Can A Coin Always Land On Tails? A Study of UM-OSU since 2001

Submitted by Swayze Howell Sheen on November 19th, 2017 at 10:23 PM
The greatest rivalry in sports has been lopsided since 2001, concurrent with the arrival of Jim Tressel and now continued under Urban Meyer at OSU. Let's examine this string of games.
My goal here is simple: to determine just how bad our luck really is. My memory is that we could have won a lot of these games, but didn't. Sometimes it was the refs, sometimes it was a single play, but in each case, UM's luck ran out.
I'll thus classify each game into the following categories: "Just plain lost" (where OSU was clearly better), "Could have won" (where a play or two would have changed the outcome),
"Won but could have lost (same but with the good guys ending up on top), or "Comfortable win" (where UM was clearly better).
The Tally
Comfortable win: 1 
Won but could have lost: 1
Could have won: 7
Just plain lost: 7
So there we have it. In the 16 games since the Tressel era began, we are 2-14. If we had crazy luck, we'd be 9-7. If we just had reasonable luck in that time, we'd be something like 6-10 (not great, but you can live with it). If you remove the RichRod era, that'd be 9-4 with crazy luck and 6-7 with average luck. 
In conclusion, we've had a shitty run of luck (I'm sure Buckeyes felt the same way during the Cooper era). It's time for that to change. It's time for the bounce of the ball or the call of a ref to go our way. In short, it's time for the f***ing coin to finally turn up heads.
Appendix: Per-game Assessments
2001 Ann Arbor Ohio State 26–20
Michigan easily could have won this game. Outgained the Bucks, had a large number of turnovers, and dropped a potential game winner. CURSE OF THE F***ING TRESSEL MONSTER BEGINS.
Conclusion: Could have won.
2002 Columbus Ohio State (#2) 14–9
Tough, close game. Michigan about 20 yards from the win and just a few seconds short of pulling off a great win in the Horseshoe. Bonus: would've prevented an OSU national championship. 
Conclusion: Could have won.
2003 Ann Arbor Michigan (#5) 35–21
This was a great game for a UM fan. Michigan came out on fire and was up 21-0 (and almost 28-0) in a heartbeat. Things did settle down, and OSU even drew within a score, but UM pulled away late.
Conclusion: Comfortable win.
2004 Columbus Ohio State 37–21
This was the Troy Smith coming out party. The game started well but the curse of that era, the mobile QB, was upon UM again, and OSU won going away.
Conclusion: Just plain lost.
2005 Ann Arbor Ohio State (#9) 25–21
A heartbreaking game. Michigan was up late and had the ball, and a first down would have ended the game. Instead, a punt, and another chance for Troy Smith heroics. He, alas, was a hero.
Conclusion: Could have won.
2006 Columbus Ohio State (#1) 42–39
The Game of the Century. Bo died. We put a slow LB on a fast slot receiver. Henne overthrew a wide-open Manningham. And Crable. 
Conclusion: Could have won.
2007 Ann Arbor Ohio State (#7) 14–3
Poor damn Chad Henne and many others were hurt. We had no offense. OSU just scored a few times and milked the game away.
Conclusion: Just plain lost. 
2008 Columbus Ohio State (#10) 42–7
The dark RichRod years begin. Why say more?
Conclusion: Just plain lost.
2009 Ann Arbor Ohio State (#9) 21–10
More of the same, though Michigan was game for about half of this one. Game, but outmatched.
Conclusion: Just plain lost.
2010 Columbus Ohio State (#12) 37–7
The conclusion of the RichRod era.
Conclusion: Just plain lost.
2011 Ann Arbor Michigan (#15) 40–34
Denard and everyone on fire. And still, one overthrow by OSU away from being a loss to OSU's worst team this century, coached by none other than Adam Sandler.
Conclusion: Won but could've lost.
2012 Columbus Ohio State (#4) 26–21
Close-fought battle that seemed to be leaning to OSU for much of the game, but any one-score game like this could have gone otherwise; remember when Shawn Springs slipped?
Conclusion: Could have won.
2013 Ann Arbor Ohio State (#3) 42–41
A better 2-point play would have done the trick. DG's game of a lifetime, wish he could have strolled in for the winning 2-pt play.
Conclusion: Could have won.
2014 Columbus Ohio State (#6) 42–28
The end for Hoke. A surprisingly good effort by UM all things considered, but game never really in doubt.
Conclusion: Just plain lost.
2015 Ann Arbor Ohio State (#8) 42–13
Harbaugh era begins, and we are overmatched by a team still angry over their very crappy effort against Sparty.
Conclusion: Just plain lost.
2016 Columbus Ohio State (#2) 30–27 2OT
A different spot and a win, among one thousand other things that could have changed the outcome. Also, f*** those Refs.
Conclusion: Could have won.



November 19th, 2017 at 10:28 PM ^

Re: 2002, Braylon was called for a weak offensive PI that negated a touchdown, causing us to settle for a field goal.  Those four lost points loomed large at the end of the game, when we drove to about their 20.


November 19th, 2017 at 10:37 PM ^

I have used this same analogy of tossing a coin when talking about the the last 16 years vs OSU. To me, it is absolutely baffling how things have gone for us during this span. It is high time for that golden horseshoe to be so rudely ripped out of the buckeyes rear end. Thanks for the content, but damn, that was hard to re-live all those losses.


November 20th, 2017 at 6:07 AM ^

When Brady Hoke had the wind at his back (that is, before his UMich career was somewhat clearly doomed) he did a pretty good overall job recruiting if you look as class rankings, etc.

He must've also been an excellent motivator for the "Ohio" game. Look at how close they were in '12 and '13.


November 20th, 2017 at 9:01 AM ^

I think if you were to look at the late Moeller/Early Carr era (not coincidentally, and probably more accurately, "the John Cooper era") this swings around heavily in favor of Michigan.  Meaning that OSU had a lot of games they "should have won" and very few they "just plain lost."  It was an era of clear underperformance from Michigan where they would lose 3 or 4 games but put together a great effort and gameplan for OSU. 

I think this also gives some of the middle aged and older M fans too much hope in the last few years, the sentiment being "we used to upset OSU all the time, even when they were better/more talented" when the reality is we were more or less equally talented but had been underperforming throughout the season.  The absence of any neutralizing effects (such as bad weather) the last decade has really shown the vast talent and depth disparity between the teams, with the notable exception of last year.


November 20th, 2017 at 11:23 AM ^

the past to explain past failures at the expense of one game's outcome when during the year you're every team's bowl game and the only issue here is The Game.

You either win it or you don't, and it just plain sucks to lose regardless of how the rest of the year has gone, but especially when you don't have much to play for regardless of why. There's so much in beating these guys that's extracurricular, but it's just like beating them is like great, orgasmic sex.

Lloyd went 8-4 two years in a row and then won an NC from 1995-1997, and it wasn't like Ohio State was chopped liver in those years. They were either undefeated or only once beaten and Top Ten ranked most of that time.

These games alter careers one way or another with impact unlike any other win or loss.


November 20th, 2017 at 11:13 AM ^

I posted something like this 2 years ago and got drummed out of here. The reality is that Lloyd Carr could very easily could have beat Tressel almost every game. Go ahead and flip a coin- you will be surprized at how often you get streaks of 5 heads or 4 tails. Carr did have a lot of bad luck in those games- it could have gone either way.

Carr has been tarred by the haters in this fan base ever since his losses to Tressel. He was the last really good coach we had and had tons of personal integrity (against the Tressel recruiting bribery machine).

Its all image- Tressel and Harbaugh have the image and people love it- Carr just seemed like a cranky old guy but was a very good coach. 

Its all image- people are superficial and being a coach is like being a homecoming King.


November 20th, 2017 at 11:37 AM ^

2006 wasn't that close. Even though the score looks close, M was down by 11 quite late into the fourth quarter.

Just checked the boxscore from that game. sigh. not as close as it looks.


November 20th, 2017 at 11:44 AM ^

Here is the deal . . . we haven't been good in this span of time. Luck does have something to do with it . . . but, let's face it . . .Overall, we have been deficient in offensive line play and quarterback play . . . two areas were OSU has absolutely owned us.  I think Harbaugh has what it takes to reverse the trend, at least get us competitve. But, not this year.  It would take many fortuitous bounces  for us to win with this current team. Give them a year or two.  

UM in NC

November 20th, 2017 at 12:29 PM ^

I don't disagree with the analysis, but somebody posted something about our inability to make big plays.  My thought would be in most if not all the 'could of won' games, I bet we had fewer big plays in critical moments.  We all focus on the bad spot last year while not mentioning the ridiculous play Samuel made to get there.  Some of this may be luck, but over the last several years we can make plays against Northwestern and Indiana, but not OSU and MSU.  I think it's more than bad luck.  I think we need to re-learn how to win big games


November 20th, 2017 at 8:03 PM ^

Statistically speaking it's not that hard to flip a coin 16 times and get tails 14 times. In fact, I just tried it out with a coin flipping simulator and it took 96 flips to get a sequence of 16 with only 2 heads.

That being said, the fact that football isn't a perfectly random coin flip makes it even more frustrating.


November 22nd, 2017 at 2:31 PM ^

The reverse is also true for Ohio State during the Cooper years.
Cooper could have easily been 10-3 against Michigan:
1988 - Ohio State lost a very close game,
1989 - Ohio State lost,
1990 - Ohio State lost a very close game,
1991 - Ohio State lost big,
1992 - Ohio State tied, could have won,
1993 - Ohio State lost big,
1994 - Ohio State won,
1995 - Ohio State lost a close game,
1996 - Ohio State lost a very close game,
1997 - Ohio State lost a very close game,
1998 - Ohio State won,
1999 - Ohio State lost a close game,
2000 - Ohio State lost a close game.
The series has generally been close, even though the long streaks make it look lopsided.
On Michigan's side of the ledger, Rich Rod was never close, but most of the Carr/Hoke/Harbaugh losses could have just as easily gone the other way. 
I'm too lazy to do the math right now, but I would bet that 75% of the Michigan-Ohio State games since the Cooper era started in 1988 all the way through 2016 have been one-score games that either team could have won.


November 23rd, 2017 at 12:50 PM ^

...with our team. Michigan has been competitive these last few Harbaugh years, and that is what I want from any team I favor.  I'm even OK with mistakes...these are 18-20 ish kids who try their best, and UM plays as a team again...and they don't give up, which was evident in the RR and Hoke eras.

What I hate are the demoralizing and outright stupid Officiating mistakes that DO de-moralize these kids. Touchdowns taken away that were touchdowns (Wisconsin this year), and bad calls (or no calls) on critical plays that once again turn the tide and de-moralize players, as well as give the game to the opponent. I don't like to see us win because of this, and like it less to see us lose. I guess that's just life, but it sure does seem we've had a very long string of bad coin tosses going the wrong way.