Ohio State vs. Michigan: Ranking the 20 Greatest Games in the Rivalry

Jim Sullivan@jsully711Featured ColumnistNovember 21, 2011

Ohio State vs. Michigan: Ranking the 20 Greatest Games in the Rivalry

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    One of the longest rivalries in the college football world, this clash of power programs has been occurring for well over 100 years. The Wolverines and the Buckeyes are also some of the most storied football universities in the country, making this game a classic matchup of old-time powers on one of the biggest stages in the world.

    Michigan leads the all-time record, 57-44-6, over Ohio State. However, the Buckeyes have won the last seven matchups between the two, owning the Wolverines since 2004. The most recent game last season was won by the Buckeyes by 30 points, but it was vacated after the Tressel scandal.

    This season, the Wolverines seem to be the stronger opponent of the two, sitting in at second in their division behind Michigan State and ranking up at No. 18 in the BCS. Ohio State remains unranked after a disappointing year, placing down at fourth in the Leaders division.

    However, in this list, we rank the 20 greatest games between these two powerhouses. There have been classic matchups over the 107 games that have already occurred, and picking out the 20 best will be more than difficult. 

    Since the beginning of the rivalry in 1897, this game has been huge on a national scale. We take a look at the 20 best games since the initial meeting and why they were greatest ever. 

No. 20: 1971 Michigan 10 Ohio State 7

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    In 1971, the Wolverines came into the rivalry game undefeated and ranked in the AP top five. They defeated the Buckeyes, 10-7, in Ann Arbor.

    This game was a fantastic defensive battle, being that the teams only scored a total of 17 points. Additionally, in a six-year span from 1970-1975, this was the only time the Wolverines came out on top in the big game. 

    In each matchup, they came into the season finale ranked in the top five and undefeated, and each time, they lost to their rival Buckeyes except for the 1971 matchup. 

No. 19: 2004 Ohio State 37 Michigan 21

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    In 2004, a 9-1 Michigan team was looking to crush their rival 6-4 Buckeyes in Columbus. Instead, Ohio State, led by Troy Smith, emerged victorious over the Wolverines. 

    The upset victory led to Michigan winning the conference, but losing in the Rose Bowl to Texas. A year after the Wolverines owned the 100th meeting in Ann Arbor, Tressel and company solidly crushed Michigan in Columbus. 

No. 18: 2005 Ohio State 25 Michigan 21

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    In 2005, the Buckeyes overcame a 21-12 deficit with less than eight minutes left in the game. As the clock wound down, Troy Smith led the Ohio State offense to two scores and 25-21 victory.

    The big win over Michigan for Troy Smith was what propelled him into the next season's Heisman victory and the National Championship. 

No. 17: 1993 Michigan 28 Ohio State 0

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    The undefeated Buckeyes rolled into Ann Arbor looking to crush their four-loss brothers to the north. Instead, great play by WR Mercury Hayes and RB Jon Ritchie led the Wolverines to a stunning shut out over Ohio State.

    The loss led to Ohio State having to share the Big Ten Title with Wisconsin and not having the chance to attend the Rose Bowl. 

No. 16: 1941 Michigan 20 Ohio State 20

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    Meeting for the first time when both ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll, this tie was somewhat ironic. Both teams ended up with one loss and behind Minnesota in the Big Ten. 

    The AP Poll became very important over the next decade of play for both teams, each matching up against each other both ranked in the poll five more times.  

No. 15: 1944 Ohio State 18 Michigan 14

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    The undefeated Buckeyes retained that perfect record by beating their rival from the north by just four points. The close game is one of the slimmest margins of victory in the series to date. 

No. 14: 1926 Michigan 17 Ohio State 16

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    The slimmest margin of victory ever between these two, this game marked the 23rd matchup between the rivals.

    Playing only the third game of the series in the somewhat new Ohio Stadium, the close Michigan win marked the last time longtime Coach Yost would match up against the Buckeyes. 

No. 13: 1999 Michigan 24 Ohio State 17

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    With only five minutes left in the game, QB Tom Brady led Michigan down the field and into the end zone for the game winning score. The huge win over the Buckeyes put the Wolverines in second in the conference. 

    They finished the season in the Orange Bowl, defeating Alabama 35-34 in overtime. 

No. 12: 2001 Ohio State 26 Michigan 20

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    In 2001, the Buckeyes fired long time coach Copper and instead vied for new head coach Jim Tressel. Maybe you've heard of him?

    Tressel placed a huge emphasis on beating Michigan and proved that in his first year by defeating the Wolverines 26-20. His victory in Ann Arbor was the first time Ohio State had taken down Michigan in over 14 years on the road and led to a lot of support for him brewing in Ohio.

No. 11: 1978 Michigan 14 Ohio State 3

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    The long time rivalry between these two schools was enhanced when Hayes, Ohio State's coach, and Schembechler, Michigan's coach, created "The 10-Year War." It ended in 1978 when Michigan defeated OSU 14-3.

    It would have continued had Hayes not physically assaulted a Clemson player in the the Gator Bowl, throwing a punch after losing 17-15.

No. 10: 1987 Ohio State 23 Michigan 20

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    Ohio State coach Earle Bruce had just been fired five days before the Michigan game, but had convinced the university to let him coach his final game with their rivals to the north.

    Heading into Ann Arbor in what should have been a crushing loss, Ohio State instead secured the upset, 23-20. It's said that every Ohio State player took off their helmet before the game to show their former head coach sweat bands that all read "EARLE," giving them the boost they needed to overcome the Wolverines. 

No. 9: 1997 Michigan 20 Ohio State 14

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    Ohio native and future Heisman winner Charles Woodson led the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines to a strong 20-14 victory over Ohio State.

    One of his best known games, he played amazingly well on both offense and defense to secure the Heisman and keep Michigan at the top of the polls. 

No. 8: 1996 Michigan 13 Ohio State 9

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    In 1996, No. 2 Ohio State was looking for a big win over its rival to move into the No. 1 spot in the polls. A crazed Michigan came out strong, beating the Buckeyes in a surprise upset 13-9. 

    The slippery field was a huge factor in the game, as Ohio State's All-American cornerback Springs slipped, allowing Michigan's wide receiver, Streets, to catch a long touchdown pass. The touchdown was easily the difference in the game, as the score represents.  

No. 7: 1995 Michigan 31 Ohio State 23

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    The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes come into the big game 11-0 and looking to hold onto their undefeated record. The Wolverines had different plans, as running back Tim Biakabutuka ran for over 300 yards on 37 carries.

    The three loss Michigan squad upset the highly ranked Buckeyes, knocking them out of the running for the Big Ten Title and a shot at the National Championship. 

No. 6: 1972 Ohio State 14 Michigan 11

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    The 8-1 Buckeyes kept the 10-0 Wolverines out of the end zone on two series from the one yard line. Either time, a field goal would have tied the game for Michigan, but Coach Schembechler opted to go for it twice, failing both times to break the plain. 

    In a press conference after, Coach Schembechler said, "No, I didn't go for the field goal from the 1 because I thought we could score from there. We should have scored from the 1!" 

No. 5: 1975 Ohio State 21 Michigan 14

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    Down 14-7 with just two minutes to go, the Buckeyes pulled out two scores to win the game 21-14. Winning the game outright helped OSU to hold onto it's No. 1 spot in the polls, but did them no good in their National Championship loss to UCLA.

No. 4: 1973 Michigan 10 Ohio State 10

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    No. 1 Ohio State visited No. 4 Michigan in a clash of two 10-0 squads. The Buckeyes left the Big House with a 10-10 tie, making no one the outright Big Ten Champion.

    After the game, the Big Ten AD's met to determine who should attend the Rose Bowl to represent their conference. Even though Michigan missed two field goals in the final minutes and had the statistical advantage, Ohio State was chosen to go to Pasadena. The result of the meeting had Michigan coach Bo Schembechler up in arms.  

No. 3: 2006 Ohio State 42 Michigan 39

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    In 2006, No. 2 Michigan visited Columbus to face No. 1 Ohio State in what became known as the game of the century. Similar to our more recent game of the century, the game was decided by just three points. 

    Each team was vying for a spot in the National Championship, and both had the potential and talent to go. Future Heisman winner QB Troy Smith led the Buckeyes, while QB Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart led the Wolverines. Just a day before the matchup, however, legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler died.

    After a tough fought game and a strong performance by both offenses, Ohio State emerged victorious. They won the Big Ten and went on to lose to Florida in the National Championship.  

No. 2: 1950 Michigan 9 Ohio State 3

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    The legendary Snow Bowl. Temperatures were as low as 10 degrees, and the wind chill brought that down to below zero easily. Columbus was in the middle of one of the worse snow storms ever to hit their state, but the game wasn't cancelled. 

    The two teams played in inches of snow and in extremely low visibility. Deep snappers later reported that they couldn't see their own punters. During the game, coaches opted for their teams to punt on first down to avoid turnovers. The punters together accumulated over 1,400 net yards. 

    Future Heisman winner Chuck Janowicz played for Ohio State, starting at multiple positions, including punter. The Buckeyes led late in the game 3-2 over the Wolverines and were punting from just in front of their own end zone. Michigan's Tony Momsen busted through the line and blocked the kick from Janowicz, falling on the ball in the end zone for the game's only touchdown. 

    The Wolverines would hold on for the win, 9-3, despite not having any first downs and not completing a single pass. 

No. 1: 1969 Michigan 24 Ohio State 12

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    Considered one of the biggest upsets in the college football history, this matchup comes in first on the list of Michigan vs. Ohio State. The undefeated Buckeyes, under direction of Woody Hayes, came into Ann Arbor with a 22-game winning streak. 

    This was the first meeting between the two legendary coaches, Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, starting off "the 10 Year War". The defending national champion Buckeyes were looking to crush Michigan again and move onto another title game, but the Wolverines opted to mix things up a bit. 

    In the game, Ohio State had an unheard of seven turnovers, throwing six interceptions and fumbling once. There were no second half points, and the Wolverines were able to end the 22-game win streak. This amazing upset game was the first of many great matchups between these two great coaches.  


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