Ohio State football | Jack Looks Back: '73 Buckeyes to celebrate season of excellence
Tackle John Hicks won both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award and finished second to Penn State's John Cappelletti in voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Jack Park, a leading Ohio State football historian, checks in each week during the college football season with a retrospective about the Buckeyes.
Players from the the 1973 Ohio State football team will assemble on Saturday in Ohio Stadium to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 10-0-1 season, which took place in Woody Hayes' 23rd year as head coach of the Buckeyes.
Many outstanding teams are remembered for either a high-scoring offense or stingy defense, but the Buckeyes of 1973 were truly outstanding on both sides of the ball. They outscored opponents 413-64 while leading the nation in scoring defense -- surrendering an average of only 4.3 points a game during the regular season. Except for a 10-10 tie at Michigan, their "closest call" was a 42-21 Rose Bowl victory over Southern California. OSU averaged 37.5 points a game, fourth highest in school history (last year's team ranks fifth at 37.2).
Ohio State entered the 1973 season with high expectations after a nucleus returned from a 9-2 campaign the year before. A ground-oriented attack centered on sophomore tailback Archie Griffin, who in 1973 set what was then a single-season school record with 1,577 yards rushing. The offensive line was anchored by tackle John Hicks, who captured both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award and finished second to Penn State's John Cappelletti in voting for the Heisman Trophy.
The defense featured three exceptional linebackers: seniors Randy Gradishar, Vic Koegel and co-captain Rick Middleton. All three were All-Big Ten, and Gradishar, who had great speed and excellent lateral pursuit, was a consensus All-American for the second time. Koegel led the team in tackles in 1971 (126), Middleton in '72 (112) and Gradishar in '73 (134).
End Van DeCree was an All-American, and tackle Pete Cusick and cornerback Neal Colzie were two of the finest Buckeyes ever to play their positions -- both would become All-Americans in 1974. Colzie established school single-season records in '73 with 40 punt returns for 679 yards and two touchdowns.
Ohio State and Michigan tied for the Big Ten title at 7-0-1, forcing athletic directors in the conference to select the league’s Rose Bowl representative. This might have been the most controversial vote in conference history. To the surprise of many, Ohio State was selected.
The league office would not release the vote count, but the Detroit Free Press reported it to be 6-4. The newspaper said that Ohio State received votes from Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Northwestern. Michigan reportedly received support from Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota. Michigan State’s support of Ohio State particularly was disturbing for Michigan -- the Spartans' vote was cast by director of athletics Bert Smith, a graduate of Michigan.
Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was extremely bitter, saying that his team deserved the trip because it had outplayed Ohio State in their matchup. He also protested that Ohio State had been to Pasadena the previous season. Ironically, Michigan AD Don Canham had been an advocate to abolish the Rose Bowl "no repeat" policy, which went into effect in 1973.
Griffin became the first sophomore to be chosen the Big Ten's most valuable player, and Hicks became the first Big Ten player to play in three Rose Bowls. ... Fullback Bruce Elia tied with Wisconsin's Billy Marek for the conference scoring title with 66 points. ... Gradishar, Griffin, Hicks and Hayes all are members of the College Football Hall of Fame. ... The Buckeyes finished second behind undefeated Notre Dame in the final 1973 Associated Press poll.