As expected, Ohio State was able to extend it’s nation’s best winning streak against an overwhelmed Illinois squad in Champaign Saturday afternoon. This time, though, the extending came with a historical twist. And, potentially, a punch in the gut to their BCS title hopes.
Running out to a 28-0 lead early in the first quarter, and overcoming an inexplicable malaise that lasted nearly the remainder of the game,the Buckeyes were able to outlast 3-7 Illini by the count of 60-35. It was the 20th consecutive Big Ten loss for the Illini but, more importantly for a team entertaining BCS title game hopes, it was the 22nd straight win for the Buckeyes.
The win streak ties the longest in OSU history, matching the 22 straight won by the Buckeyes from 1967-69. The Buckeyes can set the school record against 4-6 Indiana next Saturday in Columbus, and come within six of matching Michigan’s Big Ten record of 29 straight from 1901-03.
At 22 straight, OSU is tied with eight other schools for the 39th-longest winning streak in FBS history. The last team to win 22 consecutive games was Florida in 2008-09, a team ironically enough coached by Urban Meyer. With a win over the Hoosiers next weekend, the Buckeyes would match Notre Dame for the longest winning streak by an AQ program since 1989 (non-AQ Boise State won 24 straight from 2009-10).
The longest winning streak ever at the FBS/1-A level? The staggering 47 straight won by Oklahoma, a streak that began in 1953 and was ended by the Irish in 1957.
Personally, the win was Meyer’s 23 straight as a head coach. Meyer, who has won his first 22 games since taking over the Buckeyes in December of 2011, has not lost a game since his final season at Florida, a 31-7 loss to Florida State on Nov. 27, 2010.
Allowing Meyer to extend the third 20-plus-game winning streak of his coaching career were, of course, the one-two offensive punch of quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde. Hyde, who was the only Buckeye who seemed to gain steam as the game wore on, rushed for a career-high 246 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground. For good measure, Hyde caught an 18-yard swing pass for a touchdown as well. Hyde is now 53 yards away from giving Meyer the first 1,000-yard running back in his coaching career.
Miller accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) while gaining 184 on the ground.
As will be the case for the remainder of the season, at least until a potential matchup with a highly-ranked Michigan State team in the Big Ten title game, the win will do next to nothing for the Buckeyes when it comes to the BCS standings — and will actually hurt if the stretch of stench from midway through the second quarter through deep into the fourth quarter is taken into account. After taking that 28-0 lead with 10:20 left in the second quarter, the Buckeyes were outscored 35-32 by the three-win Illini; Hyde’s two long TD runs very late in the fourth closed that gap significantly. It was the kind of win that voters, who have allowed Baylor to gain ground on Ohio State in the polls the past three weeks, will use to make that final push and leapfrog the Bears over the Buckeyes when the rankings are released Sunday.
Outside of “style points,” Ohio State’s lone hope of getting back to the title game for the first time since the 2007 season is if, out of Alabama, Florida State and Baylor, at least one of them drops a game at some point between now and the end of the regular season/conference championship weekend. More than likely, given the Bears’ remaining schedule, the Buckeyes will need two-thirds of that trio to lose.
Regardless, it can’t take away the history Meyer and these Buckeyes are in the midst of creating. Even if said history were to involve a 25-0 mark and zero BCS titles.