Championship Runs Often Run Rocky

COLUMBUS – Make no mistake, there is a lot of football left to be played before anyone can call themselves champions of anything in college football.

The Buckeyes have a pair of games left in the regular season and if everything breaks the right way, three more games would be left between the Buckeyes and their 9th claimed national championship, first since 2014.

The 2022 season has not been without its challenges, a vindictive injury bug, a schedule that looked quite formidable going into the season bottoming out as programs like Notre Dame and Wisconsin hit cold snaps during the season and so much more.

But the Buckeyes are still standing.

They are standing as one of four current undefeated teams left in the nation and we know that number will shrink to at least three with Ohio State and Michigan on a collision course to meet next week.

Many national critics are quick to point out that the Buckeyes are not physical enough, don’t have enough of a running game (or healthy running backs), or this and that.

And they may prove to be correct, only time will tell, as well as the outcome of up to five more games.

There is one thing that the critics can’t say about this team though, that anyone played them within a score. Seven of the last 12 national champions have suffered a loss along the way, the 2014 Buckeyes included. Of the five teams that went undefeated, three of those teams played at least one game decided by one score or less.

Only the 2020 Alabama team and the 2013 Florida State team managed to avoid a close game during the run up and that ’13 Seminoles team beat Auburn by just three points in the BCS Championship Game, while Bama had a six-point close call with Florida in the SEC title game.

Nobody has played the Buckeyes closer than 11 points in 2022 and only three teams have been within two touchdowns.

A lot can change next week with a date with the Wolverines along with what could be waiting in a potential College Football Playoff run. But there is no denying that the Buckeyes have taken care of business, even if the Notre Dame, Penn State and Northwestern games all took some late(ish) heroics to pad the margin.

So, for those who have told you that Ohio State is doomed solely based on scores alone, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to look at how and who other national champions have lost to along the way to their championships.

2021 – Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs lost part one of their series with Alabama in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama’s Jordan Battle would return a Stetson Bennett pass 42-yards for a touchdown, putting the Crimson Tide up by 21 early in the 4th quarter before the Dawgs would eventually fall 41-24 in the game but still find their way into the playoff.

The whole season almost got off on the wrong foot however as Clemson and UGA would meet in the opener, a game that UGA won 10-3. Fortunately for Kirby Smart’s crew, Trevor Lawrence was no longer with the Tigers and Clemson would only amass 180 yards of total offense. UGA would only have 76 more yards of total offense but would have seven more points, the eventual difference maker.

2020 – Alabama Crimson Tide

We want to make sure we are comparing apples-to-apples and that means that we need to keep this into the regular season. Nobody could get within 15 points of the Crimson Tide until the SEC Championship Game where Florida played from behind all game and made it close, ultimately falling by six points.

Ole Miss and UGA both would play the Tide ‘somewhat close’ during October, but neither got within 14 points. As we know, Ohio State played Bama in the championship game and did not get within 14 points either.

2019 – LSU Tigers

There are plenty of people who want to claim that this Joe Burrow-led team was the greatest in college football, at least in a generation or two. But this team was not immune to close calls as well with three games that were decided by seven points or less, including an early season road trip against Texas.

Credit to LSU however, Texas, Auburn and Alabama would all play close but none of them would lead the game in the 4th quarter, so you could say the games were a little less close than the score would indicate, but three games all decided by less than a touchdown would put a scare in anyone and show how difficult it is to truly run the table over the course of a 15-game season.

2018 – Clemson Tigers

Buckeyes fans immediately will stop reading anything about Clemson and this Tigers team would go on to beat Notre Dame and Alabama in the CFP on its way to a second national championship of the era.

But, there were two games along the way that could have taken Clemson out of the equation and derail any national championship aspirations without a little bit of luck.

Clemson would have to hang on for dear life with a trip to College Station (Texas) to hold off the Aggies of A&M by two points. A&M had a chance to tie it up with a two-point try before Kellen Mond’s attempt would get picked and Clemson would get out of town with the close win.

Just a few short weeks later, Syracuse would take a 23-13 lead in the early 4th quarter before Travis Etienne would pull the Tiger’s rear end from the fire with a pair of late touchdowns, the last one coming with just 41 seconds left.

2017 – Alabama Crimson Tide

There was a time and place where the Iron Bowl meant something and this was that time and place. Alabama would hold a 14-10 lead early in the 3rd quarter before Auburn would run off the next 16 points to hand Alabama its first and only loss of the season. Alabama would throw for just 103 yards in this game and would STILL go on to win a national championship.

Bama was also tested by Mississippi State earlier in the year in a seven-point decision.

2016 – Clemson Tigers

Once again, Ohio State fans don’t want to talk about this year’s team as well with a bad trip to the desert still fresh on the minds of most fans.

But this Clemson team honestly was pretty lucky to get to the CFP with a loss and multiple close calls. Sometimes it is just better to be lucky than good, but in all honesty, this team was both.

The loss was at the hands of Pitt in a 43-42 game where the Panthers would kick of 48-yard field goal with just six seconds left to stun the Tigers at home.

Along the way there were close wins against Auburn (19-13), Troy (30-24), Louisville (42-36), NC State (24-17) and Florida State (37-34).

2015 – Alabama Crimson Tide

We will start picking up speed and going a little quicker. Alabama would fall in week three to Ole Miss, 43-37 in a game that Ole Miss led by 19 points early in the 4th quarter. The Tide would make a valiant comeback to score the next 13 points but would come up short to Ole Miss.

Alabama would have to also come from behind against Tennessee with a 14-yard Derrick Henry run with 2:24 left in the game to avoid a second loss on the season.

2014 – Ohio State Buckeyes

Shame on you if I have to remind you too much about this season.

Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech in the second game of the season. As we all remember, it was a year that Braxton Miller was hurt preseason and JT Barrett stepped up and led the Buckeyes up until and through most of the Michigan game before Barrett was lost and Caradale Jones had to step in.

Things would have never gotten to that point if Ohio State would have failed to beat Penn State (31-24 2OT) or Minnesota (31-24) along the way.

2013 – Florida State Seminoles

As mentioned before, FSU really did not face much of a challenge along the way, only Boston College was able to get close with a 14-point loss along the way in the regular season.

Auburn would play the Noles tough in the championship game, take a 31-27 lead with just 79 seconds left before Florida State would find magic between Jameis Winston and Kelvin Benjamin in the final 15 seconds of the game.

2012 – Alabama Crimson Tide

This was the year that the Buckeyes were ineligible for postseason play. Remember that one? The year that Ohio State went 12-0 and would have likely been in the mix for the crystal football?

Alabama would drop a game along the way to Texas A&M and would spot the Aggies a 20-0 lead after the first quarter. Bama would outscore A&M 24-9 the rest of the way, but it was too tall of a hill to climb.

Alabama would have to find late game heroics against LSU as well, scoring a game-winning touchdown by T.J. Yeldon (from A.J. McCarron) with less than a minute left.

2011 – Alabama Crimson Tide

This was the first of the two-parter SEC years where Alabama and LSU would split their series, Alabama losing the regular season match-up, 9-6 (OT), a game that most people never need to watch again. Alabama would outgain LSU 295-239, but as we know, it is about points.

Alabama would get revenge in the BCS Championship game however.

Penn State would have a game within 16 points early in the season with Alabama but eight of those points were in the final two minutes of the game as Alabama dominated the game much more than the score would indicate.

2010 – Auburn Tigers

Nobody would trip up Auburn in 2010 but several teams had a chance to do so with Mississippi State (17-14), Clemson (27-24 OT), South Carolina (35-27), Kentucky (37-34), LSU (24-17) and Alabama (28-27) all playing close games against the Tigers.

Final Thoughts

Even in Ohio State’s eight claimed national championships, there have been close calls or losses along the way.

1942Loss vs. Wisconsin
1954def. Cal (21-13), def. Iowa (20-14), def. Northwestern (14-7)
1957Loss vs. TCU, def. Wisconsin (16-13), def. Iowa (17-13)
1961Tie vs. TCU (7-7), three 10-point wins, two 9-point wins
1968def. Illinois (31-24), def. Michigan State (25-20), def. Iowa (33-27)
1970Loss vs. Stanford, def. Purdue (10-7)
2002def. Cincinnati (23-19), def. Wisconsin (19-14), def. Penn State (13-7), def. Purdue (10-6), def. Illinois (23-16 OT), def Michigan (14-9)
2014Loss vs. Va Tech, def. PSU (30-24 2OT), def. Minn (31-24)

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