Members of the 1968 National Championship team will be recognized on the field in the fist half of Saturday’s game vs. Minnesota
Led by an amazing class of sophomores that included quarterback Rex Kern, defensive back Jack Tatum and defensive lineman Jim Stillwagon, the Ohio State Buckeyes rolled to a 10-0 record and the last wire service National Championship for a Big Ten school when it defeated Southern California in the Rose Bowl, 27-16.
The team compiled numbers that boggle the mind and beat teams that it wasn’t supposed to beat. The Woody Hayes-led squad averaged 32 points and 440 yards per game, impressive numbers for that time, and the defense was stingy, allowing 15 points and 292 yards.
Eleven players from the team earned All-America honors during their careers and six players from the team were drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in either 1969 or 1971.
Jim Otis led the Buckeyes’ rushing attack with 985 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Kern was the passing leader with 972 yards and seven touchdowns. Sensibaugh led the defense with five interceptions and Mark Stier recorded 87 tackles.
The unknown and young Buckeyes opened the season at home with a 35-14 victory over Southern Methodist. Despite an NCAA record performance from SMU quarterback Chuck Hixson, the Buckeye defense forced six turnovers and allowed only 50 yards on the ground. On the offensive side of things, the Buckeyes rolled along with 227 yards on the ground and another 145 in the air to tally five touchdowns. OSU then rolled past Oregon 21-6 before playing perhaps the most important game of the season.
With a 2-0 record, but still a questionable reputation, the wet behind the ears Buckeyes hosted the No. 1 ranked Purdue Boilermakers. It was this game that probably made the biggest difference in the Scarlet and Gray’s season.
The Ohio State defense throttled a Purdue offense led by All-America candidates Mike Phipps and Leroy Keyes, allowing only 186 yards and no points. The defense also scored the Buckeyes’ first touchdown as Ted Provost picked off a Phipps pass and cruised 35 yards into the end zone for all the points OSU would need. Quarterback Bill Long added a 14-yard run in the third quarter giving the Buckeyes a 13-0 victory and a piece of the national limelight.
From that point on, the momentum just snowballed through the rest of the season. The next week Hayes’ squad drilled Northwestern 45-21 in Columbus on the strength of 565 yards of total offense. On Oct. 26 it was the Fighting Illini that took it on the chin when Kern and Otis combined for 129 yards and four touchdowns on the ground as OSU jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead.
The Buckeyes defeated Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa before hosting the Michigan Wolverines in Ohio Stadium on Nov. 23.
In a game that clinched the Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl berth, the Buckeyes scored 29 second-half points for a 50-14 win. Otis had 143 yards on the ground and four touchdowns and Kern added 96 yards and two scores as OSU tallied 421 yards and seven TDs on the ground.
The win over Michigan set up a showdown between No. 1 OSU and No. 2 Southern California in the Rose Bowl.
The game was termed Hollywood vs. The Heartland, according to several newspapers. USC was the defending national champion and boasted Heisman Trophy winning tailback O.J Simpson as its star player. The Trojans went 9-0-1 on the regular season with a tie vs. Notre Dame as its only blemish.
In one of the great games of all-time in Pasadena, OSU overcame a 10-0 deficit and rolled to a 27-16 win. Though he scored on an 80-yard run, Simpspn was held to 91 yards on 27 carries the rest of the way.
Arguably the finest team in the 128-year history of Ohio State football, the “Super Sophomores” and Co. earned the school’s fifth national championship. Before the final polls crowning the Buckeyes champions were released, Coach Hayes departed for Vietnam for a volunteer trip to talk football with U.S. servicemen. Later, the Sporting News called this team one of the 10 greatest college football teams of all-time.