President John F. Kennedy once stated that "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.". Fortunately for Ohio State fans during the Jim Tressel era, Ohio State fans have only felt orphaned 22 times over a ten year span.
Any defeat, to a true sports fan, can be heart-wrenching. Remembering, and reliving the painful memories of defeats, is something most sports fans do not readily want to do - I am certainly no exception.
Below are my rankings for the worst defeats during the span of 2001-2010. I have a special section discussing the bowl losses that Ohio State suffered during this time period.
10. @ Purdue, 2009 ~ Coming off of an impressive, yet perplexing win over Wisconsin, Ohio State went into West Lafayette ranked 7th in the country, thinking they would get another win over the unranked Boilermakers. Wrong - Purdue outplayed Ohio State all game long, and Ohio State was left to battle the remainder of the season to win the conference championship (which they did weeks later).
9. @ Penn State, 2005 ~ Ohio State came into State College for a night game, off a bye week, hoping to stay in the national championship race. Ohio State was trying to get into scoring position, when Troy Smith was sacked by Penn State DE Tamba Hali. Smith fumbled, Penn State recovered, and ran out the clock to preserve the win. This game hurt, especially in the aftermath of the loss a few weeks earlier to...
8. Texas, 2005 ~ This was a heavily hyped battle between two highly ranked teams, and it did not disappoint. Ohio State fell behind early 10-0, then Troy Smith was inserted into the lineup to rally the Buckeyes to tie it up at 10-10. The story of this game was Ohio State having to continually settle for field goals, versus touchdowns. I still see Justin Zwick's touchdown pass to Ryan Hamby falling incomplete. Texas QB Vince Young later stated that winning in Ohio Stadium helped to give Texas the confidence to win the 2005 national championship.
7. Penn State, 2008 ~ Ohio State and Penn State were in an epic defensive battle, but Ohio State was beginning to move the ball late in the fourth quarter on the Nittany Lions. RB Chris Wells was starting to wear down the Penn State defense, when Ohio State was faced with a short yardage play that would allow Ohio State to retain possession. QB Terrelle Pryor fumbled the ball on the quarterback sneak, Penn State recovered, and Ohio State lost at home 13-6 to Penn State for the first time since Penn State joined The Big Ten.
6. USC, 2009 ~ Playing at home, under the lights, against a true freshman quarterback, Ohio State outplayed USC for most of this game. Ohio State led USC 15-10, when Matt Barkley led USC on a drive to take the lead at 18-15 with only a minute remaining.
5. Illinois, 2007 ~ It was not the fact that Ohio State was ranked number one, and they lost to an unranked Illinois team. It was not the fact that Ohio State lost at home in their last home game of the 2007 season. It was the fact that Illinois was able to essentially run the ball for the last eight minutes of the game, and Ohio State could not stop them or get the ball back.
4. @ Michigan, 2003 ~ Ohio State had suffered a painful loss earlier in the season at Wisconsin, but were still in the national championship race. If Ohio State won this game, they would have played in the 2004 Sugar Bowl for the national championship. Unfortunately, Chris Perry and Braylon Edwards were able to rally Michigan for a 35-21 win over Ohio State.
3. @ Wisconsin, 2010 ~ Relatively fresh in most Ohio State fans' minds, Wisconsin handed Ohio State its only loss of the 2010 season. Ohio State was down 21-3 to Wisconsin, rallying to get close to Wisconsin at 21-18, before Wisconsin effectively ended the game with a late touchdown and field goal to end it at 31-18.
2. @ Iowa, 2004 ~ As you have read through this list, most of these losses have been close games. This one, and the next on the list, were not. Ohio State was coming off two straight losses (at Northwestern, at home to Wisconsin) when they were completely dominated at Iowa. The only bright spot from this loss was the emergence of QB Troy Smith, who came into the game late due to an injury sustained by QB Justin Zwick.
1. @ USC, 2008 ~ In my estimation, this may be the worst regular season loss in Coach Tressel's first ten seasons at Ohio State. Billed as a game between two national championship contenders, USC destroyed Ohio State 35-3. After this game, Ohio State benched starting QB Todd Boeckman and promoted true freshman QB Terrelle Pryor to the starting lineup, essentially getting a jumpstart on the 2009 season and beyond with Pryor at the helm.
(Dishonorable Mention) @ Wisconsin 2003, @ Penn State 2001, @ Northwestern 2004
Bowl Game Defeats: Ohio State suffered two close losses in bowl games, and were crushed in two others.
4. South Carolina, 2002 Outback Bowl ~ South Carolina led Ohio State 28-0, when Ohio State rallied a furious comeback to tie the game. South Carolina intercepted QB Steve Bellisari late, positioning themselves to kick the winning field goal as time expired.
3. Texas, 2009 Fiesta Bowl ~ Ohio State battled Texas to the bitter end in this one, as Texas QB Colt McCoy threw the winning touchdown with only sixteen seconds to defeat Ohio State 24-21.
I have said it before, and I will say it again - I would rather have a chance at playing for the national championship and losing it, then not having it at all.
2. LSU, 2008 BCS Championship Game ~ Ohio State fans had a glimmer of hope as Ohio State took the early lead on LSU, before losing in the Louisiana Superdome 38-24. Chris Wells was punishing LSU defenders, when Ohio State turned away from using their running game. Ohio State fans know that it was only because West Virginia and Missouri lost their games that Ohio State was even in the title game. It hurt losing the national championship game, but not nearly as bad as losing...
1. Florida, 2007 BCS Championship Game ~ Ohio State actually led this game 7-0. Ohio State actually rallied to come close to Florida to make it 21-14, behind the running of RB Antonio Pittman, and then Ohio State inexplicably abandoned their running game. No matter - Ohio State's offense was held to only 82 yards, Florida clearly outplayed Ohio State on both sides of the ball, and Florida shellacked Ohio State to win the national championship.
Part Three: The Seasons
Part Two: The Recruits
Part One: The Speech