This coming football season will start with something of a rarity for Ohio State. Instead of kicking off the year with the rest of the country on Saturday, the Buckeyes will start their title defense on Labor Day, under the lights, against Virginia Tech on a Monday night. Unlike other leagues like the ACC and the Pac-12, Ohio State and the Big Ten typically don't play conference games during the week, and the Buckeyes tussling during the regular season on anything other than a Saturday is unusual.
That's not to say it's never happened before. It used to occur more regularly, as the Buckeyes annually played on Thanksgiving Day to end their season. But this was back around the turn of last century, when Ohio State was blasting Kenyon and Oberlin, rather than Michigan, to finish the year.
Ohio State hasn't played in some non-Saturday games in somewhat recent memory too though, and a few of them have been particularly memorable.
Sept. 2, 2010 (Thursday): Ohio State 45, Marshall 7
So if you want to get technical, Ohio State's most recent non-Saturday regular season game was back in 1997, since this game was later vacated, but we saw it on TV, we know it happened, and the NCAA can't take that away from us.
On paper, maybe this wasn't especially memorable. 2010 was the first year for Marshall head coach (and former Urban Meyer assistant) Doc Holliday, and the Thundering Heard were a far cry from CUSA juggernaut they are now, or the Top 25 crashing teams of the early 2000s. Marshall went 5-7 that year and finished 90th in F/+ (Ohio State would finish fifth). The Buckeyes also had a hotly anticipated game with the Miami Hurricanes the following week, so fans could be forgiven for maybe not paying super close attention to this one.
But none of that is the point. Ohio State actually kicked the butt of a team they were supposed to crush, something that didn't always happen under Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes rushed for 280 yards, picked up 529 in total, and Terrelle Pryor was awesome, throwing three touchdowns and 247 yards with no interceptions. Brian Rolle had a pick six. Dane Sanzenbacher had a 65 yard bomb, with an impressive broken tackle. It was the fun start to what would be a fun year -- before all the very un-fun stuff started to happen. And it all started on a Thursday night.
Aug. 29, 1999 (Sunday): Miami (FL) 23, Ohio State 12
1999 was a weird year for the Big Ten. Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue were all not only pretty good, but they all finished ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes entered the season with high expectations and a preseason top ten ranking, but they eventually cratered all the way to 6-6, missing a bowl for the first time since 1988. Why did the Buckeyes struggle so badly? A terrible offense didn't help, as Ohio State started with Austin Moherman at quarterback, before finishing with Steve Bellesari, who failed to hit even a 50% completion percentage on the year.
Keeping it close against the Hurricanes at Giants Stadium actually turned out to be a bit of an accomplishment (the Hurricanes won nine games that season, and the Citrus Bowl). Moherman went 10-22 for only 107 yards and two picks, and the Buckeye secondary struggled. This was Ohio State's first season opening loss since 1986, and it foretold what would be an ugly (and mostly forgettable) year.
Aug. 29, 1997 (Thursday): Ohio State 24, Wyoming 10
It's kind of funny to look back at the Chicago Tribune lede here for this game, which seems aghast that a high profile team would take the money and TV exposure to play a night game on a Thursday:
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Of the many questions facing the defending Rose Bowl> champions as they opened the 1997 season, only these begged to be addressed immediately:
Why are the Ohio State Buckeyes playing football in August? On a Thursday? Under the lights?
Here's guessing it had something to do with the estimated $700,000 that the Buckeyes expected to reap for playing host to the third major, and misnamed, "classic" of the college football preseason.
The game itself, part of the BCA Classic, wasn't much to write home about. It was Ohio State's first non-sellout since 1991, and the Buckeyes struggled with sacks and penalties. Wyoming had won 10 games the season before under Joe Tiller, but he wasn't there in 1997, and the Cowboys finished just 7-6. Ohio State would go on to finish 10-3, losing to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the actual game was the breakout performance of Ohio State running back Michael Wiley, who ran for 124 yards on only 10 caries. Wiley and Pepe Pearson split the backfield duties that year, and if Twitter was around back then, probably would have complained all season about it.
Aug. 27, 1995 (Sunday): Ohio State 38, Boston College 6
Ohio State was back in Giants Stadium for a national Kickoff Classic game, and this one went much better. Bobby Hoying threw for 269 yards, Eddie George ran for 99 and accounted for 143 total yards (winning the game's MVP), and the Buckeyes crushed a Boston College team that entered the game ranked in the Top 25. George, of course, would go on to have a monster year, rushing for 1,927 yards, and Terry Glenn would put up crazy receiving stats, grabbing 1,411 yards himself.
The Eagles fell apart after that game (finishing 4-8), while the Buckeyes marched all the way to the No. 2 ranking, before losing back-to-back games against Michigan and Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.
Aug. 27, 1986 (Sunday): Alabama 16, Ohio State 10
The first of the Giants Stadium Kickoff games, Ohio State blew a lead in the fourth quarter, continuing a troubling history against the Crimson Tide, until, you know, last season. Both teams struggled mightily to move the ball (Ohio State didn't have a player rush for 40 yards in the game, and Alabama had less than 100 yards passing), and despite the heroics of Ohio State's Chris Spielman, the Buckeyes were unable to take advantage of multiple Alabama turnovers and couldn't find Cris Carter in the endzone at the end of the game. The Tide scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to sneak away with the win.
The Buckeyes will be favored pretty heavily against Virginia Tech this year. Here's hoping it's more like a Boston College type game, and not Miami.