Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Most Important Games in the History of the Rivalry

Joel GreerCorrespondent INovember 21, 2012

Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Most Important Games in the History of the Rivalry

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    Football teams from Michigan and Ohio State meet for the 109th time Saturday in what some simply call "The Game."

    Others refer to the meeting of the perennial Big Ten powers as “The Greatest Rivalry in College Sports.” The game has often decided the Big Ten championship while occasionally ending a team's dream of an undefeated season and a national title.

    It's often been a showcase for eventual Heisman Trophy winners and, at the same time, the death sentence of the game's brightest coaches.

    John Cooper accumulated a respectable 113-43-4 record in 13 years as the Ohio State coach. Unfortunately, he was fired in 2000 because he was only able to beat Michigan twice in 13 tries.

    Beating Ohio State is equally critical at Michigan. Rich Rodriguez was also shown the door after being crushed three straight times from 2008 to 2010.

    Michigan leads the series 58-44-6, but the Buckeyes have won eight of the last 10 games.

    While Brady Hoke was victorious in his first attempt last season, Urban Meyer gets his first chance to coach a Michigan-Ohio State game this Saturday. 

    There have been plenty of surprises, upsets and thrilling finishes. Let's take a look at some of them.

1901: Michigan 21, Ohio State 0

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    Michigan's 1901 team may have been college football's best ever. 

    Fielding Yost was brought over from Stanford to coach the Wolverines to an 11-0 season, scoring 550 points without allowing a single one.

    The point-a-minute Michigan squad defeated the Buckeyes, 21-0, before 33,000 at University Park in Columbus.

    Michigan All-Americans Neil Snow and Willie Heston each scored a pair of touchdowns. 

1919: Ohio State 13, Michigan 3

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    Ohio State's victory was their first in the series and the first of three straight over Michigan by coach John Wilce.

    Before defeating Michigan in 1919, Wilce had already won a pair of Big Ten titles (1916-17) when Michigan and Ohio State weren't scheduled.

    In the 1919 battle, Ohio State dominated.

    Wrote The Ohio State University Monthly:  

    The Maize and Blue had no excuse to offer, as the Michigan team was one of the strongest ever put out at Ann Arbor and was in good trim at the start. The Wolverines were fortunate to escape with the score as low as it was, for they were completely outclassed after the first period, failing to make a first down in the last three quarters and making but one in the entire game.

    Wilce finished his career with a 78-33-9 record and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954. 


1934: Ohio State 34, Michigan 0

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    Ohio State's 34-0 victory in 1934 began a string of four straight shutouts over Michigan and a new tradition in Columbus.

    Before the first victory, Buckeye coach Francis Schmidt was asked if he could beat the always-troublesome Wolverines. He replied, "Of course we can win, those fellows put their pants on one leg at a time, the same as everyone else."

    After the victory, Schmidt's quote inspired Ohio State to give any player who beats Michigan a "Gold Pants" keepsake.

    Ironically, these lapel pins were part of the merchandise used to obtain tattoos during the Jim Tressel regime.

    Schmidt, who was know for his "razzle-dazzle" offense, tied for the Big Ten title in 1935 and won it outright in 1939. 

    The Wolverines went on to finish the season 1-7. Even center Gerald Ford, an eventual President of the United States, couldn't do much for this team. 

1950: Michigan 9, Ohio State 3

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    Imagine losing your job in conditions like this.

    That's exactly what happened to Ohio State's Wes Fesler, who watched his Buckeyes commit a variety of errors in the 9-3 loss to Michigan. 

    The game, otherwise knows as the "Snow Bowl," was nearly cancelled. Surprisingly, almost 50,000 fans had already taken their seats.

    Winds of 30 miles per hour whipped around the Horseshoe, and wind chills hovered around zero degrees.

    Sending all those fans back onto the icy roads didn't sit well with the athletic directors, so the game was played.  

    The key play, the game's only touchdown, occurred late in the first half. With 45 seconds left, Ohio State's Vic Janowicz had a punt blocked into his own end zone. Michigan fell on it, and the game was basically over.

    Ohio State fans were upset with the strategy, figuring the Buckeyes could have run out the remaining seconds of the half.

    Michigan, which failed to make a first down, won a trip to the Rose Bowl, and OSU decided to fire the coach.

    Woody Hayes became the next Buckeye mentor at the outset of the 1951 season. 

1969: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12

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    From 1960 to 1968, coach Woody Hayes and the Buckeyes won seven of nine meetings over Michigan. 

    The 1969 Buckeyes were defending 1968 national champions and were working on a 22-game winning streak.  

    Ohio State came into the 1969 game as 17-point favorites, featuring offensive stars like quarterback Rex Kern and running backs Larry Zelina, Jim Otis and John Brockington.  

    While the offense was unbelievable, the defense was even better. “The only defense better than this,” people said, “was the Minnesota Vikings.”

    Fans were ready to anoint this team as college football's best ever. 

    Not so fast.

    The 1969 Michigan team wasn't exactly a team of patsies. Ranked No. 12, the Wolverines (7-2, 5-1) were working on its own five-game winning streak.  

    They also hired a new coach over the winter, Bo Schembechler, a former player and assistant under Woody, and he let it be known that beating his mentor and winning the Big Ten title was very important. 

    And avenging the "50" Woody put up against Michigan in 1968 didn't sit well, either. 

    Having spent plenty of time in Columbus, Schembechler (being a defensive specialist) was very familiar with Ohio's option offense. 

    Once Michigan frustrated Ohio State’s ground attack, they were in waiting for what became an ineffective passing game. Six interceptions later, Michigan had a 24-12 upset and a trip to the Rose Bowl.  

1997: Michigan 20, Ohio State 14

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    Michigan entered "The Game" undefeated and ranked No. 1. The No. 4 Buckeyes' lone loss came at Penn State 31-27.

    If there was any doubt, Charles Woodson clinched the Heisman trophy by returning a punt for a touchdown, intercepting an Ohio State pass in Michigan's end zone and catching a key 37-yard pass to set up a Michigan touchdown.

    Wolverine quarterback Brian Griese completed 14-of-25 passes for 147 yards.

    Michigan earned a share of the 1997 national championship with Nebraska by defeating Washington State 21-16 in the Rose Bowl. 

2001: Ohio State 26, Michigan 20

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    Ohio State dipped into the 1-AA (BCS) ranks to bring Jim Tressel aboard prior to the 2011 season.

    Tressel, who won four 1-AA national championships at Youngstown State, took over for John Cooper to begin the 2001 season. 

    His assignment was clear, and it was simply to beat Michigan.

    But Tressel and the unranked Buckeyes (6-5, 4-3) were underdogs to the No. 11 Wolverines (8-3, 6-1) this time around.

    The Buckeyes surprisingly jumped off to a 23-0 halftime lead thanks to the rushing of Jonathon Wells and the indifferent play of Michigan quarterback John Navarre. 

    Wells gained 129 yards on 25 carries, scoring three touchdowns. Navarre, on the other hand, had three interceptions and was sacked four times.

    Ironically, a Michigan man took the controls for underdog Ohio State and did rather well.

    Fresh out of Utica, Michigan, Craig Krenzel completed 11-of-18 passes for 118 yards, while running back Jonathan Wells provided most of the offense with three touchdowns and 129 yards rushing.

    Tressel finished his Ohio State coaching career with an 8-1 record over the Wolverines. 

2006: Ohio State 42, Michigan 39

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    Ohio State and Michigan came into the game ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, but much of the excitement was missing.

    Fans from both teams were mourning the recent passing of native Ohioan and former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler.

    The rivalry reached its peak when Schembechler and former mentor Woody Hayes battled each other from 1969 through 1978 in what was known as the "Ten Year War."

    This 2006 matchup still had the makings of an instant classic. The star power was incredible. Both quarterbacks, Troy Smith of Ohio State and Chad Henne of Michigan, were headed for the NFL.

    Smith was adept at running and throwing, but it was his escapability that worried Michigan.

    The difference in the game was Smith's arm, as he completed 29-of-41 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns—three before intermission.

    The Buckeyes jumped out to a 28-14 halftime lead and hung on from there.  

    Henne was sacked four times but still had an effective outing. He completed 21-of-35 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns.

    Running backs Michael Hart and Antonio Pittman cancelled each other out, as Hart gained 142 yards on 23 carries and Pittman gained 139 yards on 18 carries.

    The 2012 affair could be another offensive shootout, with mobile quarterback Braxton Miller providing the fireworks for Ohio State and the combination of Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner making things happen for Michigan. 

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