Ohio State's best, worst season since 2014 B1G expansion
Ohio State enters the 2021 season looking for a new quarterback but with plenty of reasons to be optimistic for a return to the College Football Playoff.
In 2020, Justin Fields and Trey Sermon led the Buckeyes down the stretch of the season and into the CFP. It was Sermon who rushed for an OSU single-game record against Northwestern, and it was Fields who put up his own performance of the ages against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, it went down as another narrowly missed chance at a second national championship since 2014. But even with the near title, Ohio State’s fortunes have been brilliant since the B1G expanded to 14 teams.
Going back to 2014, Ohio State has been the elite of elite programs in the B1G, compiling five conference titles in seven seasons. The Buckeyes have also played in four CFP’s, winning the inaugural Playoff under Urban Meyer.
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As the B1G heads into its eighth season as a 14-team conference, here is a look at Ohio State’s best and worst season since 2014.
Best Season – 2014 (14-1 record, B1G Champs, CFP National Champs)
Was there any doubt about this one? After entering the season at No. 5 on the AP Poll, the Buckeyes slipped with an unimpressive win over Navy and fell all the way to No. 22 after a loss to Virginia Tech. Following that loss, Ohio State never scored less than 31 points the rest of the season, eclipsing 40 points 11 times. That did not change after losing starting QB J.T. Barrett with Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott leading the offense to 143 points over the final three games of the season.
In addition to the national title, the individual accolades were impressive. Barrett finished fifth in Heisman voting after putting up 45 total touchdowns. Elliott finished with over 1,800 yards rushing and 2,000 yards from scrimmage with 18 touchdowns. Defensively, Joey Bosa posted 21.5 TFL and 13.5 sacks while Vonn Bell recorded six interceptions. Bell was also one of three Buckeyes to record four or more picks in 2014.
Worst Season – 2017 (12-2, B1G Champs, Won Cotton Bowl)
Since 2014, there have been two seasons that Ohio State missed out on the B1G Championship. One of those was 2016 when the Buckeyes still made the CFP over Penn State. The other was 2015 when a late loss to Michigan State was the only blemish for the Buckeyes and knocked them out of the B1G Championship and CFP. But even with those non-B1G title seasons, an argument can be made that 2017 with the B1G title but no CFP was a tad worse than 2015.
Consider that Ohio State averaged 41.1 points per game during 2017, a mark that was good for sixth in the country. The defense also allowed just 19 points per game, a mark that was 15th nationally, a combination of offense and defense that should have netted the Buckeyes a deep postseason run. What happened?
Unfortunately for the Ohio State faithful, they will keenly remember the three games that Ohio State allowed 30+ points: an early-season loss to Oklahoma, a dramatic one-point win over Penn State, and then the 55-point output by Iowa, Ohio State’s second loss of the season. In fact, 2017 is the only year since 2014 that the Buckeyes have seen multiple regular-season losses.
All things considered, the “worst” season for Ohio State since the B1G expanded comes down to what would be the high-water mark for nearly every other program in the conference. Still, the longer the Buckeyes go without another title, the harder it will be for fans and players alike to stomach close misses.
Total record for Ohio State since 2014: 82-9 (54-4 B1G record), 5 B1G Championships
Average record since 2014: 11.7-1.3 (7.7-0.6)