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A scientific analysis: buckeyes vs. horned frogs

Sorry TCU fans, can’t argue with science.

Brutus: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images | SuperFrog: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

You know what? We’ve gotten spoiled during the first two weeks of the season, as the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes have started their games at noon and 3:30 p.m. ET. However, with the first primetime game of the season comes the inevitable anxious boredom that comes with watching horrendous football like Rutgers vs. Kansas and Syracuse vs. Florida State. We are forced to suffer through the slog of nearly unwatchable games just to finally arrive at moment when Buckeye Nation can revel in the greatness that is Ohio State football.

So, since we had extra time to kill today, I decided to take a scientific look at two of the more unusual mascots in college sports; the buckeye and the horned frog. So, with all due respect to Nick Bakay, let’s look at the “Tale of the Tape.”


The Ohio buckeye, also known as the American buckeye or the fetid buckeye, is a small rounded nut with a deep chestnut brown shell and a lighter brown circle on the underside. The darker shell has a beautiful, polished sheen that makes it almost reflect the wonder and beauty of the world around it. It is not difficult to imagine a world in which the buckeye, instead of being the symbol of a state, had been chosen as the currency of our new nation. Perhaps had our Founding Fathers decided to base the United States’ economic system on the buckeye standard, rather than the gold standard, our current financial climate would be better for it.

The Texas Horned lizard, colloquially known as the Texas horned frog, has an ugly, blunt, pointed head, and two beady, black eyes on the sides of its face. Its body is covered with small spikes, and the horns on its head are boney extensions of its skull. It’s dirty brown exterior is used as camouflage in the sandy terrain of Texas and the Southwest.

Advantage: OSU


In its peanut butter and chocolate form, I contend that there is no better bite-sized confection than the buckeye. However, the delicious candy is not Ohio State’s mascot... unfortunately. Instead, the mascot is a poisonous nut that contains tannic acid. While not likely to be deadly in small doses to humans, still probably not a good idea to consume anything containing actual buckeye nuts as an ingredient.

Technically, the Texas horned frog is not a frog, it is a lizard, so it doesn’t benefit from the delicacy status of actual frogs. In the wild, these lizards have the ability to squirt a stream of blood from their eyes that contains a foul-tasting chemical that confuses and repulses predators. While humans would be eating this cold-blooded animal cooked, I’d rather not risk consuming anything that secretes blood from its eyes.

Advantage: Push


As stated before, a buckeye is a poisonous nut. However, other than that, it is an inanimate object. The only way that it can affect someone is if the individual actively eats the nut or its byproducts. Although, come to think of it, if you are sitting under a buckeye tree, and one of the nuts— in its spiny, fleshy shell— falls, it could be painful if it hits square on the head; think Isaac Newton and the apple. And, as all football fans know, head injuries are especially dangerous.

Though the Texas horned lizard looks fierce, it is extremely docile. In this case, it’s face is more potent than its bite, because it mostly only feeds on small bugs. Therefore it poses little to no threat to humans. Because it is unable to produce vitamin D, the creature spends most of its time sunbathing and eating harvester ants. Ah, the privileged life.

Advantage: OSU


For generations, buckeyes have been kept as good luck charms by Ohioans, but superstition doesn’t rise to the level religious fervor. Neither does the fact that I’ve been known to say “From your mouth to Woody (Hayes)’s ears” in situations where I need a little bit of extra blessing.

And while my grandmother did have a buckeye rosary, the tiny nuts were more decorative, and did not technically add to the fundamental Catholic theology of the series of prayers.

However, many Native American peoples consider the horned lizard to be sacred, and it can be found throughout Native American art in the Southwestern United States and Mexico. I figure, we took their land from them, so the least that we can do is respect their religions.

Advantage: TCU


The Aesculus glabra is primarily native to the Midwest and lower Great Plains, but can be found in southern Ontario, in parts of the Nashville Basin, and in large, but isolated, parts of Mississippi. Therefore, the Ohio buckeye— not to be confused with the 15 other worldwide varieties of buckeyes— has a sprawling reach that covers a large part of the continental United States.

Unfortunately, the Phrynosoma cornutum has been named a protected species following a 30 percent decline in population. This dip is believed to have been due to the rise of certain pesticides in the region, and the nonnative, highly aggressive and territorial red imported fire ants.

Also, while they all look the same, there is believed to be countless subspecies of the lizard throughout Texas. Because of that, it is not known how many of these subspecies are able to survive outside of their natural habitat, or if they are able to reproduce across subspecies longterm, or if the cross-breeding could lead to substantive declines in population.

Advantage: OSU

So there you have it, everybody. This completely unbiased, academic analysis of tonight’s matchup is definitive: buckeyes are better than horned frogs lizards. Therefore, it would behoove you to take Ohio State in tonight’s game.

The No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes will take on the No. 15 TCU Horned Frogs tonight at 8 p.m. ET from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game will be broadcast on ABC.