One of the most interesting and unique things about college football is the importance placed upon the games played during the regular season. It's pretty simple; if you want to make it to one of the upper-level bowl games, you'll have to win the vast majority of your regular season schedule. On the surface, it may not seem to hard to accomplish, but a big reason why is the amount of success Ohio State has had the past decade. It's an extremely difficult task for any football team to finish a season undefeated or to have a streak of consecutive games won over the course of a couple of years.
The 2013 version of the Buckeyes is a team that is one game away from accomplishing an amazing feat. Dating back to the start of the 2012 season, Ohio State has won 23 consecutive games, which is the nation's longest current streak and the school record for most consecutive games won. With one game remaining, against arch-rival Michigan, it might be a good time to reflect on someone who knew something about streaks himself: Jim Tressel.
While Urban Meyer is the head coach at Ohio State now, the man before him brought some fire (or juice, if we're using coach Meyer's vocabulary) and pride back into the football program that had faltered against Michigan during the previous tenure. The record "2-10-1" will forever haunt Buckeye fans, but it's important to highlight what Tressel accomplished while at Ohio State in regards to The Game.
In 2001, Ohio State finished the year 7-5 with a loss in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina. The important part of this season was the upset of 11th-ranked Michigan (who was going for a Rose Bowl bid) in Ann Arbor, which upheld the famed promise that Coach Tressel had made 310 days previous. After a national championship season in 2002, where the Buckeyes would win over Michigan yet again, the 2003 campaign for the most part a success. The 2003 Michigan game would be the last time Jim Tressel lost to the Wolverines in his tenure at Ohio State.
Coach Tressel's biggest imprint on Ohio State history was in the form of a streak as well. Starting in the 2004 season, Tressel's Buckeyes rattled off seven straight victories over arch-rival Michigan (yes, I am counting the 2010 season. I saw it with my own two eyes) for the longest Ohio State win streak over Michigan in the entire series history. From this streak, the Buckeyes have edged closer since the turn of the decade to helping tie up the series record, which is still in favor of Michigan with 58-44-6. But since the 1919 season, the series record is 45-44-4 in a slight edge to the Wolverines, and you can attribute nine of those wins to Jim Tressel and his staff.
Some of the best memories and moments came from that streak, and consistently bring up fond images of players such as Troy Smith, Anthony Gonzalez , and Ted Ginn Jr. Whether it was the 2004 upset with Ginn racing past the Michigan punter, the 2005 game with "The Catch", or the 2006 "Game of the Century" featuring a No. 1 vs No. 2 match-up with a national championship on the line.
The 2007 version of The Game sent Ohio State to the national championship for a second straight year (although, that's more because of every team in front of the Buckeyes failing to win out) and gave Ohio State fans yet another reason to love running back Beanie Wells, who always seemed to come up with a big run against That Team Up North. 2008-2010 brought three more wins, all of which came in solid showings and two of them coming in blowout victories.
The 2011 season brought the 7-game win streak over Michigan to an end in a 40-34, but Luke Fickell was in as interim head coach after the TatGate incident forced Jim Tressel to resign. A freshman-aged Braxton Miller took over the reins at quarterback after the failed Joe Bauserman experiment. The Buckeyes finished the year 6-7 after a disappointing loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl, but made a hire that would begin a new streak.
While Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer continue the trend of success that Tressel helped revitalize, Buckeye fans should appreciate what they have right in front of them. A chance to go 24-0 and a game against a potential top 10 team in Michigan State at the Big Ten Championship, isn't something that comes along every other year. In fact, it's a historic season that the Buckeyes have set new highs and records in.
With the Michigan game just a few short days away, coach Meyer and Ohio State are looking to continue their consecutive game winning streak and, perhaps, the beginnings of another successful stint against their arch rivals.