There is a growing sense in the college football community nationally that the 2019 Ohio State Buckeyes could be somewhat good this season.
How good? That depends on who you ask. While most Buckeye fans are loading up the bandwagon, there is a sense from some outside the midwest that the team could simply be the product of a soft early-season schedule.
After all, how good can OSU possibly be if they don’t even play in a conference with an exclusive TV deal with the ESPN family of networks?
Rather than turning the conversation into a screaming match about who ain’t played nobody worth a good gosh darn, let’s take a more objective look.
We’ll start, ironically enough, with a ranking system now hosted by ESPN.com. Bill Connelly’s SP+ uses a combination of recruiting rankings and opponent and tempo-adjusted on-field results to measure teams in different areas.
The Buckeyes currently check in at No. 2 overall, behind only Alabama. Perhaps most interestingly, Ohio State is the only program in the nation with a top-5 ranking on both offense (No. 5) and defense (No. 3). The Crimson Tide is the only other team that can even claim a top-10 unit on both sides of the ball.
If you prefer your stats old-fashioned, Ohio State is third nationally in scoring offense (52.4 points per game) and fourth in scoring defense (8.6).
They have won four straight games by at least 40 points. According to the Big Ten, that ties the 1974 Ohio State team for the most consecutive 40+ margins of victory for any conference school since at least 1945.
So, in other words, they’ve been pretty good. But where does this year’s hot start rank among the best in Ohio State football history?
Through five games, the team’s average margin of victory is 43.8 points. That is the most lopsided average margin of victory in the first five games of any OSU season in more than a century. Here’s a look at the biggest average margins of victory since the Buckeyes joined the Western Conference in 1913.
|Year||Avg. OSU Score||Avg. Opponent Score||Avg. Margin||Season result|
|1917||47.0||0.6||46.4||8-0-1, tied Auburn|
|2016||53.2||10.8||42.4||11-2, lost Fiesta Bowl to Clemson|
|1969||46.4||8.4||38||8-1, lost to Michigan|
|1996||45.2||8.8||36.4||11-1, won Rose Bowl vs. ASU|
|1919||33.2||0.6||32.6||6-1, lost to Illinois|
|1973||36.2||4.0||32.2||10-0-1, won Rose Bowl vs. USC|
|2013||48.2||17||31.2||12-2, lost Orange bowl vs. Clemson|
|1974||41.4||10.4||31.0||10-2, lost Rose Bowl vs. USC|
|2018||49||18.8||30.2||13-1, won Rose Bowl vs. Washington|
|2010||44.2||14.2||30.0||12-1, won Sugar Bowl vs. Arkansas|
|1926||32.0||2.6||29.4||7-1, lost to Michigan|
|1998||37.4||8.0||29.4||11-1, won Sugar Bowl vs. Texas A&M|
A few notes of… note
The 1917 Buckeyes won their first five games against Case Western, Ohio Wesleyan, Northwestern, Denison, and Indiana by a combined total of 235-3. The only blemish on their record was a scoreless tie against Auburn in a game played in Montgomery, Ala. in late November. There were no “S-E-C” chants at the end of the game because the conference wouldn’t be founded for another 16 years.
The 1916 team is on here almost entirely due to a 128-0 win over Oberlin.
The four-game streak of 40+ point wins came a little later in the 1974 season, so three of the games aren’t included in the list above.
Take a moment to scan down the column on the far right. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of great Buckeye football seasons, but none of the school’s eight national championship years are on there. A hot start to the season is great. But Ohio State football history has shown that a team isn’t remembered for how they open the season, but how they finish it.
The 1970 team outscored their first five opponents by an average of 39.0 to 12.0, a margin of 27.0 points per game.
The 1942 national champions averaged a 33.0 to 7.8 win, good for 25.2 points per game.
After that, the best five-game start for any OSU national championship winner was actually the 2014 team. They outscored their first five opponents 44.6 to 20.8, giving them an average margin of victory of 23.8 points despite a loss to Virginia Tech.
The 2002 team won its first five games by 21.6 points on average.
The 1957 team averaged 28.4 to 9.0 for the first five weeks, which works out to 19.4 points per game.
The 1954 national title team won its first give games by an average of 18.4 points (28.0 to 9.6).
The much-beloved 1968 team won its first five by an average of 29 to 13, good for 16.0 per game.
In 1961, the average margin was 14.6.