Both Teams Trying To Avoid Losing Season

Ohio State and Florida are two of the blue-blood programs in college football, which means the result of Monday's Gator Bowl will result in a rarity -- a losing season for one of the two programs. Neither has posted one in the past two decades, which makes the contest a big game for each team.

History will be made Monday in the Gator Bowl, but neither Florida nor Ohio State wants to make it.

The 6-6 team that loses the game will finish the year with a losing record, which would make a big splash – and certainly not a good one – at either school.

Both have been among the college football elite for decades, so ending with more notches on the right side of the ledger than the left would be big news – and is a fate worth avoiding.

"It means a lot," Ohio State offensive lineman Andrew Norwell said about avoiding a losing record. "You prepare for every game like you want to win. You just have to work hard this week in practice and we'll see who the better team is."

For Ohio State, the losing season would be the first since 1988, a year that bears a resemblance to this year's squad. That campaign, which ended 4-6-1, came in the first year of the John Cooper era, just as this year's team was under the management of former nose guard and assistant coach Luke Fickell.

After that season, Cooper slowly but surely turned the program around, putting together a run that had Ohio State near the top of the nation in the mid-1990s before a 6-6 mark in 1999 ended with the team not going to postseason play.

Going further back, Ohio State hasn't had many losing seasons in school history. The Buckeyes had only eight in the 20th century, and the team has had just three since 1951 when Woody Hayes took over.

"I think it's really important because of the tradition," Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. "There's not too many losing seasons. We don't want to be the first to have a losing season (in a long time). We're going to do our best to get this win."

But as impressive as that run is, Florida's run might be even more worth writing home about. The Gators have gone 31 seasons without posting a losing record with the only non-winning season in that time a 6-6 mark in 1987.

That streak started in 1980 when Charley Pell piloted a turnaround that had Florida go from 0-10-1 in '79 to 8-4 a year later. The run has continued through the reigns of Galen Hall, Gary Darnell, Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer, with Florida capturing national titles in 1996, 2006 and 2008.

However, the Gators have had similar turnover to the Buckeye program as Meyer resigned last year because of health issues, leading to the hiring of Texas coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp.

Florida offensive tackle Chaz Green said the team can't help but thinking about keeping the run of winning years alive.

"That's in the back of our mind," Green said. "We want to win for our program, period, but that is in the back of our mind. We can't lose sense of that, starting with everybody as an individual."

Both sides agreed that the game could be a bloodletting of frustrations for whichever team emerges victorious, but the game could be more important for the Gators' future. Muschamp is in his first year as the head coach and will be trying to establish positive momentum going forward in his efforts.

"This is a building block right now for the future of our program," defensive tackle Jaye Howard said. "It's going to be an important game. We have to go out and get this win, not just for the senior class but for the program as a whole."

On the other hand, this is more of a swan sang for the Buckeyes, who will be seeing a number of assistant coaches and veterans leaving after the year while Meyer takes over the program. Whether he will take over a 6-7 squad or a 7-6 team won't much matter to him, but a good sendoff for pride's sake is definitely on the team's mind.

"We're definitely two programs that aren't used to being in this spot," senior Michael Brewster said. "It's really just for pride at this point. We've been working very hard, and I'm sure they're doing the same."


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