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Ohio State’s football and basketball history with new Big Ten members UCLA and USC

The Buckeyes will soon have a couple new conference members they’ll be squaring off against, but Ohio State has some storied history with the Bruins and Trojans.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 Cotton Bowl Classic - USC v Ohio St Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

11 months after the SEC shocked college athletics when it was revealed that Texas and Oklahoma intended to join the conference starting in 2025, the Big Ten fired back by adding USC and UCLA, with the Trojans and Bruins poised to join the conference in 2024. It’s likely that the Big Ten isn’t done adding teams either, as Oregon, Washington, and a number of other schools will likely want to follow the Pac-12’s marquee schools to the Big Ten.

Even though around 2,200 miles separate Columbus and Los Angeles, the Buckeyes do have history with both USC and UCLA on the gridiron, as well as on the hardwood. Ohio State has had some memorable football battles with the Trojans over the years, especially back in the 1970s and 80s when the schools met a number of times in the Rose Bowl.

While UCLA and the Buckeyes don’t have quite as storied of a football history as Ohio State has with USC, the Bruins and Buckeyes have met more on the basketball court, especially recently with both teams being a part of the annual CBS Sports Classic. The teams almost met back in the title game of the NCAA Tournament in 2007, but Florida beat UCLA in the Final Four to erase any chance of that meeting taking place.

Ohio State-USC football history

USC holds a 13-10-1 lead in the series, but Ohio State has a win in the most recent matchup between the schools, which came in the 2017 Cotton Bowl. The 24-7 win by the Buckeyes in Dallas snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Trojans. While the Trojans and Buckeyes have met seven times in bowl games over the years, the Cotton Bowl was the first time the programs met in a bowl that wasn’t the Rose Bowl. USC is now 4-3 against Ohio State in bowl games.

The first meeting between the schools came in 1937 in Los Angeles, with USC narrowly defeating Ohio State, 13-12. The Trojans would win 14-7 the next year in Columbus before the Buckeyes earned their first win in the series in 1941, shutting out USC 33-0 in Los Angeles. The victory would mark the first of three-straight wins by Ohio State over the Trojans. The one tie in the series came in 1949, with the two teams battling to a 13-13 stalemate at USC.

Prior to the 2017 Cotton Bowl, Ohio State and USC held a home-and-home series in 2008 and 2009, which are likely two games that Buckeye fans want to forget. The 2008 contest was held in Los Angeles, and after Ohio State opened up the scoring with a field goal, USC would do the rest of the scoring in the game, beating up on the Buckeyes 35-3.

Even though Ohio State lost, the game was significant because it essentially was the end of Todd Boeckman as starting quarterback. Boeckman would only appear in five more games as a Buckeye quarterback, throwing more than 10 passes in just one of those games, while it would be the last time we would see Terrelle Pryor attempt less than 10 passes in a game during his Ohio State career.

The following season would see Ohio State fail to extract some revenge in Columbus, falling to the Trojans, 18-15. The Buckeyes did hold a lead late into the fourth quarter before a Stefon Johnson touchdown with just over a minute to go would secure a seventh consecutive win by USC over Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 4-4 all-time against the Trojans in Columbus.

For a while, Ohio State and USC had a habit of playing each other every five years in the Rose Bowl. The two schools met in 1975, 1980, and 1985 in Pasadena, with USC winning all three of those meetings. Even though the Trojans came out on top in those three contests, they all were by the thinnest of margins, with USC winning those three games by a combined five points.

Ohio State has to be kicking themselves for not being able to pull out at least one of those Rose Bowls against the Trojans. In 1985, Ohio State made the score 20-17 with 7:34 left in the fourth quarter after a Mike Tomczak touchdown pass to Cris Carter, but the Buckeyes weren’t able to get any closer. In both 1975 and 1980, USC was able to earn one-point victories by scoring with under two minutes left. The 1980 loss especially smarts, since Charles White rushed for 252 yards for the Trojans, and the Buckeyes still almost pulled out the win.

1969 Rose Bowl - USC Trojans v Ohio St. Buckeyes Photo by James Flores/Getty Images

At least Ohio State won the 1969 Rose Bowl, 27-16. Things didn’t look so hot for the Buckeyes early on, as USC jumped out to a 10-0 lead before Ohio State ran off 27 straight points. The win secured an undefeated season for the Buckeyes, which resulted in the fifth national title in school history. The Buckeyes were able to withstand the 171 yards O.J. Simpson rushed for, churning up 260 yards rushing of their own on the ground.

Ohio State-UCLA football history

The Buckeyes and Bruins have only met nine times on the football field over the years, with the series deadlocked at 4-4-1. One interesting trend in the series is neither team has won two games in a row against the other. There has been one bowl game played between the schools, with UCLA winning the 1976 Rose Bowl 23-10 on their homefield.

One of the ugliest games played by Ohio State came back in 2001 in the most recent matchup with the Bruins. UCLA beat the Buckeyes 13-6 in Pasadena, with Ohio State’s only touchdown coming from a blocked punt. The contest was Jim Tressel’s second game as head coach of the Buckeyes, and it was quite obvious that there was still plenty of work to do on offense, as Ohio State recorded just eight first downs. Steve Bellisari was awful in the game, completing just five of 23 passes for 45 yards.

Ohio State v UCLA

At least Bellisari was better two years prior when the teams met in Columbus, throwing for 159 yards and two touchdowns to Ken-Yon Rambo. Michael Wiley added 119 yards rushing and two touchdowns, as the Buckeyes scored 21 points in the second quarter after UCLA jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Ohio State would go on to win 42-20 in the first game between the schools since a 10-10 tie in 1976.

Ohio State-UCLA basketball history

The Buckeyes and Bruins are a little more familiar with each other on the hardwood, meeting nine times, with UCLA holding a 6-3 edge. Since both schools are part of the CBS Sports Classic they have become familiar with each other lately, meeting three times since 2016, with Ohio State winning two of those games. The most recent battle came in Cleveland in 2020, with the Buckeyes winning in their home state, 77-70.

The most impressive performance by Ohio State recently against UCLA came in 2018 in Chicago. The Buckeyes beat the Bruins 80-66 thanks to 22 points from C.J. Jackson, 15 points and 12 rebounds from Kaleb Wesson, and 10 assists from Keyshawn Woods. The 10 dimes from Woods would be the only time during the 2018-19 season that a Buckeye would hit double figures in assists.

Ohio State University vs University of California Los Angeles Set Number: X162387 TK1

UCLA would win the first meeting between the schools in the CBS Sports Classic 86-73 in Las Vegas in 2016. The Bruins entered the contest as the second-ranked team in the country. Lonzo Ball was a part of that year’s UCLA team that would finish the year at 31-5, losing to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. The meeting was the first between the Buckeyes and Bruins since 1980, when UCLA defeated Ohio State 72-68 in the West Semifinal of the NCAA Tournament, which would be the only time the schools have squared off in the tournament.

Before their tournament meeting, the Buckeyes and Bruins had a stretch where in their four previous matchups one of the teams was the top-ranked team in the country. In 1965, 1968, and 1971 UCLA was the best team in the country at the time of the contests, while in 1961 Ohio State was the No. 1 ranked squad. It wasn’t like the Buckeyes were chopped liver in those battles when UCLA was ranked first in the country, as Ohio State was the sixth-ranked team in 1971, and in 1968 the Buckeyes were ranked 13th.

The only one of those games that Ohio State won was the 1961 contest, as the Buckeyes held onto their top ranking with a 105-84 win. Jerry Lucas was huge in the game for the Buckeyes, scoring 30 points and grabbing 30 rebounds. The rebounding total is the second-most in a single game in school history, tying the mark that he hit on two other occasions, and sitting two behind Frank Howard’s 32 rebounds against BYU in the 1956-57 season.

Ohio State-USC basketball history

Just after Ohio State would beat UCLA in Los Angeles in 1961, they took on USC, beating the Trojans 76-66. Lucas would have another monster game, scoring 38 points and recording 15 rebounds. John Havlicek would also notch a double-double, scoring 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. The victory would be the first Buckeye win over USC, who had taken the first matchup between the schools in 1957, 87-71.

Since then, USC and Ohio State have met four other times, with the schools splitting those matchups as well. The last contest between the teams came in 1997, with Michael Redd’s 30 points powering Ohio State to a 79-73 win over USC in Columbus. The Trojans won the previous meeting the year before, 79-68.

Ohio State University Jim Jackson Set Number: X42294

The other two games between the Buckeyes and Trojans were held in 1991 and 1992. Harold Miner scored 31 points for USC in the 79-77 win in overtime, outlasting Jim Jackson, who scored 28 points in the loss. Ohio State came out firing in 1992, heading into halftime with a 46-19 lead over the Trojans in a game that would finish as a 73-56 Buckeye victory.