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The best Ohio State football team of the last 2 decades tournament

We heard you, we seeded the best eight Ohio State football teams since 1996, and we plugged them into a simulator to figure out who makes it to our title game. Here is what we got.

"oh shit, the 1998 team comin'"
"oh shit, the 1998 team comin'"
Mike Ehrmann

Yesterday, we talked about how we would seed our eight-team Ohio State tournament. I listened to your responses in the comments, Facebook, and Twitter. We discussed it in our newsroom. Then, I made a few executive decisions, because I'm the boss. Finally, I came up with our seedings for the tournament. The bracket, in all of its glory, is below:


I figured I had to give the 2002 team the top seed, being the champions and all, even though there was some hefty skepticism that they were actually the best *team*. The 2005 Ohio State squad was regarded a little higher than I remembered it, but I went ahead and gave them the four seed, setting up a potentially dynamite first round matchup with the 2006 Ohio State squad. That may require some healthy stretches of our imagination, but work with me here.

The last team out? The record-setting 2013 Ohio State squad. The memories of back to back defensive breakdowns may have been too fresh in the minds of many fans (and our staff) to include them in the bracket, although I bet they will drop 60 points on somebody in the Ohio State football NIT. Really, when you look over an 18 year period, and you have at least eight teams better than a squad the caliber of 2013 Ohio damn, you've had a nice little run.

Okay, let's get to the games. All games are simulated as a neutral site, and at 70 degrees, no wind, no rain.

2002 Ohio State: 45, 2007 Ohio State: 40 (3OT)

The 2002 Ohio State team winning in overtime, thanks to a dramatic comeback, a series of clutch Mike Nugent field goals and a dominant running game performance? THIS IS TOTALLY AGAINST TYPE.



The 2002 squad only passed for 91 yards, was terrible on third down (4/17), turned the ball over, and gave up a 66-yard TD run to Chris Wells, and *still* won the game, because the 2002 Ohio State team was powered by black magic and voodoo. Just for funsies, I ran a few other simulations of the this game, and the 2002 team won by a score or less five times in a row.

2005 Ohio State: 39, 2006 Ohio State: 19

You'd think that a game between two teams that feature so many of the same players would be a little closer, but nope! The superior defense on the 2005 squad overwhelmed the 06ers, and this game would have been an even bigger blowout if 2005 Troy Smith hadn't thrown a pick six.


The 2005 Antonio Pittman had a much better day compared to his 2006 counterpart, rushing for 164 yards and two scores on 23 carries, compared to 84 yards on 23 carries. The 2006 team struggled to rush the ball in general (2.5 yards a carry, 91 yards total), forcing Troy Smith to try and do everything through the air. Also, Justin Zwick got five pass attempts for the 2006 squad, which is a pretty good indicator that something went drastically, wildly, amiss.

1998 Ohio State: 62, 2012 Ohio State: 37

I expected the 1998 team to both win and score a lot of points, given the lack of linebacker depth on the 2012 squad, but I didn't anticipate this amount of scoring, on either side. The game was kinda close in the beginning, but then Joe Germaine and company really turned on the jets to pull away.


The 2012 edition certainly tried to follow their #RollHyde blueprint, and they had some success, but they just had no answer for the 1998 Buckeye offense, giving up nearly 600 total yards.


When one QB completes nine different passes for more than 20 yards, and gets 164 yards from his running back, that's going to be pretty tough to stop. Braxton Miller, on the other hand, didn't do much throwing the football. C.J. Barnett and Orhian Johnson each grabbed picks, so they have that going for them, which is nice.

1996 Ohio State: 26, 2010 Ohio State: 10

Bit of a sloppy game here, as the teams combine to toss five interceptions, and both averaged under three yards a carry running the ball.


Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine split QB duties for the 1996 team, but a 69 yard bomb from Jackson to Buster Tillman before halftime broke the game open, and the 2010 Buckeyes were unable to establish a rhythm on offense to counter.

This game also featured a combined *five* missed field goals, and Josh Jackson, the 1996 kicker, missed an extra point, too. When I ran a few other simulations, Jackson often missed an extra point as well. I was only nine years old when this team was playing, but did Ohio State's kicker suck that bad back then? Jim Tressel would have absolutely lost his mind of this sort of weak sauce special teams.

So that's your first round, pretty much all chalk. Now, to the semifinals:

2005 Ohio State: 40, 2002 Ohio State: 13

So...This is a little unexpected.

The luck, moxie, and voodoo magic of the 2002 squad running out? Well, that isn't so shocking. That they would get their asses completely kicked? That's a little more shocking.


Nothing the 2002 Buckeyes did seemed to work well. They only had 14 first downs, compared to 25 from 2005, and the 2002 squad could only get two of those first downs on the ground. They rushed for under 3.5 yards a carry. They fumbled twice, and Craig Krenzel threw a pick.

Perhaps a little more surprising, was that they gave up a lot of big plays on defense. Santonio Holmes had three catches of more than 20 yards. Ted Ginn had two. Antonio Pittman had a 23 yard touchdown run, and picked up the game's MVP award. If not for Clarett busting out a 76 yard touchdown run late in the 4th quarter, the 2002 team would have been kept out of the end zone entirely.

1998 Ohio State: 34, 1996 Ohio State: 10

I simulated this game 10 times, and the 1996 team only one once. The lost by double digits eight other times, and most of those losses were similar to this one.


The 1996 was totally unable to establish a running game (34 carries, 2.5 yards a carry), and was only 4-16 on third down. John Lumkpin caught two TDs in the red zone for the 1998 team, and Michael Wiley went nuts, dropping 200 yards and two scores. Also, 1998 Joe Germaine? Better than the 1996 Joe Germaine.

Also, Josh Jackson missed another field goal. Wamp, wamp.

So those are your first two rounds. Tomorrow, we'll dig deep into the championship game. Who do you got? Did anything completely surprise you?