When the Ohio State football team takes the field against the Cincinnati Bearcats, its No. 1 goal will be to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself more than nine decades later.
The last time the Buckeyes lost to another Ohio school was Oct. 8, 1921, against Oberlin College. Since that 7-6 loss in Columbus, OSU has not lost in 44 tries against intrastate opponents. The last 39 of those games ended with Buckeye victories, with the one prior resulting in a tie against the College of Wooster.
Despite historic dominance against other teams in the state, OSU coach Urban Meyer said he’s preparing his team for a game like any other.
“I’m not worried about all that, I’ve just got to make sure our team is ready to go,” he said Wednesday. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Ohio schools.”
Regardless of what his coach had to say, redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall said he thinks the game “means a lot” to the Bearcats because of OSU’s general establishment as the best college football program in Ohio.
“Always being looked down upon by us, being in the same state,” Marshall said Wednesday. “Being not the best team in the state, I’m sure they’re going to give us all they got.”
Meyer — who played college football at Cincinnati and coached at Bowling Green State University — said Monday that he recognizes the talent at Ohio schools outside Columbus and thinks of the Bearcats as a “Power Five” program.
“I think we certainly respect them as if they are,” he said. “We’re watching film, they’re as good as a lot of the other teams that we have gone up against.”
The Buckeyes — who are scheduled to take on Cincinnati on Saturday at Ohio Stadium at 6 p.m. — are 2-1 this season and coming off a bye week and a 66-0 win within the past 14 days.
Before the blowout victory and extra week of rest, OSU suffered a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 at home after needing a second-half comeback to beat Navy to open the season. Regardless of more recent success, the early season struggles — especially the loss to the Hokies — seem to have made a lasting impression on the Buckeyes.
Junior offensive lineman Jacoby Boren said OSU is still “pretty angry” about the loss, and wants to turn that anger into success on the field going forward.
“It’s not anything obviously that we want, and I think it kind of set something off in there,” Boren said Wednesday. “Obviously you’re not going to be happy with a loss, so it’s helped motivate us more than we already were.”
While OSU has had its ups and downs early in the season, the Bearcats are riding an undefeated record into the Horseshoe. Cincinnati is 2-0 after posting a total of 89 points in wins against Toledo and Miami (Ohio).
As the Bearcats close out their three-game run of intrastate matchups to start the season, coach Tommy Tuberville said his team has to be ready for “a big one up in Columbus” on Saturday, especially when taking into account the crowd expected at Ohio Stadium.
“Our players will be excited about going, obviously the crowd will be the biggest crowd that most of them will ever play in front of,” Tuberville said at a Tuesday press conference.
Ohio Stadium has a capacity of 104,944 while Paul Brown Stadium — where the Bearcats are playing this season — seats 65,535.
Tuberville went on to say that his team performed well, but not at the top of its potential against Miami in the Bearcats’ second game of the season, and added they need to be ready for a more athletic OSU squad.
“That being said, it will be (an) excellent challenge for us top to bottom, offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “(OSU) will be the fastest, biggest and quickest team we play.”
High praise from the opposition aside, Marshall said the matchup with Bearcats has to be a “statement game” for the Buckeyes.
“We have to come out there and play hard and play fast and play together, and I feel like we’ll come out with a win,” Marshall said Wednesday. “Cincinnati is definitely not going to give it to us.”
Saturday’s matchup is set to be the 16th meeting between the two schools, with OSU holding a 13-2 record against the Bearcats. The most recent matchup — in 2006 — ended with a 37-7 OSU victory, but didn’t necessarily feature a fast start for the Buckeyes. The Bearcats came out to take a 7-3 lead in the first quarter before OSU finished the game on a 34-0 run.
In that game, the Buckeyes’ defense allowed negative four yards on the ground from the Bearcats.
While allowing similar numbers on the ground Saturday would certainly play into OSU’s favor, the running game isn’t the focus of the Bearcat attack.
The player in the Buckeyes’ crosshairs in practice this week goes by a name that could be more fitting for an Old West hero.
Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel has just two collegiate games under his belt, but has already thrown for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“He’s a big, strong (player) and he runs pretty good when he runs,” Meyer said of Kiel.
Junior defensive lineman Tommy Schutt said he and the OSU defense has found extra motivation in the success the Cincinnati signal caller has had early in the season.
“We have a lot of respect for Gunner Kiel, he’s a great quarterback,” Schutt said Wednesday. “I know he’s done a great job the last couple weeks throwing the ball. Our job up front is to get after him and disrupt his game.”
As Schutt and his defensive linemates prepare to put pressure on Kiel, Tuberville said the play of the OSU defense is his focus for his quarterback, more so than any other factors that come into play at Ohio Stadium, like the noise generated by 105,000 plus spectators.
“I’m more concerned about the guys on the other side. Those are the ones he has to compete against,” Tuberville said.
The matchup under the Horseshoe’s new permanent lighting is set to be the final non-conference game of the Buckeyes’ season.
After Cincinnati, OSU is next scheduled to take on Maryland in the Terrapins’ second-ever Big Ten game Oct. 4 in College Park, Md. Kickoff is set for noon.