10 Greatest Ohio State Football Teams of All Time

These teams have one thing in common: they all beat Michigan

In 2019, Ohio State won the Big Ten title for the third straight year and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. But when your program has already won eight national titles, it's hard to crack the list of the top 10 teams without one. So as successful a season as the 2019 Buckeyes had, they merely join the list of teams in the program's rich history that came close to winning it all. Here are the 10 greatest Ohio State teams of all time.

 

10. 1970

Record: 9-1

Finished: Lost to Stanford 27-17 in the Rose Bowl

Final Ranking: No. 2 (Coaches), No. 5 (AP)

Ohio State beat all but one of its opponents by at least 10 points during the regular season to win the Big Ten title outright. At the time, both the Coaches Poll and National Football Foundation (NFF) awarded their national championship before the bowls and the NFF gave its title to the Buckeyes. The timing couldn't have been better because in the Rose Bowl, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jim Plunkett led a fourth-quarter Stanford comeback to beat Ohio State.

 

9. 1957

Record: 9-1

Finished: Beat Oregon 10-7 in the Rose Bowl

Final Ranking: No. 1 (Coaches), No. 2 (AP)

After losing to TCU in the season opener, Ohio State rebounded to win out and go to the Rose Bowl. AP voters awarded the national championship to Auburn, but the Coaches Poll gave it to the Buckeyes.

 

8. 1942

Record: 9-1

Finished: Beat Iowa Pre-Flight 41-12 in final regular-season game

Final Ranking: No. 1

Head coach Paul Brown led the Buckeyes to their first national championship with an offense that averaged 34 points a game and a defense that gave up 11. The team's only blemish was a 17-7 loss to No. 6 Wisconsin after members of the team developed a stomach illness from drinking bad water during the train ride to Madison.

 

7. 1961

Record: 8-0-1

Finished: Beat Michigan 50-20 in final regular-season game

Final Ranking: No. 2

Ohio State tied TCU to start the season but won the rest of their games. While they finished second in the AP and Coaches Polls, the Football Writers Association of American named the Buckeyes national champs.

 

6. 2012

Record: 12-0

Finished: Beat Michigan 26-21 in final regular-season game

Final Ranking: No. 3

After retiring from Florida in 2010, head coach Urban Meyer returned to his alma mater and led the team to an undefeated season that was full of close wins. The Buckeyes were banned from postseason play due to NCAA sanctions, so they had to settle for a victory over Michigan to close out the season.

 

5. 1973

Record: 10-0-1

Finished: Beat USC 42-21 in the Rose Bowl

Final Ranking: No. 2 (AP), No. 3 (Coaches)

With a backfield powered by future Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, Ohio State beat all but one of its opponents by at least three touchdowns. The one opponent was unbeaten Michigan, who tied the Buckeyes 10-10 in Ann Arbor. The tie dropped the Buckeyes from No. 1 to No. 3 in the polls behind unbeaten Notre Dame and Alabama, who met in the Sugar Bowl. If the College Football Playoff had been around then, one has to wonder how this team's season would have ended.

 

4. 1954

Record: 10-0

Finished: Beat USC 20-7 in the Rose Bowl

Final Ranking: No. 1 (AP), No. 2 (Coaches)

The Buckeyes started the season unranked but were No. 1 in the AP Poll by their sixth game thanks to victories over No. 18 California, No. 13 Iowa, and No. 2 Wisconsin. Ohio State recorded 35 turnovers and gave up two touchdowns in a game only twice to earn Woody Hayes first national championship. At the end of the season, the AP Poll ranked the Buckeyes No. 1 and the Coaches Poll put UCLA at the top spot. However, the teams were not able to determine who was better in Pasadena because of the now-defunct "no-repeat" rule for Rose Bowl appearances.

 

3. 1968

Record: 10-0

Finished: Beat USC 27-16 in the Rose Bowl

Final Ranking: No. 1

Arguably Woody Hayes' finest team dominated a deep Big Ten to win their first conference title in seven years. The Buckeyes trailed their opponents only twice during the season and beat archrival Michigan 50-14. When asked why he went for a two-point conversion with a 50-14 lead, Hayes famously replied, "because they wouldn't let me go for three." In the Rose Bowl, Ohio State overcame a 10-0 deficit to beat O.J. Simpson and USC and give Hayes his fourth national championship.

 

2. 2014

Record: 14-1

Finished: Beat Oregon 42-20 in the College Football Playoff National Championship

Final Ranking: No. 1

The Buckeyes lost starting quarterback Braxton Miller during fall camp and J.T. Barrett took over. They lost to Virginia Tech early, but won out and entered the game against Michigan ranked sixth. Then Barrett went down with an injury in the victory over the Wolverines. Cardale Jones took over as starting quarterback and led Ohio State to a blowout win against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. The victory swayed the selection committee to give the Buckeyes the No. 4 spot in the first College Football Playoff and they shocked the sports world by winning it.

 

1. 2002

Record: 14-0

Finished: Beat Miami 31-24 in the Fiesta Bowl

Final Ranking: No. 1

The first team to ever go 14-0 did so in typical Big Ten fashion, with a strong defense and running game. Few gave the Buckeyes a chance against defending national champion Miami in the Fiesta Bowl, but they snapped the Hurricanes' 34-game winning streak with a 31-24 win. Yes, Ohio State did benefit from a really bad pass interference call in overtime, but the fact that it was even in OT is a testament to how great these Buckeyes were.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

 

(Top photo courtesy of ohiostatebuckeyes.com)

Include in Acu Data Feed: 
Exclude from Acu-data Feed

More Stories: