Ohio State will make its sixth all-time appearance in the Sugar Bowl when it plays Clemson in next week’s College Football Playoff semifinal at the Superdome in New Orleans.
After losing its first two appearances in the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State has won its last three, including the first-ever College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015. (The Buckeyes also played LSU in the BCS National Championship Game at the Superdome at the end of the 2007 season, which they lost 38-24, but that game was not considered to be a Sugar Bowl.)
As we look ahead to this year’s Sugar Bowl showdown between the Buckeyes and the Tigers (Jan. 1, 8 p.m., ESPN) in the Big Easy, let’s take a look at Ohio State’s previous appearances in the game – starting with the most recent games and wins.
Jan. 1, 2015: Ohio State 42, Alabama 35 (College Football Playoff)
If Ohio State going to the Sugar Bowl as an underdog for a College Football Playoff game against a team it’s never beaten before sounds like a familiar storyline, that’s because it is.
The Buckeyes were in that same position six years ago as the No. 4 seed in the inaugural College Football Playoff. No. 1 seed Alabama, which was 3-0 all-time against Ohio State entering the 2015 Sugar Bowl, was favored to win the game by more than a touchdown over the Buckeyes, who narrowly made the playoff after a roller-coaster 2014 season.
That didn’t stop Ohio State from achieving one of the most iconic wins in program history.
Led by third-string quarterback Cardale Jones passing for 243 yards and a touchdown and superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott running for 230 yards and two touchdowns, the Buckeyes came back from an early 21-6 deficit to win 42-35, highlighted by Elliott’s 85-yard run through the heart of the south. The game was full of spectacular plays, including a 13-yard touchdown pass from Evan Spencer to fellow wide receiver Michael Thomas and a 41-yard interception return touchdown by Steve Miller, and culminated with Tyvis Powell intercepting a last-second Hail Mary attempt to seal Ohio State’s seven-point win.
While Ohio State still had to win one more game against Oregon to win the first-ever CFP, this was the game that defined the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship season, and a game that is now firmly entrenched in Buckeye lore as one of Ohio State’s most memorable victories ever.
Jan. 4, 2011: Ohio State 31, Arkansas 26
This win technically doesn’t count anymore, but it only takes a trip to YouTube – or your own memory – to confirm this game actually happened. And though the game was ultimately overshadowed by the “Tattoo-Gate” scandal that surfaced in the weeks leading up to the game and the sanctions – including vacating the Sugar Bowl win and all other wins from the 2010 season – that came after, it was an entertaining game at the time.
While Ohio State rolled out to a 28-7 lead in the first half, Arkansas battled back, scoring 19 of the game’s final 22 points before Solomon Thomas sealed a 31-26 victory by intercepting a pass from Ryan Mallett with 58 seconds left on the clock.
Terrelle Pryor, in what would ultimately be his final game as a Buckeye, led Ohio State to victory by throwing for 221 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 115 yards.
The win was Ohio State’s first-ever bowl victory against an SEC team, coming in what would also end up being Jim Tressel’s final game as the Buckeyes’ coach.
Jan. 1, 1999: Ohio State 24, Texas A&M 14
After being left out from playing in the first-ever BCS National Championship Game, the third-ranked 1998 Ohio State Buckeyes were selected to play Texas A&M (who was not an SEC team at the time) in the Sugar Bowl. While the Buckeyes felt like they should have been playing for a national title – they lost a regular-season game to Michigan State, but No. 2 Florida State had lost a game, too – they were at least able to finish their season with the consolation prize of earning Ohio State’s first win in the Sugar Bowl.
Most of the game’s scoring took place in the first quarter, as Ohio State responded to an opening-drive touchdown by the Aggies by scoring three straight touchdowns in a span of less than seven minutes. The third of those touchdowns came when Derek Ross blocked a punt by Texas A&M’s Shane Lechler and Kevin Griffin scooped up the ball to stroll 16 yards into the end zone.
From there, the game turned into a defensive slugfest, as the Buckeyes would score just one field goal in the final three quarters but Texas A&M scored only one more touchdown, leading to a 10-point Ohio State victory.
In their final game as Buckeyes, Joe Germaine threw for 222 yards and a touchdown while David Boston caught 11 passes for 105 yards.
Jan. 1, 1998: Florida State 31, Ohio State 14
Ohio State’s win over Texas A&M was its second trip to the Sugar Bowl in as many years, as the Buckeyes also closed out their 1997 season in New Orleans against the team that would keep them out of the national championship game a year later.
That game didn’t go very well for the Buckeyes, as Florida State pulled out a 21-3 lead before halftime and Ohio State scored just one touchdown for the entire game. Seminoles quarterback Thad Busby threw for 334 yards while Ohio State quarterbacks Joe Germaine and Stanley Jackson combined for three interceptions, and Ohio State kicker Dan Stultz went just 2-for-4 on field goals.
Florida State, who has not played Ohio State since, improved its all-time record against the Buckeyes to 3-0 with the 31-14 win at the Superdome.
Jan. 2, 1978: Alabama 35, Ohio State 6
As aforementioned, Alabama won its first three all-time games against Ohio State, and the first of those wins came in Ohio State’s first-ever trip to the Sugar Bowl to conclude its 1977 season.
That first-ever meeting between the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide was lopsided in Alabama’s favor, as the Crimson Tide ran the ball a whopping 68 times for 280 yards and three touchdowns and Jeff Rutledge added another 109 yards and two touchdowns through the air to lead Alabama to a 35-6 victory.
Ohio State’s only touchdown of the day came on a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jim Harrell from Rod Gerald, who completed just seven of his 17 passing attempts for 103 yards with three interceptions.
The 29-point loss was Ohio State’s most lopsided bowl game defeat ever until its 31-0 loss to Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl.