From the time it started back in 1897, through the Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler years and even into the Jim Tressel and Lloyd Carr years, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry has stood the test of time as one of the fiercest, and important rivalries that there is in college football—and perhaps even in all of sports.
Twenty-three times, the Big Ten Championship has been decided by the outcome of this game. An additional 23 times, the Big Ten Championship has been affected by the outcome of this game.
At the beginning of every fall, fire begins to burn within the fans of both teams, so much so that the week leading up to the game usually makes for good radio in both the local and national formats.
One more thing for certain is that this rivalry usually has some great stories for fathers to tell their children and grandfathers to tell their grandchildren about.
So with that in mind, here are some of my most memorable OSU vs Michigan moments. Since I am only 30, I do not have many stories from the Woody Hayes-Bo Schembeckler era to share, but I do have some of my favorites:
It was year six for John Cooper, and he had still failed to produce a win against Ohio State's bitter rival. However, Buckeye fans that crowded the Shoe, as well as some of the players on the team, felt something in the air telling them this day would be different.
ABC, which broadcast the game, even sent their sideline reporter Jack Arute to a fortune teller who predicted more doom and gloom for the Buckeyes that day, and Ohio State did its part by bringing in 300 former Buckeyes to talk to the team about the rivalry the week of the game.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the fortune teller was wrong, as the Buckeyes rolled over the Wolverines. The big play on this day was made by Ohio State defensive back Marlon Kemer, who blocked a 33-yard field-goal attempt by Michigan with 14:37 to go in the game, when the Buckeyes up 12-6. The blocked kick was recovered by Buckeyes linebacker Mike Vabrel.
On the ensuing possession, the Buckeyes would go on a drive completed by Josh Jackson's second field goal of the day, making the score 15-6. Then, after Ohio State nose guard Luke Fickell intercepted a Todd Collins pass, the Buckeyes put the game on ice when tailback Eddie George scored on a two-yard run, making the score 22-6 with 8:35 to play. That score held up.
After six years of frustration, John Cooper finally had his first win versus the Wolverines as the Buckeyes' head coach. Fans stormed the field in a celebration which got some of the students in quite a bit of trouble, as riots broke out on campus after the game.
The Buckeyes' bowl game did not end in so much jubilation, though. The Buckeyes ended the season in the Citrus Bowl, and suffered a disappointing loss to an SEC team.
But the victory over the Wolverines made the season special for both the Buckeyes and their fans—and for one day, at least, they had reason to celebrate.
Talk about having a real thorn in your side! This was before the BCS days, when a trip to the Rose Bowl was the important thing on the line, and perhaps the national championship. Ohio State entered the game with quite a chip on their shoulder, seeing as they were shutout 28-0 the last time they were at the Big House.
The Buckeyes also came into the game led by Eddie George, who would later become a Heisman-trophy winner, and two future NFLers in Terry Glenn and Orlando Pace. They were also ranked as the number-two team in the nation, had just won 11-straight games, and dominated most of their opponents. Terry Glenn even went out of his way to say that "Michigan's nothing."
The Wolverines came into the game looking to crush the Buckeyes after suffering devastating losses to teams like Northwestern, Michigan State, and Penn State—and crush the Buckeyes is exactly what the Wolverines did.
Tim Biakabutuka came into the game with an injury and still managed to rack up 313 yards. All the Buckeyes fans could do was sit and star at the television, mouths hung open wide in disbelief, and emotions crushed, as the Buckeyes were upset 31-23.
Even more insulting, perhaps, to Buckeyes fans was their performance in the Citrus Bowl, when they were taken out by Peyton Manning and Peerless Price of the Tennessee Volunteers.
For the Buckeyes, it was a day of both anticipation and reckoning. They entered the day with a record of 10-0. They were ranked-two in the BCS polls and poised for a run at the national championship. Win and they were in. Lose, and they may not have even made the Rose Bowl, as Iowa surprising team had an undefeated record as well.
On this cold, cloudy, and drizzly day, the only thing standing in their way were the Michigan Wolverines. For a while, it did not look good for the Buckeyes. On this day, as had happened all season long, some last-minute heroics were needed to save the Buckeyes if they were to make their way to Arizona and play for the National Championship.
Late in the fourth quarter, Maurice Clarrett, who had one score and rushed for 119 yards, made two big plays, including a huge reception to set up a Maurice Hall touchdown. But an even bigger play came when defensive back Will Allen picked off John Navarre in the end zone to seal the Ohio State victory, 14-9.
The Buckeyes would realize both the players' and the fans' dreams of going to the Fiesta Bowl, where they won the National Championship in what was one of the most exciting championship games in BCS history.
However, that game was not without some controversy, as a late pass-interference call on fourth down gave the Buckeyes another chance to win the game and the title.
Even today, most Hurricanes fans, and some of the national media (Skip Bayless), would tell you that Miami actually won the game.
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and other times you do nether. At least that's the way that this game went. Ohio State's 10-point fourth-quarter rally in that the game finished in a 13-13 tie. My most vibrant memory is Kirk Hierbstreet walking off the field in tears at the end of the game.
Much to the disgust of Ohio State fans, Ohio State University president Gordon Gee would go on to say after the game that "A tie is one of a greatest wins ever. You don't have to read between the lines to figure out that this guy is doing a hell of a job."
Who was he talking about? No one other then John Cooper. It had been reported in the Columbus Dispatch earlier that week Cooper had to win the Michigan game in order to keep his job, despite signing a four-year contract extension earlier that year.
ESPN called it the game of the century, and it did not disappoint. Ohio State and Michigan were the number one and two teams in the nation, and the game was a highlight reel.
What made the game even more special is that it was played at 3:30 pm for the first time ever—which made some elder fans upset. They did not want the normal time of the game (12:00 pm) to be changed, because they said it took away from the tradition of the rivalry.
On this day, Michigan got on the board first, as Mike Hart scored a rushing touchdown. Then Ohio State came back and scored 21 unanswered points—an incredible touchdown run from Chris "Beanie" Wells, as well as two beautiful touchdown passes from Troy Smith to Brian Robiske and Ted Ginn Jr—to give the Buckeyes a suitable lead at halftime.
A notable memory from this game is a frustrated Troy Smith on the bench late in the third quarter with a stone-cold face, as the Buckeyes struggled in the second half and Michigan took advantage.
Despite the Wolverines' best efforts, the Buckeyes would go on to earn the victory 42-39, and for the second time clinch a spot in the National Championship versus their archrival on their home field.
Later that night, by design or not, the winning Ohio Lottery numbers were 4-2-3-9. Coincidence? Maybe.
Ohio State would play Florida, and just never were able to get anything to work, as the Gators dominated the Buckeyes 41-14 to win the national championship.
Of course I could go on for hours with more memories, but these are some of my most vibrant and fondest of the rivalry.
This Saturday, even though we may not have a trip to the national championship game on the line, or some juicy storyline, a new chapter full of new memories will begin, given that Michigan has a new look. Are you ready? I am.
So what are some of your favorite memories of this rivalry if you follow it? Feel free to share them with me!
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