Ranking every Ohio State loss since 2002 by how mad it still makes me

You're going to be upset about a few of these.

Ranking every Ohio State loss since 2002 by how mad it still makes me

(I always have to put this at the top: For the best reading experience, you should click "view online" if you're reading this on email.)

NOTE: For all you sick freaks still reading this article in 2023, I've updated it to reflect Ohio State's losses to Michigan and Georgia last season. You can read it here:

Updated: Ranking every Ohio State loss since 2002

Ohio State has lost 37 games since 2002, which is an average of 1.85 losses per season. Since I've already spent like 30 hours writing this and don't want to do any more digging, I'm guessing that 1.85 is one of the lowest totals in the country over that timeframe, if not the lowest. If you watch college football, you don't need me to expound on how good the Buckeyes have been in that time frame.

Losing that infrequently is obviously a good thing. Less losses means more wins, more chances for conference and national titles, etc. It also means that every loss is catastrophic and possibly grounds to change the entire structure of the program. Does that sound like the Ohio State fanbase after a loss to you?

For whatever reason, I got the sick idea to go through all 37 losses over the last twenty years, and rank them by how mad they still make me. I chose 2002 as the starting point, because that was the first season I really started watching and rooting for Ohio State in-depth. Also, I shouldn't have to say this, but I will anyway: This is my own list. It's great if you disagree with it, but it's literally about what makes ME mad, not what should make YOU mad. Thanks for reading, please subscribe, and I hope you enjoy this trip down an extremely painful memory lane.

37. Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21 (2014)

The most necessary and important Ohio State loss of the last twenty years.* The 2014 run to the national championship doesn't happen without this, and who knows what that alternate timeline looks like.

Shoutout to former Hokies Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster, and his infamous bear defense. I hope someone in Ohio State Football Operations sent him a championship ring, because he deserves one for his brilliant gameplan that night. His defensive strategy completely shifted the dynamic of Ohio State's offense that season. I celebrate this game like it's a win.

*We'll come back to this idea later.

36. Alabama 52, Ohio State 24 (2020 National Championship)

As far as I'm concerned, this game isn't official Ohio State Football canon. It's Alabama fan-fiction more than anything else.

Ohio State had like 13 dudes out with COVID –Alabama somehow had none– then lost Trey Sermon on their first series. Justin Fields was playing with one functional side of ribs, and the defensive staff crafted the brilliant strategy of putting Tuf Borland in man coverage against a Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver. I'm not taking anything away from Bama; they were amazing that year and deserved to be champs, but this loss wasn't worth a second thought while it was happening, and it isn't worth one now. Go watch the Sugar Bowl Skycam highlights if you're still upset about it.

35. Florida 24, Ohio State 17 (2012 Gator Bowl)

I watched this with my buddy who's a Florida fan, and I don't think he's ever talked shit to me about it even once. That should tell you how meaningless it is. The angriest I can get is at the people who decided these two horrendous teams should play each other.

34. Northwestern 33, Ohio State 27 (OT) (2004)

Putting aside the 2011 season that was blown up by the NCAA, 2004 is the last time Ohio State had a "bad" record. They went 8-4 after starting 3-3, and finished fifth in the Big Ten. The first of those losses was in overtime at Northwestern, and the only play I remember is Mike Nugent missing this kick:

33. Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 13 (2004)

The second loss from 2004. This one ended an 18-game home winning streak, and was the first time Jim Tressel lost back-to-back games at Ohio State.* I remember two things about this game:

  1. Ted Ginn's punt return touchdown:

2. Brent Musburger talking about the 2004 election:

*They lost again the next week, but Tressel never lost two in a row again at Ohio State.

32. Iowa 33, Ohio State 7 (2004)

Sensing a trend? This loss closed out the three-game losing streak, and it was a certified ass-kicking. Iowa outgained Ohio State 448-177, were up 30-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, and probably could've put up 50-plus if Kirk Ferentz had really wanted to. The offense was in a rough place in the middle part of that season:

31. Purdue 24, Ohio State 17 (2004)

The final 2004 loss. I'm not even sure I watched this game, and this is basically the only public footage of it available:

Ohio State turned the ball over four times and lost to a Purdue team who was on a four-game losing streak. How the hell did they smack Michigan –who was 9-1 and undefeated in Big Ten play to that point– by 16 points the next week?

Maybe I was just disconnected from following the team in 2004, but none of these losses get to me. My point in grouping them together isn't that they didn't matter; but looking back, what did anyone expect that season? They basically had to replace everyone of note from the stacked 2002-03 teams, and Tressel couldn't decide between two inexperienced quarterbacks in Troy Smith and Justin Zwick. Stars like Nugent, AJ Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, and Nick Mangold made sure things didn't go off the rails, but this was a team that was built to have growing pains in 2004, then make championship runs in 2005 and beyond.

30. Iowa 55, Ohio State 24 (2017)

This one is much lower for me than it is for probably 98% of you, so hear me out: I'm not sure any team in college football was beating Iowa that day. They played one of the most flawless games I can remember, and the atmosphere in that stadium just made it one of those days. In hindsight, it really wasn't that surprising. Ohio State was coming off the high from the ridiculous Penn State win, and it was a prime let-down spot against a team hungry for an upset.

I remember watching the replay of Josh Jackson picking off JT Barrett with one hand and just laughing out loud. Not in anger or disgust. Just pure amusement at how poorly everything was going:

Sometimes a team plays damn near perfect and there's nothing you can do about it. This was was one of those times. I'm convinced that there's no scenario or alternate universe where Ohio State could've won this game, so I'm not that mad at it.