Big Ten Foes Talk Buckeye Dominance

There's no denying Ohio State has had a phenomenal run the past few seasons while compiling a 36-4 record in Big Ten play amid a run of five straight league titles. With that in mind, tried to get to the root of OSU's success by asking those on the other side of the ball what OSU does so well.

Ohio State's respect quotient in the Big Ten was affirmed yet again at the Big Ten Media Days when the Buckeyes were chosen to win the league by its assembled media.

If that prophecy comes true, OSU will win its sixth consecutive title, matching its conference record set from 1972-77 in the heyday of the Woody Hayes era. However, five of those titles were shared with Michigan, while the Buckeyes have split crowns this time around only in 2005 and '08 with Penn State.

But the Buckeyes' conference dominance – including a 36-4 record in that span – goes even deeper than that when you look at game scores.

While compiling a 7-1 Big Ten slate season ago, Ohio State won six of its seven games by double digits. Throwing in blowout wins in 2008 against Michigan State and Northwestern, the Buckeyes have won the last meeting against eight of 10 conference rivals by double digits. The outliers, Iowa and Purdue, were beaten by 10-plus points the second-to-last time they met the Buckeyes.

Meanwhile, OSU hasn't lost a game by double digits to a Big Ten foe since a blowout 33-7 result at Iowa in 2004.

The margins are just as stark when looking at wins by 20-plus points. OSU has beaten every Big Ten foe except the Boilermakers by that margin in the past four seasons, including winning by that much against seven of 10 Big Ten opponents in at least one of their last two meetings.

There's no doubt much of the reason behind the Buckeyes' play stems from the team's ability to recruit talent and stay in the national recruiting rankings each year. But what else plays into the Buckeyes' ability to not only win but dominate? asked some Big Ten players at the media event to find out.

Many said that part of OSU's ability to post such big wins has a lot to do with the Buckeyes' mind-set, especially when going on the road.

A few times over the past four seasons, opposing Big Ten schools have circled games against the Buckeyes as possible statement games. Those often haven't gone so well for the home squads, as Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State and Indiana have handily lost spotlight games at home to the Buckeyes, while Penn State and Wisconsin suffered home losses in front of rabid night crowds.

In 2008, Ohio State's Jim Cordle noted the Buckeyes enjoyed such situations.

"It's motivating," Cordle said after OSU railroaded Michigan State by a 45-7 score in East Lansing. "It's fun, and it showed."

Finding motivation in such setups as those is just one way the Buckeyes have been able to stay head of opposing Big Ten teams.

Last year's loss to Purdue was the first the team had suffered to a league foe that didn't end up going to a bowl since a road affair at Northwestern in 2004. Jim Tressel has often preached that his teams must be focused for every game, and Northwestern's Corbin Bryant noted the Buckeyes seem to bring it for each contest.

"I like to say that," Bryant said. "That's what makes their teams good, they bring it week in and week out. You know you're always going to get their best. They get everybody's best every week, and we have to make sure when we play against them that we give them our best also."

Bryant and his teammates have struggled doing so in recent years. Northwestern has lost its last four games vs. OSU from 2005-08 by an average margin of 42.75 points, all after the team broke a 33-year losing streak against the Buckeyes with that '04 win in Evanston.

The jovial defensive lineman blamed his team's inability to respond to adversity for those struggles.

"When a team gets up on you, you just have to learn how to respond and you have to learn how to respond at different times," Bryant said. "The last couple of years when we played them, we weren't able to respond to the different adversity and make plays. The last time we played them, it was like six plays that happened that we could have easily stopped and then the game would have been really good."

That's a familiar line for Bryant's Big Ten compatriots, who agreed it was difficult to stop the boulder from rolling down the hill when the Buckeyes get rolling.

"You said it best, man," Illinois lineman Clay Nurse said of last year's 30-0 loss the Fighting Illini absorbed in Ohio Stadium a year ago. "It was just one of those things. You go out there and one problem just snowballs into another. We just didn't know how to break it up."

Indiana posted only a 4-8 record last year but took conference foes Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin to the limit before losing. However, the Hoosiers struggled mightily against OSU in Bloomington, falling by a 33-14 score that was made more palatable by a late IU touchdown.

Hoosier linebacker Tyler Replogle noted that the presence of quarterback Terrelle Pryor makes it easier for the Buckeyes to pull away from opponents.

"It's definitely hard to stop them," he said. "You can get them in third-down situations but Pryor can take off on you. I just think it's something you have to work on and get ready for."

One program that has seemingly had the most success against Ohio State is Purdue. The Boilermakers haven't been beaten by the Buckeyes by 20-plus points since Jim Tressel's first year of 2001, making them the only league team to not meet that fate in the past four years.

Since that game, Purdue is only 2-4 vs. OSU but stayed close to the Buckeyes' BCS teams in 2002, '03 and '08.

Boilermakers defensive lineman Ryan Kerrigan, one of the major factors in his team's upset win a year ago, couldn't point to one reason why the Boilermakers have competed well against the Buckeyes but credited his team's coaching staff for last year's victory.

"We had a great game plan going into that game," he said. "We knew exactly what we wanted to do, and it's a tribute to our coaches for putting the package together and a tribute to our players for being able to execute it."

The last word on the subject might belong to Penn State running back Evan Royster. His Nittany Lions have tasted both success in failure against the Buckeyes in recent years, and the last two editions of the rivalry have been smashmouth affairs settled in the second half.

When asked whether there's a different feel when facing Ohio State than other teams, the senior rusher agreed.

"There really is a big difference," Royster said. "You can see so many players on that team who are ready to play on the next level. They've got so much talent and so much size and speed on that team. You kind of get a different mind-set coming into the game, that it's going to be more physical and it's going to be faster.

"It makes you think about the next day, to be honest, because you know you're going to be hurting."

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