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Ohio State's tragic history vs. Alabama

No Buckeye team has ever beaten the Crimson Tide. Can the 2014 team break the cycle?

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The January 1 Sugar Bowl matchup with Alabama will be the fourth meeting of these two football programs, and the Buckeyes have yet to notch a win against the Crimson Tide.  They say those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, so get to know this sordid past in the hopes that Ohio State bucks the trend this year.

1.  January 2, 1978:  Sugar Bowl:  Alabama 35, Ohio State 6

The 1978 Sugar Bowl was a marquee matchup of #3 Alabama vs. #8 Ohio State.  The Crimson Tide were the SEC champions; Ohio State had finished second in the Big Ten to Michigan, co-champions with Michigan, who went to the Rose Bowl that year.  The game was the only matchup of famed coaches Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant.

Even Woody couldn't work his magic this year.  Alabama dominated the entire game:  by the fourth quarter, 'Bama held a 21-0 lead, and Ohio State's only points came at the end of a 13-minute possession on a touchdown pass followed by a failed two-point conversion.  Makes 41-14 look pretty good, doesn't it?

2.  August 27, 1986:  Alabama 16, Ohio State 10.

The Sugar Bowl rematch came 9 years later during the 1986 season opener, held at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.  Yes, once upon a time, SEC teams weren't afraid to play early season games in northern territory. Ohio State was coached by Earl Bruce and a brand new up-and-coming assistant coach named Urban Meyer.

All-Americans Cris Carter and Chris Spielman were on the Buckeye roster, but Alabama had future NFL-coach Mike Shula under center and All-American linebacker Cornelius Bennett prowling the secondary.

Alabama also had an emotional edge:  the team had also just suffered the death of a teammate the week before when tackle Willie Ryles collapsed during practice and later died of a blood clot in the brain.  The whole team went to straight from this game to Ryles's funeral.

Earl Bruce was on record as being displeased with the way his offense looked during summer practices, but he expected the defense to win the game.  True to form, Ohio State scored the lone first-half touchdown and took a 7-6 lead into halftime.  But the Buckeyes failed to capitalize on three Alabama turnovers in the second half and allowed Alabama to score 10 unanswered points.  With 1:02 left to play, the Buckeyes marched down the field, aided by two successive pass-interference calls on Alabama, but QB Jim Karsatos was unable to find WR Cris Carter in the end zone on the final play.  The Buckeyes came up just short.

3.  January 2, 1995:  Citrus Bowl:  Alabama 24, Ohio State 17.

The most recent matchup of these two teams was at the CompUSA (yeah, remember them?) Citrus Bowl.  Alabama's only loss entering the game was in the SEC Championship game to Florida.  Ohio State's season was up and down:  losses to Washington, Penn State and Illinois, but a meaningful win over Michigan, who had beaten the Buckeyes in the each of the previous seven seasons.

The Crimson Tide and Buckeyes fought  back and forth all game, were locked at 14 each at halftime and were knotted at 17-all after three quarters.  Joey Galloway and Bobby Hoying connected for two touchdowns during the game, including a 1-play, 69-yard scoring drive early in the second quarter.

As time wore down Alabama RB Sherman Williams gathered in a 50-yard reception for a touchdown with 42 second remaining.  Ohio State would come up just short again.

Also of note:  a stray dog somehow ended up on the field, delaying play for several minutes.  Ah, the South.

The good news is that except for the 1977 drubbing, Ohio State's been in every game to the end.  We can also take heart in the fact that although Ohio State has never beaten Alabama, Urban Meyer has.

En route to their 2008 National Championship, the Meyer's Florida Gators beat Alabama in the SEC Championship, 31-24.  We'll see if Urban Meyer can do what Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce and John Cooper all couldn't - BEAT 'BAMA!