ARLINGTON, Texas — Eight years have passed since former Ohio State president Gordon Gee spouted off about Texas Christian University when the Buckeyes and Horned Frogs were competing for a spot in the antiquated Bowl Championship Series.
“We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Gee said in one of his many infamous quotes.
TCU won the Rose Bowl the same season, and the private Fort Worth university has punched above its weight in cementing itself as one of college football’s most consistent programs.
The Horned Frogs have won at least 11 games nine times dating to 2005, finishing in the top 10 seven times, including No. 2 in 2010 when Gee made his ill-fated comment. The ultimate irony now is that Saturday’s game against No. 15 TCU represents a statement opportunity for fourth-ranked Ohio State.
“If you don't think it’s a big game, try losing it,” acting OSU head coach Ryan Day said. “Every game you’ve got to be ready, you've got to be prepared and do a great job. When you come to Ohio State and you play at the highest level of college football, you have to bring your ‘A’ game every week. That’s not any different this week.”
Five schools have finished in the top 10 in three of the past four years. Four of them are the sport’s traditional blue bloods — Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma. The fourth is TCU.
One of those top-five finishes occurred in 2014 when the Buckeyes and TCU were linked again. Entering the final weekend of the season TCU was ranked third in the College Football Playoff rankings, but Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game, reshuffling the rankings and placing the Buckeyes in the playoff over the Horned Frogs.
No central characters remain on the roster for either team. Ohio State doesn’t even have the same head coach — until Sunday. The TCU game marks the final Saturday without Urban Meyer. It’s understandable, though, if you’ve hardly noticed he’s gone.
Without Meyer, OSU’s offense has produced as many points and yards as anyone in the country. Day has orchestrated a game plan that’s outscored Power Five opponents 129-34 and outgained them 1,300 yards to 526.
Despite engineering a second-half comeback at Michigan, questions persisted in the off-season about quarterback Dwayne Haskins. All he’s done is complete nearly 80 percent of his passes, ranking in the top five nationally in completion percentage, touchdown passes, and passer rating.
Since entering the Michigan game, Haskins is 48 of 60 for 640 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. He can carve out a place in the Heisman Trophy race with a gaudy primetime performance Saturday.
“There’s definitely a little more energy, more juice getting ready because it’s a big-time game,” Haskins said. “We have a lot of key games in order to go do what we want to do for a national championship. This is only one of them.”
Disguising coverages and pressuring the quarterback are two staples from Gary Patterson’s unique 4-2-5 defense. In its first two games, TCU recorded 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Day and Haskins have 60 more minutes to keep order for the Meyer-less Buckeyes.
“If you have a good, strong foundation, then you can make it through the other side,” Day said, “and that’s what's happened.”
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