COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) No one associated with Ohio State – players, coaches or fans – wants to think what the fallout would be if an in-state opponent were to finally upset the Buckeyes.
With the Cincinnati Bearcats playing the 22nd-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday, Ohio State defensive tackle Adolphus Washington has an idea.
”They would probably party all week in Cincinnati,” he said.
Washington ought to know. He’s from Cincinnati and grew up a fan of UC and Ohio State. He’s got a pretty good handle on what it’s like for the haves and have-nots in the state.
A victory would rank among the biggest ever for UC, a proud program two years older than the Big Ten monolith in the heart of the state.
The Bearcats will take the field in Columbus on Saturday with decals on their helmets in the shape of Ohio – perhaps a not-so-subtle plea that UC, also, is a major state university.
There is little question within the state that the Buckeyes rule, getting most of the attention, fans and most of the fans’ money.
However, should the Bearcats win, it would send a seismic reaction from Lake Erie to the Ohio River and beyond.
It’s a big game, right, coach Tommy Tuberville?
”Yeah, but they all are,” he said.
Of course, the Buckeyes don’t even want to think what it would be like after such a setback.
”No, I couldn’t (imagine),” wide receiver Michael Thomas. ”I feel like it would be a bad day.”
Ohio State has won the last 39 meetings with its closest neighbors, dating to a 7-7 tie with the College of Wooster in 1924. The Buckeyes haven’t lost since a 7-6 defeat at the hands of Oberlin in 1921.
The big school was 164-48-15 from 1890-1934, then didn’t schedule another neighboring college for the next 57 seasons. Since narrowly beating Bowling Green 17-6 in 1992, the Buckeyes are 25-0, including a 66-0 rout of Kent State two weeks ago.
As might be expected when one school has a 104,000-seat arena and almost an unlimited budget, Ohio State hasn’t played at the home field of an Ohio college since a 36-0 win at Case in 1916. The Buckeyes’ Ohio Stadium opened for business in 1922.
When Buckeyes fans talk about their proudest moments, the first in line might be the national championship season in 2002. Yet it was an Ohio school – yes, Cincinnati – which almost ruined that magical season. Bearcats receivers dropped two passes in the end zone in the final minute to allow the Buckeyes to escape Paul Brown Stadium with a 23-19 win.
With the Big Ten going to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016, the opportunities to schedule Ohio colleges will diminish. Ohio State has only scheduled Bowling Green in 2016 and Cincinnati in 2019.
A loss to Cincinnati on Saturday would not only cost the Buckeyes dearly on the national stage, but could have repercussions within Ohio. For generations, Ohio State has been able to pick and choose from the best players in the state, for the most part, with some going to Michigan and Notre Dame. A loss could change the balance of power dramatically.
”In-state recruiting is primary,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.
It would be a powerful calling card for coach Tuberville if he could go into a five-star recruit’s home in, say, Cleveland, as the guy who engineered a shocker that was 93 years in the making.
Gene Smith, the athletic director at Ohio State for the past decade, recognizes the dangers of scheduling the likes of the Bearcats.
”(Games against teams) in the state of Ohio, there’s a greater risk,” he said.
Ohio State is favored by 15 points against Cincinnati. Then again, the Buckeyes were favored by 11 1/2 against Virginia Tech, a game which they lost 35-21.
”I’m not worried about all of that,” Meyer said of the possibility of an upset. ”I’ve just got to make sure our team’s ready to go.”
Washington also knows what it would be like at Ohio State in the wake of a loss to Cincinnati, or anyone else from the state.
”Go back to the drawing board and try to get a win the next week,” he said.
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