Picture the moment. You're the coach at UNLV. And the athletic director tells you she just made a deal. The best deal. Your program is now set to earn $1.3 million guaranteed for a single game. One game. You, being the smart coach that you are, understand that that is the largest single payout for a game in UNLV's near five decades of football. Nice. The catch — you're headed to the Horseshoe.
Now, three years later, the game is here — and UNLV sits before the executioner as a 40-point underdog. No one gives the Rebels a chance. Should they? History says no.
The Mountain West has been playing tackle football since 1999. And Ohio State has made decisive work of near every team it has faced among the current roster of Mountain West programs, notching a 9-1 record (including a perfect 5-0 record since 1999). Here is that short (and bloody) history.
Air Force (Air Force Leads Series 1-0)
If you're a 17-point underdog playing Ohio State, when would you have the best odds of pulling off an upset? Well, if you ran into John Cooper in a bowl game — you had as good of a shot as anyone. The Falcons did just that in a 23-11 upset win in the 1990 Liberty Bowl, running the ball for 254 yards, while bottling up OSU's Robert Smith. The win by the Falcons, who were then in the WAC, was Cooper's second straight bowl loss. He would finish with a 3-8 bowl record as Buckeye head coach (a mark outshined only in notoriety by a dreadful 2-10-1 record against Michigan).
Fresno State (Ohio State Leads Series: 2-0)
Ohio State first met Fresno State in the 1994 Pigskin Classic in Anaheim. It was there that Eddie George and Joey Galloway each accounted for two scores, as the Buckeyes rolled to a 34-10 victory to open the season. OSU again opened on a winning note against the Bulldogs in 2000. Under a Michael Doss led defense, the Buckeyes scored a school record four defensive touchdowns in route to a 43-10 victory.
Hawaii (Ohio State Leads Series: 1-0)
Ezekiel Elliott ran for a regular season high three touchdowns as the Buckeyes blanked the Rainbow Warriors 38-0 in 2015.
San Diego State (Ohio State Leads Series: 4-0)
The Mountain West team that has met Ohio State the most, has suffered the worst. Jim Tressel took down the Aztecs three times, and Urban Meyer added another victory for good measure. In the 2013 matchup, the Buckeyes walked out with a 42-7 victory as backup quarterback Kenny Guiton stepped in after Braxton Miller went down with a knee injury. Guiton would pass for two touchdowns against the Aztecs and go on to pass for another 10 during the next two games with Miller out. No stranger to stepping up when it counted, Guiton set a school record for the most passing touchdowns in a single game against Florida A&M (he passed for all six in the first half).
San Jose State (Ohio State Leads Series: 1-0)
Taking a rare break from the Big 10 schedule in mid-October, running back Maurice Clarett and quarterback Craig Krenzel each racked up three touchdowns downing San Jose State 50-7. With the victory, the eventual National Champion Buckeyes improved to 7-0.
Wyoming (Ohio State Leads Series 1-0)
The defending Rose Bowl champion Buckeyes defeated Wyoming 24-10 in the season-opening Eddie Robinson Classic in 1997. The first non-sellout in six years in The ‘Shoe saw Stanley Jackson dazzle, Joe Germaine struggle and sophomore tailback Michael Wiley outshine senior Pepe Pearson.