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Ohio State basically never loses to Iowa, but that’s true for half of the Big Ten

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The Buckeyes have dominated the Hawkeyes for the last two decades, but they’re not the only ones.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of Ohio State’s battle with Iowa tomorrow, I tried to think of times the Hawkeyes had managed to upset the Buckeyes in recent memory. But outside of the 2004 drubbing that brought in the Troy Smith era (33-7, Iowa), I couldn’t think of any. I had to double check the record books.

I couldn’t think of any because there haven’t been any. Despite a few close games in recent memory, Iowa has beaten Ohio State exactly once over the last 20 years. Since 1997, the Hawkeyes are 1-10 against the Buckeyes. There are a few more wins in the very early 1990s and late 1980s, but I was born in 1987. I don’t remember any of those, or really, any college football game before say, 1996.

That’s a pretty impressive run, especially since Iowa has had plenty of good squads over the last 20 years. It also got me thinking...since it’s hard to remember big, say, Minnesota, or even Illinois, wins over the Buckeyes.

So I looked everything up. Here’s everyone in the Big Ten’s record against Ohio State over the last 20 years.

Here’s everyone’s record against Ohio State

Team W/L Record since 1997 Last Win
Team W/L Record since 1997 Last Win
Wisconsin 5-10 2010
Iowa 1-10 2004
Minnesota 1-13 2000
Northwestern 1-11 2004
Nebraska 1-3 2011
Illinois 3-14 2007
Purdue 4-9 2011
Penn State 7-14 2016
Michigan State 5-11 2015
Michigan 5-15 2011
Indiana 0-17 1988
Maryland 0-4 never
Rutgers 0-4 never

A few things here to unpack:

  • Ohio State is 70-16 against current Big Ten West opposition over the last 20 years. That’s a pretty good mark, but honestly, I think I expected a little bit better. Purdue’s toughness during the Tressel years kept the margin a little more respectable.
  • The team to beat Ohio State the most in my fanhood lifetime isn’t Michigan or Wisconsin. It’s Penn State. While no conference team will ever surpass Michigan as a chief rival, recruiting nemesis or emotional equal, on the field, it’s the Nittany Lions that have been the biggest problem. This feels weird to even type, but it’s true!
  • HALF OF THE BIG TEN has beaten the Buckeyes just once, or less, in the last twenty years (Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland). That is BONKERS.
  • This twenty year mark does include a few clunkers, like the 2011 season (6-7), 1999 (6-6), and a three year run from 1999-2001 where Ohio State didn’t win more than eight games in a season. But if you assume the Buckeyes are going to hit double digit wins this year, they’ve won at least 10 games a season in 15 of the last 20 years. That’s a remarkable run of consistency, considering that’s under Cooper, Tressel, Fick and Meyer. Very few programs in the country have been that good, for that long.

What does this mean for Saturday? Not a ton. Iowa’s got a very good defense, has a record of playing top teams tough at home, and could very well upset the Buckeyes if they play poorly.

But history shows those kinds of perfect storms don’t happen very often. Ohio State has better players than almost everybody else in the Big Ten. They win the vast majority of their Big Ten games. And against a good half the league, they might go decades between losses.

I’m 30 years old and I have no memory of any time Indiana beat Ohio State in football. There are fans today that have no memory of when Minnesota did it. And there are already some out there that don’t remember the last time Iowa won either.

We’ll see how long this continues. But for now, it’s worth at least recognizing and appreciating. This level of consistent dominance is hard to do.

OSU is kicking everyone’s butt

Team W/L Record since 1997 Last Win
Team W/L Record since 1997 Last Win
Wisconsin 5-10 2010
Iowa 1-10 2004
Minnesota 1-13 2000
Northwestern 1-11 2004
Nebraska 1-3 2011
Illinois 3-14 2007
Purdue 4-9 2011
Penn State 7-14 2016
Michigan State 5-11 2015
Michigan 5-15 2011
Indiana 0-17 1988
Maryland 0-4 never
Rutgers 0-4 never