Will Ohio State be highly motivated in the Rose Bowl against Utah or will losing to Michigan and coming up short of playing for a national championship diminish the Buckeyes’ enthusiasm?
Looking at Ohio State football history, you could make a case for either point of view. There have been seasons when OSU had impressive wins in bowl games after disappointing losses and there have been years when it appeared the Buckeyes might not have been thrilled about a bowl trip.
Ohio State capped seasons when it had national championship level talent but came up short with bowl wins several times, including over Arizona State in 1996, Texas A&M in 1998 and Notre Dame in 2005. Losses to Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl in 1995 and Clemson in the Orange Bowl in 2013 might be in the other category.
One of Ohio State’s best Rose Bowl teams could have been one of its least motivated.
OSU was ranked No. 2 going into the 1971 Rose Bowl game against Stanford. It had won 27 of 28 games over the previous three seasons. No. 1 Texas had lost to Notre Dame earlier in the day in the Cotton Bowl. So, in those days when national champions were picked by the polls, OSU’s second national title in three years was within reach.
Instead, Stanford, led by quarterback Jim Plunkett, upset the Buckeyes 27-17.
In the years since then, some Ohio State players have said a big factor in the loss was that Woody Hayes had sapped their enthusiasm and left them exhausted and unhappy by putting them through long and grueling practices on the bowl trip.
The bottom line is that this year, or in 1971 or in any year, the perception of a team’s bowl motivation is always determined by the final score.