A Game That Shaped the Decade: 2006 Michigan vs. Ohio State
Coming off a Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame, the Buckeyes started the 2006 season ranked first and were the preseason favorites to win the BCS National Championship.
Eventual Heisman trophy winner, quarterback Troy Smith helped guide Ohio State to an 11-0 start and a virtual national championship play-in game against No. 2-ranked rival Michigan.
Michigan began the season at No. 15 and shot up to No. 6 after taking care of a top-five Notre Dame team in South Bend in Week 3.
The Wolverines then controlled their next eight opponents, making it the first time in the history of the Michigan Ohio State rivalry that the participants were ranked first and second, and the first time since 1973 that the teams were both undefeated.
The afternoon in Columbus began with both teams scoring on their opening drives, but at the end of the first half, Ohio State led by 14 points. Michigan quarterback Chad Henne tried to catch the Buckeyes throughout the second half, bringing the lead down to four points two times (28-24 six minutes into the second half, and 35-31 early in the fourth quarter).
After a Henne touchdown pass and the ensuing two-point conversion, the score was 42-39. Michigan would fail to recover the onside kick, could not stop the Buckeyes on offense and after three-and-a-half hours, the game ended.
Ohio State and Michigan both received BCS bids and both lost in lopsided fashion to Florida and USC, respectively.
The loss to Florida was a sign of the Big Ten’s overall weakness compared to more athletic conferences, a trend that continued with the Buckeyes’ loss to LSU in the following season’s national championship as well as games like Wisconsin vs. TCU in the 2011 Rose Bowl or Penn State vs. USC in 2009.
While it was in somewhat controversial fashion, Jim Tressel’s team would go on to win the Big Ten four times in the next four seasons; Michigan went the opposite way.
The Wolverines’ core players returned for 2007 with a shot at the national championship, but all those dreams were dissolved on Sept. 1 when they lost to Appalachian State, an FCS team, in Ann Arbor.
Lloyd Carr salvaged a winning season and a Capital One Bowl win but retired after the season to be replaced by Rich Rodriguez who, amid NCAA rule violations, managed only one winning season despite showing many signs of a turnaround and was dismissed in early 2011.
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