Top 5 Michigan-Ohio State Games of All Time

November 21, 2018

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is considered by many to be the greatest not only on college sports, but in all of sports. Beginning in 1897, the two teams have produced many great moments and games. The rivalry has been filled with Heisman trophy players, legendary coaches, and historic matchups that rival any other series in college football. Michigan travels to Ohio State Saturday in yet another top ten matchup, and more great moments could come from that game. Here are the top five games in the rivalry’s storied history.

 

  1. 1969: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12

    Ohio State had dominated the 1960s and were 7-2 in the decade heading into the 1969 showdown. Michigan was in its first year under coach Bo Schembechler, a former assistant of Ohio State coach Woody Hayes. Ohio State was riding a 22 game winning streak, and had beaten Michigan 50-14 the year before. The Buckeyes scored their final touchdown to make the score 50-14, and tried an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt. When asked why his team went for two, Hayes responded “because I couldn’t go for three.” The heat of the rivalry was in full force when Ohio State walked into the Big House, looking for its 23rd straight win.
     

     

     

    Michigan’s defense was dominating, as they picked off Ohio State six times and forced a fumble, uncharacteristic of the Buckeye offense. Michigan took a 24-12 lead into the half, and no points were scored in the second half. The upset win kicked off the “Ten Year War,” the ten matchups between Bo and Woody, before Woody’s resignation after the 1978 season. After ten years, Schembechler held a slight 5-4-1 advantage over his mentor.

  2. The “Snow Bowl”
    The 1950 battle between Michigan and Ohio State is one of the most memorable in a series that spans three centuries. Michigan was 4-3-1 heading into the game, but were still alive for the Big Nine (Michigan State would join in 1953 to form the Big Ten) conference title because they only lost one conference game. Ohio State was 6-2 and had the same conference loss, Illinois, but the Fighting Illini had lost two other conference games, so this one was for the Big Nine title and a spot in the Rose Bowl.

    The conditions for this game were among the worst for any football game in history. The temperature in Columbus was 10 degrees, there were 28 mile per hour winds, and snow was falling rapidly, at a rate of 2 inches per hour. The stat lines for this game are nothing short of remarkable, as Michigan was 0/9 on passing attempts and ran for only 27 yards. Ohio State passed for 18 yards and ran for 16. Michigan failed to even convert a first down, and Ohio State only picked up three.

    The scoring began in a somewhat normal way, a 38 yard field goal by Ohio State. The kick, however, was won of the most improbable field goals Ohio State will probably ever make. The kicker could barely see the goal posts through the snow, and kicked into a swirling wind. He somehow made the kick, and sportswriters eventually called it one of the “Greatest Feats in American Sports.” Michigan blocked an Ohio State punt that rolled out of the end zone for a safety, giving the Wolverines two points. They later blocked another punt, falling on it in the end zone, giving them a 9-3 lead they’d never surrender.

     

     

    Michigan won what would later be dubbed the “Snow Bowl” by a 9-3 score. The teams traded 45 punts, and some of the punts were on first down, as the coaches thought that it would be better for their opponents to have the slippery ball in case they fumbled near the end zone. Michigan advanced to the Rose Bowl and beat Cal to advance to 6-3-1. Ohio State fell to 6-3, but it wasn’t all bad for the Buckeyes. Head coach Wes Fesler resigned after failing to beat Michigan in each of his four years with Ohio State, as he fell to 3-0-1 against the Wolverines. Ohio State then hired Miami (Ohio) head coach Woody Hayes to replace him.

  3. The Game of the Century
    The 2006 edition of “The Game” saw 11-0 Michigan walk into Columbus to play 11-0 Ohio State in a 1 vs 2 battle, Ohio State on top of the polls. Michigan was looking for their first win over Ohio State since 2004, and the Buckeyes were looking to make it four wins in the last five seasons over the Wolverines. New Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel had Michigan’s number so far in his career after taking over for John Cooper, who was fired largely because he couldn’t beat Michigan.

    Everything was on the line for this game. Each team was 11-0, so the Big Ten title was on the line, and a spot in the BCS National Championship was in play as well. Ohio State won it all in 2002, but Michigan hadn’t won a title in the BCS era; their last national championship was in 1997, a year before the BCS, when they split the title with Nebraska.

    The day before this game, legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler died suddenly, causing heartbreak across the Michigan fanbase.

     Michigan struck first in the game, but Ohio State answered and jumped out to a 21-7 lead. The teams traded touchdowns heading into the half, and the Buckeyes led 28-14. Michigan got a touchdown and a field goal after halftime and cut the deficit to 28-24. Ohio State answered with a touchdown before Michigan answered them, and then the Buckeyes scored another touchdown to go up by a score of 42-31. Michigan scored a touchdown with 2:16 to go, and Chad Henne’s pass was complete for the two-point conversion, and the game was cut to 42-39. Ohio State recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock, winning 42-39.

    Michigan remained dangerously close to the number 2 spot after this game, but Florida narrowly beat them out, preventing a rematch in the national title game. Ohio State lost to the Gators 41-14, and Michigan lost 32-18 to USC in the Rose Bowl. Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr would retire after the 2007 season, and Tressel would remain in Columbus until the spring of 2011, when he resigned, likely at the request of Ohio State administration, as a result of an NCAA investigation.

  4. The 1973 Tie
    The 1973 edition of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is one of the most controversial in college football, as it ended in a 10-10 tie with Big Ten title implications. Each team was undefeated, Ohio State was 9-0 and Michigan was 10-0, and Big Ten championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl was on the line.

    Ohio State jumped out to a 10-0 lead and took that into the half. Their defense held on until the fourth quarter, when Michigan scored 10 points. Michigan had the ball with under three minutes to go with a shot to win the game, and starting quarterback Dennis Franklin broke his collarbone. Three plays later, Michigan kicker Mike Lantry attempted a 58 yard field goal and narrowly missed, giving the Buckeyes the ball back. Ohio State threw an interception, giving Michigan the ball back. Lantry missed another field goal, and the game ended in a 10-10 tie.

    Since there was a tie for the Big Ten title, a vote from the athletic directors was required to determine who went to the Rose Bowl. If the vote was tied at five, Michigan would go to the Rose Bowl since Ohio State went the year before. Ohio State was supported by Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Michigan was supported by Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota. The deciding vote was Michigan State, who side with the Buckeyes, and rumors claim that the Spartans voted this way in retaliation for Michigan voting “no” when Michigan State was becoming part of the Big Ten in 1949.

    Ohio State went to the Rose Bowl and beat USC 42-21. Michigan’s season was over with the tie against the Buckeyes. Changes were made to the Big Ten’s bowl system after this, including opening bowl bids to four teams, meaning that more teams than just the champion could go to a bowl. They also abandoned the athletic director vote to break a tie.

  5. 2016 Double Overtime Showdown
    The 2016 game was a controversial one, but for different reasons. Michigan came into this game 10-1 and ranked third in the country, two weeks removed from a 14-13 upset loss in Iowa. Ohio State was also 10-1 and ranked second in the country, and was on a roll after their upset loss to Penn State. The Buckeyes were riding a four game winning streak into this one. If Michigan won, they would win the Big Ten East and earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship game with a shot at the College Football Playoff. If Ohio State won, they would need help from 3-8 Michigan State to beat Penn State to go to Indianapolis.

    Michigan started the game strong, getting a field goal early in the second quarter to take a 3-0 lead. Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight threw a pick-six to Malik Hooker with 4 minutes to go in the half after the Michigan defense had dominated the Buckeye offense. The Wolverines responded with a 4 minute touchdown drive to score with six seconds remaining, taking a 10-7 lead into halftime.

    Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers picked off JT Barrett, giving Michigan the ball at the Ohio State 42. Michigan drove all the way down to the goal line before Speight fumbled giving Ohio State the ball. After being stopped for a gain of three on 3rd and 9, Ohio State decided to do a fake punt for some reason on their own 19 yard line, and it was blown up by Michigan after a gain of three. 5 plays later, the Wolverines scored to take a 17-7 lead with 6:30 left in the 3rd quarter. Though the Wolverine defense was still playing very well, Speight threw another pick, and the Buckeyes had the ball on the Michigan 13. Two plays later, they scored to cut the Michigan lead to 17-14.

    Michigan’s defense began to bend on Ohio State’s last two drives of the game. They allowed the Buckeyes to go 61 yards, but stopped them inside the 10. Ohio State kicker Tyler Durbin somehow pulled a 20 yard field goal to the left, missing his second of the day. Michigan’s defense was again bullied down the field, as Ohio State went 77 yards to kick a game-tying 23 yard field goal to end regulation. The game was tied at 17 heading into overtime. Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime period, and Michigan was forced to a 37 yard field goal to open the second overtime, and took a 27-24 lead.

    The defense held, forcing 3rd and 9 on the Michigan 24. Barrett threw a pass to running back Curtis Samuel, who was corralled far behind the line of scrimmage. He somehow split Michigan defenders and ran down to the 16, forcing 4th and 1. The Buckeyes went for it, running a quarterback sneak with Barrett. Michigan will forever contend he was short, but after a review, Barrett was ruled to have barely gotten a first down. Samuel scored a 15 yard touchdown on the next play, giving Ohio State a 30-27 win.

    Penn State ran over Michigan State, and the Nittany Lions went to the Big Ten title game. Ohio State still went to the College Football Playoff, losing to Clemson 31-0 in the semifinal. Michigan played Florida State in the Orange Bowl and lost 33-32 in a comeback effort.

 

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