Saturday at Ohio Stadium, Ohio State and Rutgers are scheduled to play for the fifth time.
The Scarlet Knights are not only winless in the series, they have been outscored 219-24 with none of those Rutgers points coming in the past two meetings.
Having spent an (almost) unhealthy amount of time examining Ohio State records over the years, I was struck by how this looked on paper more like a series against an Ohio Athletic Conference team than a member of the Big Ten....
At that point what choice did I have but to investigate further?
What I found were some familiar results, some surprises and even reason for hope in Piscataway.
But first the bad news:
Schools that managed to avoid starting 0-4 against Ohio State on the gridiron include in-state foes Akron, Cincinnati, Denison, Kenyon, Marietta, Oberlin, Ohio Wesleyan, Otterbein, Wittenberg, Wooster, Case and Western Reserve (the latter two eventually merged).
The Zips stand out not only because they shook off losing their first three games against the Buckeyes by an aggregate score of 100-18 to win the fourth meeting 12-6 but because that game 124 years ago is the singular win by a current MAC member against Ohio State.
Ohio Medical scored a total of zero points in its first four meetings with Ohio State, but the Columbus school still managed a tie in 1896, so that gives them an edge over Rutgers, too.
The Scarlet Knights can claim to have bettered a few schools so far, though.
Muskingum not only started 0-4 against the Buckeyes but is still looking for its first point against the Scarlet and Gray. Ohio State has a 7-0 lead in that series, which will have been dormant 90 years come October, and owns a 221-0 edge in points.
The news is not much better for Bowling Green, who unlike the schools mentioned above did not get its first shot against Ohio State until 1992.
The Falcons lost that one 17-6, and BGSU is 0-5 against Ohio State to date. Unlike Rutgers, though, the Falcons can at least claim keeping two of the first four meetings relatively close (don’t ask them about No. 5, a 77-10 trouncing in 20016).
Miami University is also 0-5 against Ohio State, dropping the first four games by a combined score of 144-30 before getting blasted 56-10 in 2012.
Then there’s Ohio University. The state’s preeminent party school has arguably had the least success against Ohio State when it comes to football.
The Bobcats lost the first four meetings by a combined score of 95-0 from 1899-1902. They are 0-3 since the series resumed in 1999, but at least they have only been outscored 108–37 in those contests.
On the bright side, the way a series begins does not have to be the way it ends.
The Ohio State record book includes many examples of this whether you want to look inside the state’s borders or beyond.
The Buckeyes eventually got the last laugh against all of the schools mentioned above with the exception of Western Reserve, which won the first four meetings and ended up leading the all-time series 5-6-1.
And, hey, Oberlin was nearly as dominant over Ohio State to begin their series as the Buckeyes have been against Rutgers.
The Yeoman won the first six games by a combined score of 200-14 before Ohio State finally got its first win, but the Buckeyes won 13 of the last 20 meetings with three ties mixed in as well.
Yeah, yeah, big deal right? Ohio State outgrew those schools long ago.
That is true, but the redemption stories go beyond in-state competition.
Penn State won its first four games against Ohio State, but the Buckeyes now lead that series 18-14.
Ohio State started 0-3-1 against Iowa but leads that series 46-15-3.
The Buckeyes were also winless in their first four games against Illinois but boast a 68-30-4 advantage against the Fighting Illini overall.
Maybe most surprisingly: Although Ohio State has more wins against Indiana (73) than any other school, it hasn’t always been that way. The Hoosiers posted a 5-0-1 mark to start the series.
What’s it all mean?
While the situation might look bleak now for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights could always turn it around — especially if you give them a few decades.
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