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9. The 1961 Ohio State Buckeyes

For Buckeye fans, 1961 was the year of almost: Fullback Bob Ferguson almost won the Heisman Trophy (he finished a mere 53 points behind Syracuse running back Ernie Davis, the third closest ballot of all time), thereby almost becoming the first black player to win that award (Davis, who was also black, did earn that distinction). The Buckeyes almost went to the Rose Bowl, but an Ohio State faculty committee voted (28-25) to keep the team out of that "commercial venture" lest the school become an "athletic factory" where "the football tail is wagging the college dog." And the Buckeyes almost finished with a perfect record and almost won a consensus national championship.

The 1961 Buckeyes got off to a slow start, playing a hapless Texas Christian squad (3-5-2 final record) to a 7-7 draw in Columbus in the opening game. Behind the running of two-time All American fullback Bob Ferguson (1961 Maxwell Award winner), who led the Big Ten with 938 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, and halfbacks Paul Warfield (540 yards, 6 TDs) and Matt Snell (258 yards, 1 TD), the team quickly rebounded from that early disappointment, beating their next seven opponents by an average score of 23 to 8. In the season finale, Ohio State blew out Michigan, 50-20, to win an undisputed Big Ten championship. This version of The Game was notable for the fact that Buckeye head coach Woody Hayes deliberately ran up the score against the overmatched Wolverines: with just five seconds left in the contest, Ohio State threw a 10-yard touchdown pass and followed that up with a two-point conversion to reach the half-century mark.

The Big Ten was tough in 1961, with Minnesota (8-2-0) finishing #6; Michigan State (7-2-0) finishing #8; and Purdue (6-3-0) finishing #12. However, due to the quirks of scheduling, the Buckeyes somehow managed to avoid each of those ranked...
T-10. The 1996 & 1998 Ohio State Buckeyes

2-10-1: That's about the only thing most Buckeye fans remember about the John Cooper Era, although the hardcore cynics are quick to point out that his teams were also 3-8 in bowl games. But lost amongst those dismal numbers is the undeniable fact that Coop lead Ohio State to a pair of second-place finishes in both major polls.

The 1996 Buckeyes had lost all their offensive superstars to the NFL – first round picks running back Eddie George (Heisman trophy), wide receiver Terry Glenn (Biletnikoff Award), and tight end Rickey Dudley had combined for 4,363 yards and 49 touchdowns in 1995, and third round selection quarterback Bobby Hoying set many single-season and career records (since broken). But the Buckeyes still had All-World left tackle Orlando Pace (1995-96 Lombardi; 1996 Outland) to anchor the offensive line and a Silver Bullet defense headed by All Americans defensive end Mike Vrabel (career sack leader) and cornerback Shawn Springs (1996 Big Ten defensive POY), and freshman phenom Andy Katzenmoyer (1997 All American and Butkus Award winner) at middle linebacker.

Ohio State rolled through their first ten games by an average score of 43-10. Then came Michigan. Even though the Buckeyes dominated the first half statistically (220 yards and 19:39 TOP to 62 yards and 10:21 TOP), they consistently got bogged down in the red zone and led only 9-0 as the teams entered the locker room. On the second play of the third quarter, Shawn Springs slipped in single coverage and Wolverine wide receiver Tai Streets took a short slant 69 yards for a touchdown. The Ohio State offense got completely stymied in the second half (84 yards, 10:29 TOP), while Michigan was able to kick a pair of field goals down the stretch to make the final score 13-9 in favor of the bad guys.

Even after the heartbreaking loss in The Game, #3...
Even though it was the middle of the offseason, July was a very good month for the Ohio State football program. The Buckeyes landed seven verbal commitments during the month:

DE Nick Bosa (Class of 2016; Ft. Lauderdale FL St. Thomas Aquinas; 6' 3" 265 lbs) is one of the best prospects in the country, earning a five-star, top-20 ranking from Rivals, Scout, and 247Sports. Nick is the younger (but not little) brother of current Buckeye All American defensive end Joey Bosa.

DT Jerron Cage (Class of 2017; Cincinnati OH Winton Woods; 6' 2" 275 lbs) is currently the "sleeper" recruit in this class because only two of the three recruiting services lists him as a four-star prospect (Rivals has him at three-stars). Rankings aside, Cage fills a position of need for the Buckeyes.

DB Wayne Davis (Class of 2016; Norfolk VA Lake Taylor; 5' 11" 170 lbs) is a consensus 4* cornerback prospect who was a high school teammate of current Buckeye DE Jalyn Holmes. Davis continues the Buckeyes' recent run of success in the Chesapeake region (3 signees in 2015, 3 verbals in 2016).

TE Luke Farrell (Class of 2016; Perry OH; 6' 6" 240 lbs) is ranked as a four-star, top-7 tight end prospect, and a top-200 overall...
This top ten list is late - absurdly so. As the 2015-16 season draws near, this may be the last list of its kind to get published. Like you though, I'm an Ohio State superfan and I know that we don't stop talking about this stuff just because it's old and everybody else has moved on. So here it is, a long overdue look at the top plays from last season:

10.) Joey Bosa & Darron Lee - forced fumble and return for TD vs. Navy



It was the season's first touchdown for the Buckeyes, and it came at a key moment. While they would get upset by Virginia Tech the next week, that wasn't nearly as big of a black eye as losing to Navy would have been. While we can scarcely imagine that possibility now, it was a very real one coming out of halftime of this game with the Buckeyes trailing 7-6. Joey Bosa, a leading player on the Buckeye defense, caused the miscue by penetrating into the backfield to force an early option pitch. Lee announced his arrival as a key player by completing the scoop and score. While the Buckeyes would relinquish the lead for a time before putting Navy away, this huge play gave them the momentum boost they needed to eventually get the win.

9.) Michael Thomas - 79-yard touchdown reception vs. M*ch*g*n State



The Buckeyes, having improved vastly over the course of the season but not having been tested by a top team yet, went to East Lansing to face the team the beat them in the previous season's B1G title game. Both teams traded haymakers thoughout the first half, but it seemed the momentum was mostly with the men in green. At one point late in the second quarter, Jeremy Langford appeared to have scored a touchdown to put MSU up two scores. The play was called back for holding, and MSU would subsequently miss a field goal attempt. On the very next play, Thomas would catch J.T. Barrett's pass on a slant, break a tackle, and...
Here's our recap of Friday Night Lights 2015, which saw the Buckeyes hosting dozens of top prospects from around the country - here's a partial list, including the twenty Buckeye commitments who were in attendance. We will provide more updates as they become available.

Two Verbal Commitments

Ohio State earned a pair of verbal commitments at Friday Night Lights (July 24th). The first was long expected, namely tight end Luke Farrell (Perry, Ohio; 6' 6" 240 lbs; Rivals 4*, #7 TE; #158 overall; Scout 4*, #7 TE, #195 overall; 247Sports 4*, #5 TE, #147 overall) who finally pulled the trigger after favoring Ohio State for months. Farrell becomes the third tight end in the Buckeyes' Class of 2016, joining Jake Hausmann and Kierre Hawkins, although the lanky Hawkins seems destined to spend more time split outside than either of the other two prospects. Farrell is very athletic as well a being a great blocker, and he reminds us quite a bit of current Buckeye tight end Nick Vannett.

The second verbal was rather surprising, considering that the prospect entered Friday Night Lights without a reported offer. Place kicker Blake Haubeil...
Key Matchups at FNL (RB07OSU)

By now, everyone is likely aware that FNL will be stocked with talent spanning from the class of 2016 all the way down to the class of 2018. With so many Ohio State commitments and prospects with the Buckeyes high on their list, this Friday may well give a glimpse into the future of matchups in practice. Regardless, there will be a number of elite matchups that will catch the attention of our loyal recruitniks here at BP. In particular, here are the matchups I cannot wait to see unfold (bear in mind that the visitor list morphs almost every day, so the list is subject to change and certain players may not end up actually competing if they do attend):
  • 2016 WR Austin Mack vs. 2016 DB Damar Hamlin: With Mack (Buckeye verbal) opting to participate, there will be plenty showdowns to watch with the great talent on hand at the defensive back position. The big matchup in my eyes is with Hamlin, who the Buckeyes are rumored to lead for (I have him all but penciled in this class). I love this matchup because while both players are athletic, they both have great intangibles and play the ball well in air. With Mack lighting it up recently at The Opening, I am very anxious to see if Hamlin can contain him. This is a big Midwest battle and I have both players in the top 5 for their respective positions nationally.
July 24th (Friday Night Lights)

2016 RB Demario McCall (North Ridgeville, OH) - Ohio State verbal
2016 RB George Hill (Hubbard, OH) - Ohio State verbal
2016 WR Austin Mack (Ft. Wayne, IN) - Ohio State verbal
2016 WR Ahmir Mitchell (Egg Harbor City, NJ)
2016 WR Donnie Corley (Wyandotte, MI)
2016 WR/TE Kierre Hawkins (Maple Heights, OH) - Ohio State verbal
2016 WR Trey Fullwood (Tampa, FL)
2016 TE Jake Hausmann (Cincinnati, OH) - Ohio State verbal
2016 TE Luke Farrell (Perry, OH) - verballed to Ohio State at FNL
2016 OL Gavin Cupp (Leipsic, OH)
2016 OL Terrance Davis (Hyattsville, MD)
2016 OL Tyler Gerald (Brandenton, FL) - Ohio State verbal
2016 DE...
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Ohio State Friday Night Lights Camp - July 24th, 2015
2017 Names to Watch:
  • Mission Viejo (CA) WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr. (4*, #18 WR, #124 nationally). Offered by the Buckeyes all the way back in March of 2014. Keyshawn is the cousin of current Ohio State WR Michael Thomas, and of course the son of former Southern Cal great Keyshawn Johnson, Sr. Many believe this will be an OSU-USC battle, with Nebraska also being in the mix.
  • Maple Heights (OH) WR JaVont'e Richardson (4*, #35 WR, #227 nationally). Richardson doesn't currently hold an offer from the Buckeyes, but many believe that could change Friday. If you are going to watch Friday Night Lights, this is definitely a prospect to pay attention to.
  • Streetsboro (OH) WR Dakari Carter. This Division II 100-meter state champion (meet record 10.55 seconds) will likely be the fastest competitor on Friday night. Speed alone will not be able to earn him a Buckeye offer, but he is an intriguing prospect.
  • Cincinnati (OH) Archbishop Moeller TE Matt Dotson (3*, #11 TE, #377 nationally). Offered by Ohio State after camping with the Buckeyes on June 13th. Also holds offers from Penn State, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, among others.
  • Saint Joseph (MI) DE Corey Malone-Hatcher (4*, #11 WDE, #209 nationally). Offered by the Buckeyes in July, 2014....
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Ohio State Friday Night Lights Camp - July 24th, 2015
Top 2016 Uncommitted Targets:
  • 2016 Cedar Creek (NJ) WR Ahmir Mitchell (4*, #6 ATH, #78 nationally composite) checks in at 6' 3", 206 lbs. Mitchell was offered by the Buckeyes in December of 2014, and he has visited campus several times since then. Ahmir now looks to show off his skills in front of the Buckeye staff. Michigan currently leads the Crystal Ball Predictions.
  • 2016 Detroit (MI) Martin Luther King WR Donnie Corley (4*, #18 WR) was also offered by the Buckeyes in December of 2014. Previously thought to be a Buckeye lean, many now believe the Michigan State Spartans hold the lead for his services. Donnie is listed at 6' 2.5" and 182 lbs, and he has excellent speed.
  • 2016 Perry (OH) TE Luke Farrell (4*, #5 TE, #145 nationally). As the Buckeyes look to add another TE to their class, there's no doubt that Farrell sits at the top of their wish list. Finishing his junior year with 43 receptions for 730 yards and 6 TD's, many compare Luke to current Buckeye tight end Nick Vannett, while Buckeye commit Jake Hausmann compares more favorably to 2014 graduate Jeff Heuerman. Farrell checks in at 6' 6" and 240 lbs and is believed to be a Buckeye...
On November 18, 2006, #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan played in the most-hyped edition of The Game in its long and storied history. The Buckeyes entered the contest with a scoring average of 36 points, while the Wolverines, with the nation's #1 rushing defense, allowed only 12 points per game. Something had to give.

During that game, Ohio State exploited a fundamental issue with the Michigan defense, namely a lot of big slow linebackers and defensive backs with questionable coverage skills. Lloyd Carr and his defensive staff had assembled a group that was very adept at stuffing the inside running game, but was susceptible to misdirection, edge pressure, and a dynamic passing attack. The Buckeyes were successful in exposing Michigan's defense to the tune of 42 points and 503 yards of total offense.

On the other hand, Ohio State showed in that game that their own defense was trying to evolve into the kind that could stop a high-powered offense, but subsequent events soon proved that the Buckeyes weren't anywhere near ready for a good challenge.

After beating Michigan to complete a perfect regular season, Ohio State earned a berth in the 2006 National Championship Game against the Florida Gators. In that game, Ohio State's, and consequently the Big Ten's, reputation was destroyed by Urban Meyer’s spread offense. The 41-14 ass-kicking gave ESPN a chance to drive clicks with their "SEC Speed" marketing campaign.

Now nearly a decade later the narrative has changed, from "SEC Speed" to "SEC Big Boy football". Led by conference stalwarts Alabama, LSU, and Georgia, the ground-and-pound offenses of the current SEC are very similar to the slow, plodding offenses that the B1G used to specialize in. In other words, the kind of offenses that gave the B1G the reputation as a substandard, un-athletic, behind-the-times football conference.

As a result of the paradigm shift in the SEC, the kings of Big Boy Football (Alabama) are highly specialized in stopping it. The Crimson...