Ohio State football: 80 years have passed since a September without the Buckeyes

As reports indicate the Big Ten is considering multiple options for when its football season will start, this much we know: There will be no September games for the conference’s teams.

That became certain when the conference announced Aug. 11 its presidents and chancellors had opted to “postpone” the season, but it is likely to feel much more real to fans of Ohio State and other Big Ten teams Saturday, which was to be the first full day of college football action for 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic caused numbers changes to the calendar for college sports.

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The last time Ohio State did not play in the month of September was 1939, a season that started with promise but ended with a thud.

Under coach Francis Schmidt, the Buckeyes started 3-0 with wins over Missouri, Northwestern and Minnesota.

Ranked No. 4 in The Associated Press poll, Ohio State suffered its first loss on the last Saturday of October on the road at the hands of No. 7 Cornell.

The Buckeyes bounced back to beat Indiana, Chicago and Illinois but closed out the season with a 21-14 loss at Michigan.

Ohio State still won a share of the Big Ten championship in 1939, but that season continued one unfortunate trend of the Schmidt era and began another.

Schmidt’s Buckeyes, who were known for their razzle-dazzle offense that relied on multiple trick plays, laterals and a relentless intend on lighting up the scoreboard, tended to trip up at the most important moments throughout his seven-year tenure in Columbus.

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The 1935 Buckeyes likely would be considered an all-time great team but blew a fourth-quarter lead at home against Notre Dame and lost 18-13 on a late touchdown pass by Fighting Irish halfback Bill Shakespeare. (No, really: The winning play came on a pass. Oh yeah, and his name really was Bill Shakespeare.)

A year later, Schmidt’s team lost to Notre Dame again 7-2 and suffered a 6-0 loss to a Pittsburgh program that was one of the power programs of the day.

In ’37, Ohio State came up one point short against USC (13-12) in October and were uncharacteristically shut out at home by Indiana 10-0 in November.

The other trend related to the Michigan game.

Schmidt made his first mark on The Game early when he declared the Wolverines put their pants on the same way as the Buckeyes, a statement that led to the tradition of Ohio State players receiving gold pants charms for every win over Michigan.

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His early teams backed up his talk, not just beating but thrashing the Wolverines each of his first four years at the helm of the Scarlet and Gray.

From 1934-37, Ohio State outscored Michigan 114-0 while putting together the first four-game winning streak in the series for the Buckeyes.

But that Buckeye loss in ’39 was the second in a row in The Game, and a third straight in 1940 likely removed any doubt Schmidt’s time in Columbus was at an end.

A 40-0 humiliation at the Horseshoe at the hands of the Wolverines and their star halfback, Tom Harmon, proved to be the last game Schmidt would coach at Ohio State.

He was replaced by Paul Brown, then a big-name high school coach at powerhouse Massillon Washington, and the antithesis of Schmidt in many ways as a coach.

Brown brought needed discipline to the Buckeyes, and he got them over the hump in his second season when he led them to the 1942 national championship, the program’s first.

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