They say living well is the best revenge, but who wants to live well when you can live even better with the warmth of the flame of vengeance?
Ohio State comes into Saturday’s game against Michigan with the coppery taste of defeat in their mouths from their loss to the Wolverines a year ago.
Twelve months of Michigan having bragging rights — and using them. Wolverines talking about how soft Ohio State was — and is. So much talk and disrespect aimed at the OSU football program that you wonder why a win over the Buckeyes would have even warranted such bragging.
And twelve long months of hearing all of that.
Head coach Ryan Day has had things said about himself and his program, and he’s spent the last year trying to make sure nobody can say any of that stuff ever again.
The loss last year has obviously provided motivation, just as other losses have done over the years.
When the Buckeyes lost to Clemson in the playoffs during the 2019 season, Ohio State went back to work soon after the season, driven by the desire to see the Tigers in the postseason again.
When they did, the Buckeyes poured it on, defeating Clemson 49-28 in the 2020 playoffs and earning a spot in the national title game.
Some of the players said afterward that with Michigan canceling their game that year, they treated Clemson like their annual bout with the Wolverines.
Ohio State didn’t need to let their serving of revenge get cold. They served it at the very next opportunity they could.
And this is something that Ryan Day has done pretty well in his time at Ohio State. The Clemson game in 2020 is the most obvious and notable measure of revenge of late, but it’s not the only one.
Day has been part of three opportunities for revenge as the Buckeyes head coach. He is 3-0 in those games, with the Buckeyes winning by an average score of 54-23.
The Buckeyes lost to Iowa in 2017 with Day as the offensive coordinator. This year they met for the first time since that loss and Day told his team about his feelings from that game and how quickly it got out of hand. Ohio State won 54-10. In 2018, the Buckeyes went to Purdue and were handed a sound defeat on an emotional night. The Boilers finally made their return trip to Ohio State last year and the Buckeyes beat them 59-31.
But this isn’t just a Day thing, either. It’s an Ohio State thing.
The last time the Buckeyes lost back-to-back games against a Big Ten opponent, failing to exact revenge on a loss in the previous matchup, was in 2004 against Wisconsin. The Badgers beat Ohio State in 2003 and 2004.
Since that loss in 2004, however, the Buckeyes have gone 19-0 when they’ve had an opportunity for revenge in Big Ten play.
This goes beyond just conference games, however. In the 27 total opportunities for revenge since that Wisconsin loss, the Buckeyes are 23-4. Two of those losses were to Clemson in 2013 and 2016, which eventually saw that demon exorcised in 2020. The third loss belongs to USC in 2009. The Buckeyes lost the previous year at USC. They did eventually avenge the loss in 2009 in the Rose Bowl after the 2017 season.
The lone loss that has never eventually been avenged belongs to the 41-14 defeat to the Florida Gators in the 2006 national championship game. The next time those two teams played was the Gator Bowl in 2011 and the Buckeyes fell short there as well.
Maybe one day the Gators can get back to the playoffs and try to continue their run against the Buckeyes. Ohio State is still 0-2 all-time against Florida.
But when you look at Big Ten, the days of conference opponents winning consecutive games against Ohio State are few and far between. For some teams — Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers — there are no such days.
Purdue has to go back to 1960 and 1967. Northwestern back to 1962 and 1963. Iowa back to 1960 and 1959. Minnesota has to go back nearly a hundred years, to 1922 and 1931 to find their last consecutive wins over Ohio State.
Penn State did it as an Independent in 1978 and 1980. Indiana also got the Buckeyes twice in the ’80s (1987, 1988). Illinois won consecutive games in 1991 and 1992. Yes, there was a time when the Buckeyes and Illini were heated rivals.
And despite all of Michigan State’s heartbreaking wins over Ohio State, you have to go back to 1998 and 1999 to find the last time Sparty won two in a row over the Buckeyes. Although that 1998 game should probably count as three or four.
But then there’s Michigan. The Wolverines come into Ohio Stadium this Saturday with designs on beating the Buckeyes in consecutive matchups, which is something they haven’t done since 1999 and 2000 BT.*
To be fair, Michigan has not had many opportunities to win consecutive games over the last 22 years, but when they have, the Buckeyes have been ready.
After Michigan’s win in 2003, the Buckeyes won at home 37-21 as 5.5-point underdogs. After the Wolverines’ win in 2011, Ohio State found a way to stay undefeated with a 26-21 win in 2012.
Now we find out what happens after Michigan’s 42-27 win in 2021.
Will the Buckeyes continue their legacy of vengeance? Or will the Wolverines start a new legacy of their own?
Just two more days until we find out.