Commentary

Buckeyes know history vs. SEC

Originally Published: January 2, 2011
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Ohio State has one of the richest traditions in college football. The Buckeyes are one of only eight teams to win 800 games. They've won seven national championships. And most recently, they've won at least a share of six consecutive Big Ten titles.

[+] EnlargeJim Tressel
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesJim Tressel and Ohio State have not had any success against the SEC in bowl games.

Remarkably, Ohio State has never beaten an SEC team in a bowl game.

The No. 6 Buckeyes take a 0-9 record against SEC teams in bowl games into Tuesday night's Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, where they'll play No. 8 Arkansas, another SEC opponent.

"O-H-I-O!"

How about: "O-H-N-O?"

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is responsible for the Buckeyes' last three losses against SEC teams, falling to South Carolina in the 2002 Outback Bowl and then Florida and LSU in the 2007 and '08 BCS National Championship Games, respectively.

"I know personally I have lost three in a row against the SEC," Tressel said. "I'm not tired of hearing about it. It's a reminder to me of just how good the SEC is in football."

SEC teams were good on New Year's Day this season, shutting out the Big Ten for the first time since 2002.

And SEC teams have been really good against Ohio State in the postseason.

The Buckeyes first played an SEC team in a bowl game after the 1977 season. In a matchup of two of the sport's iconic coaches in the 1978 Sugar Bowl, Paul "Bear" Bryant directed Alabama to a 35-6 victory over the Buckeyes, who were coached by Woody Hayes.

More than a decade later, Ohio State lost to Auburn 31-14 in the 1990 Hall of Fame Bowl. Then came three straight losses to SEC teams in the Citrus Bowl: 21-14 to Georgia in 1993, 24-17 to Alabama in 1995, and 20-14 to Tennessee in 1996.

South Carolina defeated the Buckeyes two straight times in the Outback Bowl, 24-7 in John Cooper's final game as OSU coach in 2001 and 31-28 in Tressel's first season in '02.

I know personally I have lost three in a row against the SEC. I'm not tired of hearing about it. It's a reminder to me of just how good the SEC is in football.

-- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel

"The past is what it is," Ohio State guard Bryant Browning said. "There is nothing you can do about that. But this year is a new year. I was here for a couple of games and sometimes we were not performing at our best."

The Buckeyes' most recent losses to SEC teams in bowl games were the most difficult to swallow. In the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, Florida scored 21 straight to blow out the No. 1 Buckeyes, 41-14. The next year, LSU scored 31 consecutive points to turn a 10-0 deficit into a 38-24 rout.

"You don't let it bother you," Buckeyes fullback Zach Boren said. "I know a lot of these guys haven't been in an SEC game. Some of the older guys have, but we are just excited for the challenge. Arkansas is a great team and we're excited to just go out there and play. We know we just have to go out and play our game and whatever happens, happens."

The Buckeyes can't be too excited about the earlier Big Ten-SEC bowl matchups this season. Alabama, which finished fourth in the SEC West, blasted Big Ten co-champion Michigan State 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl. Mississippi State routed Michigan 52-14 in the Progressive Gator Bowl, and Florida defeated Penn State 37-24 in the Outback Bowl.

The Razorbacks finished second in the SEC West with a 10-2 record, winning their last six games to earn their first trip to a BCS bowl game. The Hogs could become the eighth SEC team to defeat the Buckeyes in a bowl game.

"I don't want to help them end that streak," Hogs quarterback Ryan Mallett said.

The drought has definitely been a point of motivation for Tressel. Last month, Tressel read an e-mail to his players that he said was sent to him by an SEC football fan. The e-mailer suggested the Buckeyes weren't good enough to be on the same field with an SEC team.

"I think the thing we've got to do -- really focus in on -- is what it's going to take to play Arkansas, who we didn't play in any bowl games in our history and not get too caught up in irrelevant things," Tressel said. "But on the other hand, you do like to accomplish things and a great performance in a bowl game the magnitude of this, against a team who's very, very good and happens to be in a very, very good conference, of course you use that as a tremendous goal."

As the postseason losses against SEC teams have piled up for Ohio State, analysts suggested the Buckeyes weren't fast enough to compete against SEC opponents.

"It means nothing to me at all," Buckeyes cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said. "I'm not bothered about the speed at all. If this was a track meet then maybe I'd be worried a little bit, but it's a game of football."

The Buckeyes haven't been able to keep pace with the SEC in that sport, either.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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