A theory I've been developing with regards to football performances is one of the weather. It has long been known that warm-weather dome teams suffer in the NFL when playing post-season games in the frigid cold. The snow, the freezing rain, the sub-zero temperatures effect their performances in ways that aren't easily quantified, but affect the outcome of the game.
Yet this topic is never discussed in college football. The college football scene is broken up into conferences, each conference representing a geographic area with roughly similiar climes. The Pac-1o and SEC have different weather than the Big Ten, as the biggest contrast.
But when one looks at bowl game performances, especially most recently, the Big Ten has been struggling playing warm weather teams in warm weather stadiums. Especially in deep winter, when the teams have been practicing in the cold and fly down for a bowl game.
OSU has seemed to lack the explosiveness, speed, and physicality necessary to compete. But when they go north and fight their intra-conference rivals they dominate. OSU is a prime example of the weather phenomenon. Because of their success they have travelled to face top opponents in different environments, different seasons. And as such they are a great example of what happens when good teams play in different environments than that which they practice and live in.
I think that living, practicing, and playing in the cold weather conditions the human body and that conditioning is not conducive to athletic success. But when OSU plays their intraconference opponents the effect is cancelled out, and their coaching, strength and recruiting advantages play out and they win. But when they have to play their peers (USC, LSU, Florida, Texas) in the warm weather they can struggle.
This incremental effect on their muscles, their stretching, their balance (mud vs. turf), etc., amplifies over time to create this major difference. Thats why it is amazing OSU beat Miami back in '01.