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Broken Records: The 1973 Ohio State defensive records

The 1973 team established defensive dominance.

NCAA Football: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about records, the ones that have been broken, the ones that could be broken, and the ones that will never be broken. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Broken Records” articles here.

A quick moment of confession for this article: when I began contemplating Ohio State records that could not be broken, I was wondering how to approach this topic. After all, during the Urban Meyer and Ryan Day eras alone, Ohio State offensive records have been seemingly falling by the wayside. And my colleague Michael Citro (@Mike36fan) had established a good topic related to Archie Griffin’s seemingly untouchable rushing record.

As I perused the Ohio State football record book, I began to notice various different defensive records, and the year 1973 appears prominently near or at the top of many defensive categories. Considering that we are rapidly approaching the 50th (!) anniversary of the 1973 team that went 10-0-1 and finished second in the country, I figured that this was as good a time as any to look at some of the standards established back in 1973.

  1. 91.2 passing yards allowed per game

Comparable to what Michael Citro wrote, this was a different era as it related to the passing game. College football was exceptionally oriented towards running the ball, and the low passing yardage allowed total reflects that mindset. Even so, for the Buckeyes to hold opposing offenses to under 100 yards passing per game is impressive. The Ohio State defenses that have faced more sophisticated passing attacks, such as the 1996, 2007, or 2019 defenses, gave up 150.2 (1996, 2007) and 156 (2019) yards per game through the air.

2. Three touchdown passes given up all season

Again, a different era, but I had to take a second look to make sure that I read that correctly. The 1986 and 1992 teams only gave up five touchdown passes over their respective seasons, but neither were in contention for a national championship like the 1973 team was until their fateful 10-10 tie at Michigan.

3. 5.8 points allowed per game

Another double take. The 1986 and 1996 teams impressively only gave up an average of 10.9 points per game, but that 5.8 points per game given up by the 1973 team was otherworldly by comparison.

Looking at the 1973 season results, Ohio State was able to pitch four shutouts (at Wisconsin 24-0, Northwestern 60-0, at Illinois 30-0, Michigan State 35-0), while also holding non-conference opponents TCU and Washington State to only field goals (Ohio State 37, TCU 3; Ohio State 27, Washington State 3). Ohio State only gave up a touchdown in their wins versus Minnesota (56-7) and at Indiana (37-7). The most points Ohio State gave up in their regular season schedule in 1973? 13, as Ohio State defeated Iowa 55-13.

Ohio State tied Michigan 10-10 and were selected for the 1974 Rose Bowl, where the Buckeyes defeated USC 42-21. The 21 points were the most given up by Ohio State for the 1973 season. For all of the angst Ohio State fans of this era have about missed national championships (2019, 2022), that 10-10 tie has to be up there for the fans of that 1973 team.

The 1974 NFL Draft resulted in three Ohio State linebackers being selected, among the eight Buckeyes in total picked by NFL teams. Rick Middleton (13th) and Randy Gradishar (14th) were selected in the first round by New Orleans and Denver, respectively, while Vic Koegel was selected in the 12lfth round by Atlanta as the 304th selection. It reminded me of the 2006 NFL Draft, when the Buckeyes saw A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter picked in the first round (Hawk by Green Bay 5th overall; Carpenter by Dallas 18th overall), while Anthony Schlegel was a third round selection by the New York Jets (76th overall selection).

Ohio State fans are eagerly hoping and looking forward to defensive improvements by the Buckeyes for the 2023 season. In the theme of records that will not be broken, let us not burden this year’s team with comparing them to some of the most dominant defensive records established by the Buckeyes back in 1973.