How the Buckeyes fared in 2002: (14-0 overall, 8-0 Big Ten)
Ohio State 51, Kent State 17
Ohio State 25, Washington State 7
Ohio State 23, Cincinnati 19
Ohio State 45, Indiana 17
Ohio State 27, Northwestern 16
Ohio State 50, San Jose State 7
Ohio State 19, Wisconsin 14
Ohio State 13, Penn State 7
Ohio State 34, Minnesota 3
Ohio State 10, Purdue 6
Ohio State 23, Illinois 16
Ohio State 14, Michigan 9
Ohio State 31, Miami (Fla.) 24
Aug. 30 v. Washington
Sept. 6 v. San Diego State
Sept. 13 v. North Carolina State
Sept. 20 v. Bowling Green
Sept. 27 v. Northwestern
Oct. 11 at Wisconsin
Oct. 18 v. Ohio State
Oct. 25 at Indiana
Nov. 1 at Penn State
Nov. 8 v Michigan State
Nov. 15 v. Purdue
Nov. 22 at Michigan
Starters returning: 18—11 offense, six defense and kicker Mike Nugent.
Coach Jim Tressel: In his third season at the helm at Ohio State and his 18th season as a head coach, (Youngstown State, Ohio State) Tressel is 156-62-2. He carries a 21-5 record in two seasons at Ohio State. In addition to the Buckeyes national title last season, Tressel won four Division 1-AA national titles while coach of the Penguins.
Versus Wisconsin: The Buckeyes lead the all-time series 50-15-5, but the teams have split the last four contests, with the road team winning all four.
Last season: Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel found tight end Ben Hartsock for a fourth quarter touchdown that proved to be the game-winner in a 19-14 Buckeyes victory. Wisconsin tailback Anthony Davis ran for 144 yards on 25 carries, including a 41-yard touchdown run, and receiver Jonathon Orr added 107 yards receiving on four catches. Orr's 42-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter gave Wisconsin a 14-13 lead. In a game of big plays, Ohio State's comeback-capping touchdown was sparked by a 46-yard connection between Krenzel and receiver Michael Jenkins that set up the Buckeyes at the Badgers 39-yard line.
Badger Nation 2002 coverage:
Buckeyes 2002 in brief:
Ohio State won the national championship with a 31-24 victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Fiesta Bowl. The victory capped a 14-0 season and brought an uncontested national championship to the Buckeyes for the first time since 1968. It was the first time a Big Ten team had won the national title since Michigan shared the title with Nebraska at the conclusion of the 1997 season.
Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel completed just 7 of 21 passes for 122 yards and two interceptions, but gutted out 81 yards rushing and ran for two touchdowns in leading the Buckeyes to the national championship. Running back Maurice Clarett ran for 47 yards and two touchdowns, including a five-yard touchdown run in the second overtime that proved to be the game winner.
Ohio State made a habit of winning thrilling games last season, proving victorious in seven games decided by one touchdown or less, including six of their last seven games. The Buckeyes won with big plays on offense and a stifling defense that allowed only 19 touchdowns all season. Krenzel led the Buckeyes with his leadership and consistently gutsy performances. He threw for 2,110 yards and ran for 368 last season. The big plays often came from Clarett, who ran for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns in his freshman season. Receiver Michael Jenkins had 1,076 receiving yards and six touchdowns and Chris Gamble emerged as a three-way threat, a shutdown corner who also had 499 yards receiving and was a dynamic return man.
Looking ahead to 2003:
It is always difficult to repeat, but with every starter returning on offense, half the defense returning and a loaded kicking game, the Buckeyes have to be the favorite to win the national title again this season. The upperclassmen-laden offense even returns many quality reserves and should be more explosive, and more consistent, than last season.
Defensively, the Buckeyes possess the best defensive line in the country. The team will undoubtedly miss linebacker Matt Wilhelm and Big Ten defensive player of the year Mike Doss, but this unit is still loaded with talent. Kicker Mike Nugent is as good as they get. 2002 punter Andy Groom was an All-American, but B.J. Sander was productive as the starter two years ago.
Last season's national championship squad was far from dominating, but they were winners. No team in recent memory has been as good down the stretch as the 2002 Buckeyes were. Can they be as clutch this season? Coach Jim Tressel insists this team can get a lot better. Will the Buckeyes take the next step and become a dominate group? Finally, how will the recent allegations of academic impropriety, as detailed in a New York Times Sunday article on Maurice Clarett, affect the Buckeyes demeanor?
There are a few questions, and any title defender will have a target on its back, but this team is as talented and battle tested as a defending national champion comes. They have to head into the 2003 season as the favorite to win the Big Ten and national titles yet again.