While the road was rarely smooth under the legendary coach, there also weren't all that many times of overt disaster, either. The Buckeyes lost consecutive games only once in those nine campaigns, and beating Michigan and making BCS bowls tends to keep problems from mushrooming into full-blown crises.
But Luke Fickell's first team looks vulnerable three games into his interim tenure. The head coach must keep his team's head above water after a particularly ugly 24-6 loss at Miami (Fla.) on Saturday night in which the team's passing game looked moribund.
The loss left defensive tackle Johnny Simon admitting the team faces one of its biggest challenges he's seen since arriving at Ohio State in terms of bouncing back from a loss.
"Definitely," Simon said. "It was a big loss for us, and it brings on a lot of adversity. But these are the weeks you look forward to, just seeing who's going to fight back, who's going to be excited to get back out there. I can promise you we're all itching to get out there."
The Buckeyes get their chance to get back on the field Saturday afternoon against Colorado in Ohio Stadium. The confines of the Horseshoe should be welcoming after the team dropped its road opener.
However, there's more adversity than simply that loss to a Miami team that could contend for an ACC title. The Buckeyes continue to be without offensive starters Dan Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams as well as Solomon Thomas, who would likely be starting at Leo, as part of the offseason tattoos-and-memorabilia for cash scandal.
Add in the losses of quarterback Terrelle Pryor and head coach Jim Tressel and the effects of the offseason – one in which the program seemingly took shots from every angle, leaving players wondering what would happen next – are tangible on the field.
The departure of Pryor left the team with almost no experience at quarterback, and there's a raging controversy around the most important position on the field after senior Joe Bauserman was only 2 for 14 vs. Miami and true freshman Braxton Miller lost two turnovers in the loss.
On top of that, the schedule shows no favors. The Colorado game looked like a schedule-filler at the start of the season, but the Buffaloes come to Columbus fresh off a win against rival Colorado State and look a bit rejuvenated under first-year coach Jon Embree. Meanwhile, the start of the Big Ten season beckons, and the slate kicks off with Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin, all of whom have been ranked at one point this year.
So it's easy to see how things could spiral out of control at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center if the team doesn't quickly regroup and grab hold of the situation. To that end, Fickell is doing his best to remind his young team it still has the power to determine its destiny.
"We have to instill confidence in them and they're going to look for leadership," he said. "I think that's what it's going to come down to. We go out there, go about our business. We have to focus one day at a time.
"I haven't lost any confidence in them. Hopefully they'll take that lead, us as coaches understand that's what we have to do, and we're going to continue to do it."
However, it didn't sound as though Fickell has much to worry about from a confidence standpoint, at least when it came to the team's veterans. While many outside the program are wondering how the Buckeyes will fight back, junior fullback Zach Boren said the players aren't starting to question their talents.
"We don't have doubts one bit, I'll tell you that right now," Boren said. "None of us have any doubts. We're going to go out on the practice field every single day and fight our butts off at practice. We're going to go out and try and win every game. No matter if it's by one point or 50 points, we don't care, we're going to go out and win every game.
"That's our mentality. We can't have any doubts, especially with everything that's happened this year. We have to go out and prove people wrong."
Fickell said the team has a 17-hour rule in that it has that long to either enjoy a win or rue over a loss before getting back to business for the next game.
With that in mind, the team has already turned the page to the Buffaloes, but Simon said the Miami game will continue to serve as motivation.
"I wouldn't say you forget it," he said. "You put it in the back of your mind. You always want to learn from your past. I think we definitely learned from it, fix up those corrections, the mistakes we made this past Saturday. Colorado is our objective now, so that's all we're focused on."