COLUMBUS — The weird part of the story is true. The even weirder part probably isn’t.
The University of Tulsa, the opponent for Ohio State this afternoon in Ohio Stadium, once lost a game to the University of Houston 100-6.
And it wasn’t in the long-ago days of the first decades of the 20th Century. It was in 1968. That’s the weird part.
The even weirder part is that there was a freshman linebacker in Tulsa’s football program in 1968 named Phil McGraw, who as Dr. Phil, has gone on to earn an estimated $70 million dollars a year for telling people appearing on his television show they need to fix whatever is wrong in their lives.
Several years ago Dr. Phil told David Letterman that he played for Tulsa the year it got beat 100-6 by Houston.
“By halftime I was looking out the ear hole of my helmet,” he said, according to a transcript of the show.
Great story. Except that freshmen didn’t become eligible to play in NCAA Division I football until four years later in the 1972 season and would not have traveled to a road game with the varsity.
Even without Dr. Phil there was enough weirdness to go around in that 100-6 game on Nov. 23, 1968.
For one thing, Tulsa wasn’t exactly at full strength because of a particularly nasty strain of flu which had gone through the team.
Fifteen of the Golden Hurricane’s starters had been hit by it and the team doctor wanted to postpone the game. According to a story on the now-closed website Grantland, only two starting defensive linemen were healthy enough to travel and one of them passed out before the game.
Houston was ranked No. 11 and Tulsa came into the game with a 2-6 record, so it wasn’t exactly a match-up of equals before the flu. Earlier that season, Houston had dropped 71 points on Cincinnati and had beaten Idaho 77-3 a week earlier.
Predictably, Tulsa got weaker, not stronger as the game went on. Houston, whose lineup included future Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips at linebacker, scored 14 points in the first quarter, 10 in the second, 27 in the third and 49 points in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars pulled their starters after three quarters but the points kept coming. Their next to last touchdown was scored by Larry Gatlin, who went on to become a country music star.
No FBS school has scored 100 points since that game. But when Tulsa plays at Ohio State this afternoon it will be a match-up of two teams who scored a lot of points in their openers last week.
OSU won 77-10 over Bowling Green and Tulsa scored 38 first-half points on its way to a 45-10 win over San Jose State.
The Buckeyes probably won’t score that many points this week, but the odds are even better Tulsa won’t come close to scoring six touchdowns against OSU.
Both teams’ performances last week possibly should be viewed with some caution. It might not be quite as easy to replace 16 starters from last year as OSU made it look last Saturday. And Tulsa, a team which allowed 30 or more points in 11 of its 13 games last season, might not have fixed its defense quite as fast as it appeared against San Jose State.
Tulsa’s offense is the strength of the team, though, and might be more of a challenge for Ohio State’s defense than Bowling Green was.
Quarterback Dane Evans threw for 4,332 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Wide receivers Josh Atkinson (76 catches last season) and Keevan Lewis (101 catches in 2014) are his two favorite targets. But the Golden Hurricane’s offense was dominated by the run game last week when it got 305 yards on the ground, led by D’Angelo Brewer with 164 yards.
If Ohio State adds another impressive performance to what it did last week, the idea that it can contend nationally even with all the talent it lost from last year’s team would begin to seem more and more realistic.
A repeat of last week might or might not happen today. But an Ohio State win will happen.
The prediction: Ohio State 42, Tulsa 21.