either way. Those two teams could've won or lost against forty other teams in American on any given day.

The next year the Buckeyes jelled, navigated a rugged schedule and beat the unbeatable Miami Hurricanes to win the national championship.

Even the most ardent SEC supporters can't tell me that their conference champion, Georgia, would've won that game. Same thing for the '05 season, Tressel's second best team finished 4th in the country. SEC champ Georgia was ripped for 38 points by West Virginia. Give OSU that matchup too.

Penn State is 5-2 vs the SEC since 1990. Michigan owns the same mark. OSU's 0-6 record against the Southeastern Conference during that time would point to disaster against its two most competitive conference rivals, but we know better. The Buckeyes own the Big Ten's best record during that time and have won 15 of 27 against Joe Pa and the Maize and Blue.

The SEC argument is simple. 8-0 means we're better. Careful examination shows that timing can distort the meaning of eight games spread over 30 years. Reasoning doesn't change results, but it should change rationale.

This article was submitted by Mark Rogers. Mark has worked in television for 16 years...9 years as a sportscaster...6 years covering the SEC (mostly Alabama, MSU and Ole Miss). For the past five years he has worked at ESPN in Network Operations.

If you have comments about the SEC vs. Big Ten Debate -- please submit those comments at SEC vs Big Ten Debate.


Hi Mo, Thanks for posting my column. I did some research concerning which conference has currently produced the most NFL players. As of opening day 2006 the two conferences are basically dead even. The Big Ten leads by .1 percent per school.


  1. Georgia 43
  2. Tennessee 42
  3. LSU 38
  4. Florida 37
  5. Auburn 29
  6. Ole Miss 21
  7. Alabama 21
  8. South Carolina 21
  9. Miss State 17
  10. Arkansas 13
  11. Vanderbilt 10
  12. Kentucky 6

        Total 298

Big Ten

  1. Ohio State 43
  2. Michigan 38
  3. Purdue 35
  4. Penn State 32
  5. Wisconsin 30
  6. Iowa 23
  7. Michigan State 19
  8. Illiniois 17
  9. Minnesota 13
  10. Northwestern 13
  11. Indiana 11

           Total 274

There are 12 teams in the SEC and 11 in the Big Ten so the SEC averages 24.8 players per school. The Big Ten averages 24.9.

Editor's Note: Thanks Mark for confirming the SEC is #1 over-all!! Mark's reply is that the Big 10 is #1 on a per team average. I guess it all depends on one's perspective.

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By Mo Johnson, Copyright © 2006-2017 SECSportsFan.com

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