The Ohio State Buckeyes have never lost a game in Texas. That feat will grow in impressiveness if they beat No. 15 Texas Christian (2-0) on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Texas considers itself the center of the football universe. Even the current Ohio State players who left the Lone Star State to play college football in Columbus believe Texas turns the dial up to 11 when it comes to its love for the game.
“Ohio State is Ohio State, but even high school football down there is big,” said Ohio State right guard Demtrius Knox, who grew up in Springfield but moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in middle school. “The whole city shuts down and everything. No matter if it’s middle school or high school football, everything is dramatic down there.”
The No. 4 Buckeyes (2-0) have won all six of their games in Texas, including two in the last four seasons. Here’s a quick recap of those games:
Oct. 1, 1977: No. 6 Ohio State beat Southern Methodist 35-7 in Dallas behind two rushing touchdowns by freshman fullback Joel Payton. Dallas native Roderic Gerald, a junior quarterback, scored on a 33-yard run for the Buckeyes.
Jan. 1, 1987: Linebacker Chris Spielman had two of No. 11 Ohio State’s five interceptions in a 28-12 victory against No. 8 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Dec. 29, 2004: Mike Nugent kicked four field goals in No. 24 Ohio State’s 33-7 victory over Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
Sept. 9, 2006: Troy Smith threw two touchdown passes as No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Texas 24-7 in Austin. The Buckeyes avenged a 25-22 loss at home to Texas in 2005.
Jan. 12, 2015: No. 4 Ohio State beat No. 2 Oregon 42-20 at AT&T Stadium to win the first College Football Playoff. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for four touchdowns.
Dec. 29, 2017: J.T. Barrett ran for two scores to help N0. 7 Ohio State beat No. 8 Southern California 24-7 in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.
The recent games in Texas have helped Ohio State coaches recruit in the state. Their 2017 class, ranked second in the country, according to 247Sports.com, included three of the top-six players in Texas that year: cornerback Jeffrey Okudah (No. 2 in Texas); linebacker Baron Browning (No. 4); and running back J.K. Dobbins (No. 6).
The current roster also includes three other players from Texas: cornerback Kendall Sheffield, a five-star prospect in 2015 who started his career at Blinn Community College; quarterback Matthew Baldwin, of the 2018 class; and redshirt freshman wide receiver Elijah Gardner. Of course, Ohio State had another famous Texan on its roster the last five years: quarterback J.T. Barrett.
The prime-time game against TCU could pay dividends in future classes. Ohio State’s 2019 class already includes wide receiver Garrett Wilson, of Austin. He ranks second in the state and 14th in the nation in his class.
“For recruits to be able to go down the street and go to Cowboy Stadium and watch Ohio State play in person, that’s huge,” Knox said.
Texas A&M, Texas and Texas Christian had top-30 classes in 2017 but couldn’t stop some of the top talent from fleeing the stat. For Okudah, Ohio State offered him the surest path to the NFL.
“I think their reputation preceded them as far as having guys at my position with Gareon (Conley), Marshon (Lattimore), Eli (Apple), (Bradley) Roby,” Okudah said, “and for J.K., obviously, you have Zeke and a great history of running backs. For Baron, you have the (Ryan) Shaziers, the (Raekwon) McMillans, the Darron Lees and all that. When you see that, even being in Texas, it is appealing to be one of the next guys in line.”
Having two other Texas recruits in his class helped Okudah make his decision.
“I was definitely happy because you don’t have to worry about getting homesick,” he said. “You kind of feel you brought a part of home with you to Ohio. It would have been really nice to get Marvin Wilson (a defensive tackle who went to Florida State) and make it four.”