Ohio State’s 2018 football season contained plenty of chaos and controversy but the Buckeyes still won 13 games. Only OSU’s two most recent national championship teams, in 2002 and 2014, have surpassed that number, with 14. In fact, apart from those two title winners, no other Buckeyes team has won more than 12 games until now.
So that means the Scarlet and Gray produced plenty of great memories in the 2018 season, including a second consecutive Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl triumph. Here are my five favorite moments from this season:
5. Dixon’s onside recovery
OSU’s Rose Bowl victory over Washington was somewhat emblematic of the Buckeyes’ season as a whole: Satisfying in the end but way harder than it needed to be.
The Buckeyes led the Huskies 28-3 and looked to be cruising toward its eighth Rose Bowl victory, tying Michigan for second-most all-time. Then the fourth quarter struck. The OSU offense suddenly stopped moving and the defense started to look like the leaky unit that plagued coach Urban Meyer’s team frequently this season. When Washington scored a touchdown to get within 28-23 with 42 seconds left, it was a nervous time for Buckeye fans everywhere. But when Johnnie Dixon closed out his senior season by recovering the onside kick, victory was ensured at last for the Scarlet and Gray.
4. Pulling out Penn State win
It seems hard to believe now considering how Penn State finished the season, but the Nittany Lions were thought to be the biggest threat to Ohio State’s B1G championship dreams in 2018. I certainly thought so — I had PSU projected for the College Football Playoff when the season started.
Penn State looked worthy of the preseason hype for most of the game against OSU. The Nittany Lions, ranked No. 9 at the time, led 26-14 after a touchdown with 8 minutes left. But the Buckeyes drove 75 yards in three plays for a touchdown to get within 26-21, then put together the drive of the season — 96 yards in eight plays, in just 2:32. K.J. Hill caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to cap the comeback as OSU stayed undefeated.
3. Olave’s TD catch against Northwestern
The Big Ten championship game proved that Northwestern, the first-time West Division champion, was a most worthy participant on the conference’s biggest stage. The Wildcats fell behind the Buckeyes 24-7 in the first half but, typical of a Pat Fitzgerald-coached team, they would not go away quietly.
Northwestern had closed within 24-21 on a touchdown midway through the third quarter in Indianapolis. OSU, with its Rose Bowl hopes (or outside CFP hopes at the time) teetering, needed a lifeline. Enter true freshman wide receiver Chris Olave, who broke out in a big way the previous week against Michigan. Olave’s 29-yard touchdown catch on a perfectly thrown ball against the Wildcats gave OSU some breathing room again and Northwestern never got any closer than 7 points after that as the Buckeyes won 45-24.
2. Owning Michigan again
This was the year, wasn’t it? This was supposed to be the year that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh finally got the better of Ohio State. This was the year that the Wolverines, who brought the nation’s No. 1 defense into Columbus, were going to end their losing streak against the Scarlet and Gray.
OSU’s 62-39 victory did two things. It ensured that Harbaugh would never beat Meyer in their four head-to-head meetings in The Game, and unfortunately it froze the Big Ten out of the CFP picture again. But never mind that because in Ohio, beating That Team Up North on an annual basis is its own reward. The Buckeyes are 16-2 against the Wolverines in the past 18 meetings, and for whatever else one might think of Meyer there is no disputing that he leaves his (supposedly last) coaching job with a 7-0 record against OSU’s biggest rival.
1. Everything Haskins did
Third in the Heisman Trophy race. Leading the nation in touchdown passes and passing yards. More than a dozen school records shattered and several Big Ten marks too.
Even the most cockeyed Buckeye optimist could not have seen this coming.
Dwayne Haskins leaves an unforgettable legacy behind after his lone season as the starting quarterback in Columbus. And he handled everything as well as a redshirt sophomore could have possibly been expected to handle things. For all of this and more Haskins created the best memories of the 2018 season for Ohio State, and every Buckeyes fan should wish him nothing but the best in the NFL.