The phenomenal Bill Connnelly has a new book out which broaches some college football experts' Top 10 personal favorite college football games all-time. What are yours?
SB Nation's outstanding Bill Connelly has written an equally excellent book, "Study Hall: College Football, Its Stats, and Its Stories". I was able to obtain and advance copy, gave it a read two weeks back, and can't recommend it enough. In fact, you should stop what you're doing and procure a copy for yourself right now.
The book contains a few memorable Ohio State mentions. A few quickly that caught my eye. On The Game:
When Michigan and Ohio State face off in Ann Arbor in 2013, they will not only be fighting for present-tense supremacy, but they'll also be re-fighting all of the battles that came before, in Michigan's home stadium and elsewhere. The same goes for conference battles throughout the country. The more you learn about college football, the more you find out you have to learn.
On Bill C.'s alma matter, Missouri, taking on Woody and Ohio State in the 70's (and economics which don't seem so foreign, particularly to today's game):
"Between 1941 and 1949, Missouri played Ohio State eight times, all on the road. According to Bob Broeg's Ol' Mizzou: A Story of Missouri Football (1974), the Tigers did this because head coach and athletic director Don Faurot would use the payout from the yearly trip (and loss) to fund the athletic department's budget for the rest of the year. According to a former Mizzou administrator, quoted by Broeg, "That series, more than any other, permitted Don to wipe out athletic-department indebtedness."
There's plenty of others (amongst a lot of incredibly high quality analysis of today's college football world/landscape), but perhaps one of the great parts about the book (besides how concurrently it's well written/informative while also accessible), is a section in which college football experts (and Bill himself) rattle off their ten favorite games as fans all-time.
Little is more telling of a person (and their fandom) than the experiences that have comprised their sporting life. Mine personally, in particular, is a hodgepodge of my years an active Ohio State student (and subsequent alumnus) and then my years growing up in a Texas Longhorns household in SWC/Big XII country, aligning with that particular other college football power.
I actually struggled to winnow my personal list down to 10 (I think my first draft had ~19). There's so many extremely memorable games, some that impacted the teams I rooted for, some that were just inescapable from my collective identity as a general college football fan, and some hard to escape because of surrounding social contexts. But in the spirit of "Football Study Hall", here's my top 10 games all-time:
10. October 29, 2011 - #12 Wisconsin vs Ohio State, W 33-29
The game was a blisteringly cold Halloween Saturday night game to be at, but Ohio State's season was a smoldering hot mess. Wisconsin (and Bret Bielema) were heavy favorites and then... Well you know the rest. I had plenty of great social/personal reasons to indelibly remember this one to boot, but I can remember fewer wilder final several minutes, including of course the unforgettable Braxton-to-Smith heave and catch.
9. November 19, 2005 - Ohio State at #17 Michigan, W 25-21
This was a definitively "college" game, for me. The Buckeyes were underdogs in this one as well, and I drank what seemed like a thousand beers without ever so much as getting a buzz. Ohio State grinded for four quarters though, and as Jim Tressel teams tended to do, made the plays down the stretch when it mattered most. Oh, and they also beat some team you may have heard of. In their place. Again.
8. January 3rd, 2003 - Ohio State vs #1 Miami, W 31-24 (2 OT)
I imagine this one would likely play far higher for the lot of you, but I wasn't indoctrinated into Ohio State culture just quite yet. I was considering the school, but hadn't applied, though to make matters more fun, I was watching the game and holding opposite rooting interests with a friend who at the time was considering The U (he ultimately went to Baylor; go figure). The game was an all-time classic, however, even sans allegiance. And if you were fortunate enough to be a Buckeye lifer and/or be at the game, well given the wait between titles and the prevailing circumstances/narratives that went into this one, I can't imagine how near storybook it all must have felt.
7. January 4, 2006 - #2 Texas vs #1 USC, 41-38
I'd made my peace that when I went to Ohio State over in-state (and the sports team of my youth) Texas, I wasn't going to 2% it. Sure, I'd continue to root for Texas (I've since fallen off on this promise, particularly after returning to the state post-graduate as an alumni in a culture saturated by post-this game bandwagon jumpers), but, for better or worse, they'd have to be a secondary rooting interest (at best) for the rest of my life. Especially after Ohio State's heart-wrenching earlier season home loss and the weird dichotomy of the sports fan I used to be against the sports fan I was becoming, it was an extremely conflicted, bizarre watch. But it was also an all-time classic game. Plus, my roommate had developed a stomach flu so bad he was loudly puking his brains out the entire game, and was so dehydrated and pale I actually called 911 during the contest. He'd be fine, but the rest of our off-campus house, like clockwork, would get the same damn thing in the next 48-72 hours. Good times.
6. September 9, 2006 - Ohio State at #2 Texas, W 24-7
Catharsis for the previous mixed sentiments (and more importantly, that home loss), plus the game that seemed to set the tone for the rest of the 2006 season (pre-Florida, natch). Beating Texas at Texas was like a Bar Mitzvah for me as an Ohio State sports fan, and doing so in a hostile Texas student section while wearing a Troy Smith
jersey made it especially schadenfreude ripe. Plus, it didn't hurt that a blacked out stereotypical Billy Badass was sitting in front of me in Texas garb and kept turning around every 30 seconds to say "THAT TED GINN SURE IS OVERRATED HUH. SUUUUUUUCKS. SUUUUUUUCKS. SUUUUUUCKS", and the like. The pre-half time long bomb touchdown actually caused him to get up and leave (but not until after two quarters of him getting in my face and his equally inane roommates/frat bros posturing physical violence in my direction; Hook 'em, scoreboard, etc.).
5. January 4, 2011 - #8 Arkansas vs #6 Ohio State, W 31-26
I was there. It was real, I swear. SEC monkey: gone. WInning the way they won; unforgettable. Plus, that whole revisionist history aspect of it being The Vest's final ever game. Memorable on a number of levels, and one of the only times in my life I've done an SEC chant (ironically, of course).
4. January 1, 2007 - #9 Boise State vs #7 Oklahoma, W 43-42 (OT)
I was battling some personal demons at that time, and had just made it back to Columbus after a 20 hour drive from Austin, Texas. I was mentally and physically not in a good place, and I laid on a couch, spent on so many levels to take in what was surely going to be an Oklahoma blow out. Until it wasn't. Despite lacking a real rooting interest (besides the obvious), I just about had tears in my eyes after the Statue of Liberty play. Just a reminder, too, that Bob Stoops just got an extension to 2020 because reasons.
3. December 7th, 1996 - Texas vs #3 Nebraska, W 37-27
As mentioned, I grew up in a foreign land (sports-wise). This was the first ever Big XII championship game, Texas wasn't even supposed to be there (hello, John Mackovic), and Nebraska was the two time defending national champions. It was also the occasion of my first ever piano recital (I was but a very small version of myself). En route to the recital, we witnessed a violence car wreck that happened to the vehicle immediately in front of us. The nerves weren't related to a post-traumatic fear of the dangers of driving or anything of that like, however, nor one related to performing in front of a large group of people, but that I would miss kickoff for this game. I played the theme to Jurassic Park (with only a few errors), and got to the reception, where the game was being shown. I argued with a bunch of people 20-30 years my senior, and James Brown hit rolled left on fourth-and-inches to find Derek Lewis. As I'd jumped ship prior to the Vince Young-era, it's indelibly the thing I'll remember most from my time aligning myself with Longhorn fandom.
2. November 18, 2006 - Ohio State vs #2 Michigan, W 42-39
My only regret about this one was not storming the field. I held back, because of some ridiculous college aged arrogant pretense to act like I'd been there before, and I wanted to make sure I didn't jinx the national title game. About that... I've never been more nervous about a football game in my life, but settled into a bizarre numbness by the end of the first quarter. Another instance in which no amount of alcohol would yield any effect (I had but two pregame beers anyways and barely slept the night before). I watched the game on DVR about four times in its entirety at my parent's house the winter break there after...and still watch it every time it's re-aired.
1. September 1, 2007 - Appalachian State vs #5 Michigan, 34-32
I like Michigan fans. Almost every grad I've ever met in person has been, by and large, not just good people, but outstanding people. It's a great school academically, a storied athletic program, and a worthy adversary. And I say this (which of course no one will believe), but this game was bigger than any rivalry (even THE Rivalry) and is one I suspect would be indelibly burned into my brain, even had it been, say, #5 Florida. The Wolverines were legitimate national title contenders, returning virtually everyone and led by a former national champion head coach. Appalachian State, for all their FCS prowess, was still from the lower division.
This was also the Big Ten Network's maiden voyage. Ohio State-Youngstown State was airing concurrently on one of the overflow channels, and because no one in the state of Texas had BTN, I was at Sam's Boat with the Ohio State Alumni taking it in (unrelated but related, please vacate "Bikini's", y'all; worst college football viewing experience I've ever had – and I gave it multiple chances, each worse than the last). I happened to be sitting in one of the few parts of the restaurant/bar that also had the App State game on, and as we've touched on prior
, it was thoroughly engaging, even from the get go.
I've never nearly had a panic attack during a football game, but during that final sequence, my pulse was over 125 BPM, my palms were sweaty, and I probably resembled a ghost in my complexion. In the aftermath, I probably have never worked my phone harder texting/calling even people that couldn't have cared less. And while it having been Michigan, in a sense, only made it that much sweeter, in all honesty, that seemed completely immaterial at the time. It was Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson in football form, and it was everything I wanted (and knew at my core) college football could be.