COLUMBUS — Do you suppose the 1921 Oberlin College football team ever imagined people would still be talking about them 93 years later?
Its fame has grown as the years have passed. That team is the answer to a trivia question. It is the last football team from Ohio to beat Ohio State.
Oberlin’s 7-6 win was a surprise but it was no fluke. Its touchdown was one of only two Ohio State allowed in seven games that season.
Now, every time Ohio State plays an opponent who has a reasonable chance of beating the Buckeyes, you hear about Oberlin.
Cincinnati comes into tonight’s game against OSU at Ohio Stadium viewed as a team with a realistic chance of bringing that 93-year streak to an end.
Ohio State did not play an in-state opponent between 1934 and 1992 until it beat Bowling Green 17-6 in the second game of the season in 1992.
Since then, there have been four close calls for the Buckeyes, none of them closer than a 23-19 win over Cincinnati in 2002. The Bearcats dropped two potential touchdown passes in the final minutes and the game ended with Will Allen intercepting a pass in the end zone.
In 2003, with starting quarterback Craig Krenzel out with an injury, Ohio State built a 24-7 lead on Bowling Green with four minutes to play, then held on for a 24-17 win that ended with Bowling Green having the ball at OSU’s 47-yard line.
Three years ago in a 27-22 win over Toledo, the Rockets had the ball at Ohio State’s 16-yard line with 48 seconds to play before the Buckeyes’ defense stopped them on fourth down.
In 2008, OSU’s 26-14 win over Ohio University was much closer than the final score indicated. The Bobcats were 33-point underdogs but led 14-12 early in the fourth quarter.
Could this be the year Oberlin is retired to the history books?
The most likely scenario for Cincinnati going home with a historic win would seem to be a high-scoring game.
The Bearcats (2-0) have a quarterback, Gunner Kiel, with a big arm. He has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 689 yards in two games. They have seven receivers who have caught touchdown passes and some solid running backs.
And that offense will be going against an Ohio State defense that has still not proved it has fixed all the problems it had last season against teams who could throw the ball.
On the other hand, Cincinnati’s defense has not exactly distinguished itself so far. The Bearcats outscored Toledo 58-34 in their opener but gave up 563 yards. Last week, Miami of Ohio, which has lost 20 games in a row, had 364 yards in a 31-24 UC win.
Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville says this game could be “a measuring stick” for his team. It could be that for Ohio State, too.
Three games into the season, the picture of what kind of team OSU (2-1) has this season has not come into clear focus yet.
Its quarterback and most of its offensive playmakers are inexperienced. Three positions on the offensive line are still not set. The questions about the defensive backfield and linebackers have not all been answered and even the highly regarded defensive line has a question mark with the loss of Noah Spence.
This is Cincinnati’s chance to prove it is ready for prime time. And it’s Ohio State’s chance to do the same thing in a different way.
It might not be easy but Ohio State will keep Oberlin’s 1921 team in the conversation.
The prediction: Ohio State 35, Cincinnati 24.