Friday, December 31, 2010

The Buckeyes' History in the Big Easy

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Arkansas Razorbacks' struggles in the Sugar Bowl.

When they meet the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Easy on Tuesday night, though, it will be hard to tell — judging from their histories in New Orleans — which team wants or needs to change its luck there more.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Razorbacks have one victory in five appearances in the Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes also have one victory, but they have only made three appearances in New Orleans.

And they've been to New Orleans much more recently.

In fact, their most recent trip there was a success.

On New Year's Day 1999, the third–ranked Buckeyes took on the eighth–ranked Texas A&M Aggies in the Superdome, and the Aggies drew first blood, driving 59 yards in six plays against the nation's second–best defense.

But Ohio State scored three touchdowns before the first period was over. The backbreaker was a blocked punt that the Buckeyes recovered and quickly converted into an unchallenged score.

The Ohio State offense didn't play particularly well in the second half, but the defense lived up to its reputation and stopped every A&M threat except one. Ohio State prevailed, 24–14.

It was the polar opposite of the Buckeyes' experience the previous year, when fifth–ranked Florida State raced to a 21–3 halftime lead after a fairly competitive first quarter.

Ninth–ranked Ohio State's offense just never got on track, and the Buckeyes lost by a wide margin, 31–14.

But that beating wasn't as severe as the one inflicted on Ohio State when Woody Hayes took the Buckeyes to New Orleans for the first time 20 years earlier.

On Jan. 2, 1978, third–ranked Alabama, led by Bear Bryant, hammered ninth–ranked Ohio State, 35–6.

The Razorbacks don't have a history of success in the Sugar Bowl. With a record of 1–4, Arkansas fans cannot plausibly argue otherwise.

But neither can Ohio State fans.

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