Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: What is your least favorite Big Ten road venue for Ohio State to play in?
Ohio State hits the road to take on Purdue this weekend, and if you know anything about Buckeye football (especially in or during the 21st century) then you may have just winced in discomfort. I don’t want to spill the beans or give the entire backstory on West Lafayette (IN), but let’s just say that it has not always been kind to OSU... Great windmill scene, though. It’s a beautiful drive if you ever find yourself in the mood for midwestern scenery.
**Above is quite possibly the most sarcastic comment I have ever made or written for LGHL.
The Buckeyes’ upcoming road trip got Gene and I thinking about away venues that Ohio State frequently visits — in particular, which ones we like and/or dislike. Originally, we were going to pick a venue and write about our personal favorite(s), but Gene is still a bit fired up after OSU’s first half on Saturday. So I leaned into the darkness and dislike with him. Thus, the inspiration for today’s edition of You’re Nuts: What is your least favorite place/venue in which the Scarlet and Gray play consistently?
As much as I love the occasional swerve or surprise, I am going to go ahead and pick the low hanging fruit here. My least favorite road venue is Ann Arbor, Michigan and of course Michigan Stadium AKA The Big House. I literally never look forward to the Buckeyes making this trip, Gene. Even more so – or less so, I guess? – now that Jim Harbaugh has his Wolverines playing at such a high level.
Ohio State had a nice two-decade run, dominating the world’s greatest rivalry from 2001-2019. But the pandemic sort of killed OSU’s momentum. And even then... Even when the Scarlet and Gray were busy winning 17 out of 19... Games that took place in Ann Arbor were not particularly enjoyable. At least for Buckeye fans with a beating heart in their chest(s). There were too many close calls, and both of TTUN’s wins during that span did obviously come in The Big House.
Going back even further, TTUN enjoyed their run of rivalry dominance throughout the 80s and 90s, when I was just a young pup. So some of my earliest football memories are of John Cooper and the Buckeyes getting their asses kicked up and down the field in Ann Arbor. Ohio State did not win a game in Michigan Stadium during his entire tenure. As a result, I got all the way to high school thinking OSU was not allowed to win up north!
Thankfully Jim Tressel came along, but there is at least one other reason that The Big House in Ann Arbor is my least favorite venue for the Buckeyes to visit. It is very personal and very painful.
I actually attended the 2003 rivalry game at Michigan Stadium, which Ohio State lost 35-21. Just my luck, right? Not only that, but I spent like $300 on scalped tickets – which was a fortune for a college freshman or sophomore, whatever I was – to do so. And we made the drive morning of. And we were hungover. Oh, and due to traffic near the stadium, I had to hold a steering wheel while my best friend ‘took care of business’ in a Gatorade bottle. So yeah, it was one of the worst football-related experiences of my entire life. Thanks for asking!
I realize that I am taking the easy route here, but often the most obvious answer is the correct one. Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor has been a (Big) house of horrors for OSU in the past. While the Scarlet and Gray have only lost once there since 2011, hideous scars remain. Here’s hoping the Buckeyes can get retribution in 2023 and take back the rivalry in that state and stadium up north.
It’s safe to say that no Ohio State fans enjoy when the Buckeyes have to make the trip to Ann Arbor. It was a much more fun time when TTUN was at its lowest and Buckeye Nation was filling Michigan Stadium with scarlet, but as Josh laid out above, the road games at Michigan are even worse now that Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines playing at a College Football Playoff level. There is perhaps no worse trip to have to make in recent memory than the one Ryan Day and his team will have to endure this season, as having to break a two-game losing streak to your biggest rival in their home stadium will be no easy feat.
I can go a number of different ways here, and I thought about picking this week’s opponent in Purdue to keep things topical. The last time the Buckeyes had to travel to West Lafayette, they were demolished 49-20. In fact, Ohio State has lost three of the last four meetings between the two teams when the game takes place at Purdue, dating all the way back to 2009. The strange part is that none of those Boilermaker teams were really all that good, with the 2018 group going 5-4, the 2011 team going 7-6 and the 2009 unit finishing 5-7.
Still, while it is strange that Purdue has found a way to upset Ohio State at home on multiple occasions, I don’t really know how much of that has to do with the actual crowd factor of the venue. The Boilermaker faithful are a rowdy bunch, don’t get me wrong, but Ross-Ade Stadium holds less than 60,000 people — the 12th-biggest stadium in the conference if you include the West Coast teams joining the fold in 2024. It’s definitely not a place you want to go, but I give credit more so to the ‘Spoilermakers’ playing up to the level of competition rather than the environment itself.
Instead, I’m going to pivot to the other venue that has produced a memorable upset of Ohio State in recent years, and that of course is Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium.
While Kinnick also isn’t near the top of the list in terms of size in the Big Ten, holding around 70,000 fans, the way the stadium is built puts the fans right on top of you. With the Hawkeyes laying ownership to one of the toughest places to play in all of college football, Iowa has played to a 33-10 record at home dating back to 2017 — a 77% win rate — with four wins over top-20 opponents in that stretch.
Of course, one of the biggest wins during that timespan was their 55-24 rout of a previously undefeated Ohio State team during that 2017 season. In 2019, the Hawkeyes welcomed a 9-0 Minnesota team that was ranked No. 7 in the country, and proceeded to upset the Golden Gophers 23-19. The 2021 team took down two ranked opponents at home, beating up on No. 17 Indiana 34-6 in the season opener and following it up later in the year by taking down No. 4 Penn State, 23-20. The proof is in the pudding here, and even when Iowa isn’t particularly one of the best teams in the country, the home field advantage at Kinnick Stadium is the real deal.
Ohio State has split the last four meetings between the two teams in Iowa City, defeating the Hawkeyes in 2010 and 2006, while the Hawkeyes own that big win in 2017 as well as a 33-7 blowout victory in 2004. The Buckeyes have not returned to Kinnick since that more recent loss, and does not play Iowa at all this season. The Hawkeyes will come to Columbus for the second-straight time in 2024, with Ryan Day’s group winning the last home matchup between the two schools 54-10, and Ohio State will finally return to Iowa City during the 2026 season.