Babb Bits - 10/22

It doesn't happen often, but it happens. This year's Buckeye team is one of only a handful in Buckeye history to lose three straight games, and for many of those teams, they went down in infamy. The story on this year's team is not yet finished, but Charles Babb takes a look back in history today at teams that lost three straight and where they finished.

Losing Three in a Row…

Clearly this is the current focus of most every person who bleeds Scarlet and Gray. The losses suffered by this team are quickly becoming historic in nature. Since joining the Big Ten in 1913, only 11 Buckeye teams (including this one) have lost three straight at any point in their season.

They are:

2004: Ohio State started strong, climbing to the top ten in both major polls. Though young, the team looked poised to use a 3-0 mark to springboard themselves into the thick of the Big Ten and possibly even national title race before all four wheels and the exhaust system came flying off. Turnovers and lack of execution cost the team games against Northwestern and Wisconsin. Iowa simply escorted the young Buckeyes behind the woodshed for the worst ever spanking at the hands of the Hawkeyes. The toughest part of the schedule is yet to come, and Ohio State is currently tied for last place in the Big Ten with nary a win in the conference.

1999: Ohio State lost to Michigan State, Illinois, and Michigan to close out their season. After starting 6-3, the team came apart from within and failed to make a bowl game. The team finished eighth in the Big Ten and 6-6.

1988: The Buckeyes started 2-1 and defeated then-No. 7 LSU 36-33 but lost their way as the season progressed. Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue all soundly put the Scarlet and Gray in their place. The team finished 7th in the Big Ten and was one of the rare teams in Ohio State history with six losses. They finished 4-6-1.

1987: Earle Bruce led his team to a 5-1-1 record before disaster struck. Three losses in a row – all by seven points or less – greatly contributed to his dismissal. After it was announced the University would not retain him during the week leading up to the contest with Michigan, his team rallied and pulled out a gutsy upset in The Game. The Buckeyes finished fifth in the Big Ten and were 6-4-1 overall.

1982: After a solid 1981 season where the Buckeyes lost only three (each by nine points or less), it looked like it might be the year for Ohio State to challenge for big things. All-world quarterback Art Schlichter had returned, and out of 11 games scheduled, seven were in Ohio Stadium. Starting 2-0, the Buckeyes then dropped games to Stanford, Florida State, and Wisconsin – all at home. With only one of those losses a Big Ten game, the Buckeyes finished tied for second in the conference with a 9-3 mark.

1971: Sandwiched between the great teams of that era in Ohio State football is the 1971 unit. 6-1 entering November, they never won again that season. Michigan State, Northwestern, and Michigan all edged the Buckeyes by seven points or less. Hayes was surely fit to be tied as this was the only team from 1968 until 1978 that did not finish first in the Big Ten. They ended up third with a record of 6-4.

1966: Though many don't remember it, Woody Hayes was on thin ice coming into his national championship season of 1968. Part of the reason was his 1966 squad that lost three straight. Tanking against Washington (38-22) and being edged by Illinois and No. 1 Michigan State (10-9 and 11-8 respectively), the Buckeyes found themselves in a hole. The season ended with the team in sixth place in the Big Ten and 4-5 overall.

1943: After a 9-1 record and the school's first national title in 1942, the team suffered a serious collapse in October of the following season. Four straight losses to Great Lakes, Purdue, Northwestern, and Indiana gutted their hopes as well as those of the fans. The team finished 3-6, had just one win in five conference games, and tied for seventh in the league.

1940: In Francis Schmidt's final season at Ohio State, it was imperative that he have a solid year. The pressure was mounting for something better. It didn't materialize. Starting 2-0, the team ended up 2-3 by November with losses in succession to Northwestern, Minnesota, and No. 1 Cornell. The final tally for the year was a record of 4-4 and a fourth place conference finish.

1924: This team likely takes the cake as the worst since the Buckeyes joined the Big Ten. After successive three-win seasons, the Buckeyes found out it could actually get worse. 2-0-3 on November 8, Ohio State lost successive games to Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois to close the year at 2-3-3. They finished seventh in the conference standings.

1922: With a Rose Bowl season just two years prior and the ghost of Chic Harley a recent reality, this team tanked. They opened their conference schedule with four straight losses (Michigan, Minnesota, Chicago, and Iowa). Though all but Michigan were close calls, the end result was a 3-4 year with an eighth place conference mark.

Assorted Facts and Figures

With this team joining a not so elite – but nevertheless small club – of 10 other teams that have tanked in three straight games, what are the commonalities here? Below is a chart which Buckeye fans might find useful in considering this team's chances of success both this season and next.

Teams With 3 Straight Losses

Finish in Big Ten Race

Record Previous 4 Seasons

Record Following Season

Next Championship Level Team

Coaching Situation

1922 – 3-4




1926 (7-1)

John Wilce coached from 1913-1928

1924 – 2-3-3




1926 (7-1)

John Wilce coached from 1913-1928

1940 – 4-4




1942 (9-1)

Francis Schmidt's final season

1943 – 3-6




1944 (9-0)

Paul Brown left for the Browns after the season.

1966 – 4-5




1968 (10-0)

Woody Hayes coached from 1951-1978

1971 – 6-4




1973 (10-0-1)

Woody Hayes coached from 1951 – 1978

1982 – 9-3




1984 (9-3 Rose Bowl team)

Earle Bruce coached from 1979-1987

1987 - 6-4-1




1993 (10-1-1)

Earle Bruce was fired at the end of the year.

1988 - 4-6-1




1993 (10-1-1)

John Cooper's first season.

1999 – 6-6




2002 (14-0)

John Cooper was fired after the 2000 bowl game.






Jim Tressel is in his fourth season with a current overall mark of 35-10


Statistical Snippets:

· 1971, 1982, and 1999 – These teams have had the best overall marks surrounding a down year. The year following the disappointing showing, the combined records have been 26-9.

· No team aside from the 1944 edition has contended for a national title the year following a unit that lost three straight. With the question of ‘Will 2005 be the next great season?' hanging in the air, statistically this casts doubt on that possibility.

· Only two teams won a Big Ten title the year following their down season (1944 and 1984).

· Three teams have won national titles two seasons after a down year. The Buckeyes won titles in 1942, 1968, 1973. Another team won a national title on the third season after a down mark (2004), while the 1944 team is sometimes referred to as the ‘nonmilitary' national champion for that year.

· Only three teams finished better than .500 after losing three straight at any point during a single season.

· Only the 1982 edition of the Buckeyes managed to turn the ship around and win out.

· A full 50% of the teams have finished at or below .500 when they lost three in a row.

· The 1982 unit is again unique as it is the only one to finish more than two games over .500.

· Four coaches were either in their first year (John Cooper) or final season (Francis Schmidt, Paul Brown, and Earle Bruce) when the team collapsed. Another, John Cooper, was fired the year following the 1999 season when the program was not showing enough improvement. Taken together, that means 50% of these teams were in the midst of or about to undergo a coaching shakeup.

· Only 1922 and 1988 had teams lose three straight to start the Big Ten. That makes this team one of three in the history books.

· Only 1922 and 1943 lost four straight at any point. These Buckeyes could again join a select club if Indiana comes out on top Saturday.

· Only the 1962 Buckeyes have lost to Iowa and Northwestern in the same season.

· Previous to this season, no Ohio State team had ever lost to Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin in one year.

· The Buckeye's record against Michigan during these seasons currently stands at 2-8. Only Earle Bruce was able to manage a victory, and he accomplished this feat twice.

· The combined score of the Michigan – Ohio State game during this type of season is 272-105 in favor of the Maize and Blue. The average score is 27-11.

· Four of the ten teams have lost to Indiana.

· Three of the ten (four counting the 2004 edition) have lost to Northwestern.

· No Ohio State team that lost to Northwestern has managed more than six wins and just one (1971) finished above .500.

Final Thoughts…

If past statistics were an iron wrought box from which no team could escape, then the 1982 Buckeyes (and the 2004 Boston Red Sox) clearly were not told. This team can still turn their season around if they will stop turning over the football, begin working together and playing their assignments, and execute the schemes of the coaches.

Having said that, the statistics are ugly for years in which Ohio State has lost to Northwestern. The odds are higher that this team will miss a bowl than make one, especially with the toughest part of their schedule still ahead. Unless they begin playing better football, a 5-6 or even 4-7 record is an extremely realistic possibility.

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