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A look back at the history of Ohio State football season openers since 1890

The Buckeyes have been winning most of their openers since fans were tailgating on horse and buggies

Aramis Dandoy Running with the Football
The Ohio State University

It’s May 3rd, 1890. Ohio State students and fans are awake before the sun, preparing their horse and buggies for their 20-mile journey along the Olentangy River from Columbus to Delaware. Because in just a few hours, at 9:30 a.m. sharp, Ohio State will be playing its very first ever football game against Ohio Wesleyan University.

In OSU fashion, Ohio State left OWU victorious after beating the Battling Bishops 20-14.

Now, the football wasn’t exactly a football (it was round), players didn’t wear pads, forward passes weren’t allowed, and well — let’s face it — it was more like Rugby than anything else.

Nonetheless, a victory is still a victory, and the Ohio State football team (they wouldn’t officially become the Buckeyes until 1950) has been winning most of their season openers ever since.


Notable facts about the history of Ohio State’s season openers

To this day, Ohio State’s record in season openers is 112-12-4.

After their first win in 1890, the Ohio State struggled to start its seasons with a W, losing all of their first games from 1891-1894. But, that all changed in 1895, when Ohio State beat Buchtel 14-6 in their home opener. From then, they were on a roll. They wouldn’t lose another opening game until 1943, outscoring their opponents 1,330-68 from 1895 to 1942.

The team’s success (and first conference championships in 1916 and 1917) led to an increase in ticket demands. Thus, Ohio Stadium was born with an initial seating capacity of approximately 63,000. The Buckeyes’ first game — and first win — in Ohio Stadium was on October 7th, 1922 against Ohio Wesleyan. Prior to Ohio Stadium, Ohio State’s home turf was Ohio Field, which seated up to 14,000.

The Buckeyes lost another season opener in 1950 under head coach Wes Fesler. After that, Ohio State would be led by a slew of coaches who would rarely, if at all, lose season openers during their respective careers.

First, in 1951, the man, the myth, THE™ Woody Hayes was hired as head coach. During his 28 seasons — with the help of players like Archie Griffin, Chris Spielman, and Cris Carter — Hayes went 23-4-1 in season openers and won five national championships. He lost 19-0 in his last home opener against Penn State in 1978 — the year in which he would later be fired for punching Clemson defender Charlie Bauman.

Earl Bruce, another Buckeye great, was hired as head coach in 1979. Succeeding Hayes is no easy task, but Bruce delivered, winning all but one of his nine season openers and bringing home four Big Ten Conference titles.

From 1988-2000, the Buckeyes were led by head coach John Cooper. While Cooper didn’t produce many positive memories for Buckeye fans at the ends of seasons, he did have some legendary players on his rosters — Orlando Pace, Eddie George, Mike Vrabel, and Luke Fickell, to name a few. Cooper & Co. went 12-1 in season openers — his one loss came at the hands of the No. 12 Miami Hurricanes in 1999.

Since that loss, Ohio State has won every season opener to this day. As head coach from 2001-2010, Jim Tressel went 10-0 in openers (9-0 if you follow directions and exclude the 2010 vacated year). Fickell won his home opener in 2011 as interim head coach, and Urban Meyer won all six of his (the seventh of his career was won by interim head coach Ryan Day.)

Finally, Ohio State kicks off on Saturday, Aug. 31st at 12 noon ET, and are listed as a 27.5 favorite against the Florida Atlantic Owls. It’s been 130 seasons since that first 1890 victory in Delaware, and Ryan Day’s Buckeyes are just a few hours away from (more than likely) adding another “W” to their long list of season opener victories.