ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The much-anticipated, high-stakes matchup between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan is upon us.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines will be playing for the Big Ten East title and a spot in the conference championship game, where one of them will be the big favorite and one win away from making the college football playoffs.
If The Game goes as expected at the Horseshoe on Saturday, it will join a long list of memorable moments in a series dating back to 1897.
Here’s a chronological look back at some of the top games in one of the greatest rivalries in esports in over 50 years, according to AP sportswriter Larry Lage.
In Bo Schembechler’s first game coaching against Woody Hayes, the No. 12 Michigan team beat the top-ranked Buckeyes 24-12 at home. Hayes lamented the loss and said the Wolverines, led by Schembechler, beat the best team he’s ever had. The game was the beginning of what has come to be known as “Ten Years War” Bo beat his mentor five times, lost four games and ended a matchup with a famous draw.
No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan, both undefeated, battled it out to a 10-10 tie in an instant classic with enough drama to be the subject of a documentary. “Draw.” The Wolverines appeared to be the better team that afternoon, but kicker Mike Lantry missed two field goals in the last two minutes. Big Ten athletic directors chose the Buckeyes, not Michigan — perhaps because quarterback Dennis Franklin was injured — to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl at a time when the conference would only allow one team to be in a bowl. The Big Ten later decided to allow more than one school to participate in the postseason.
Ohio State fired coach Earle Bruce just days before The Game after a triple losing streak dropped his team to 5-4-1. The Unranked Buckeyes, wearing white headbands with Bruce’s name on them, beat the Unranked Wolverines 23-20 to drop them to 7-4. Bruce was 81-26-1 overall, including 5-4 against Michigan, but Ohio State let him go and brought John Cooper on campus, which many Buckeyes would regret because he went 2-10-1 in The Game.
The game wasn’t close that year, as No. 4 Michigan defeated No. 18 Ohio State 31-3, but it spawned a favorite memory for fans north of the state line and a nightmare for those south. Desmond Howard, who was from Ohio, returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown and struck a famous pose by the Heisman Trophy statue, which he later won.
Like Howard, Charles Woodson crossed the Ohio border to play for the Wolverines and ended up winning a Heisman Trophy, partly because of a defining moment in The Game. Woodson returned a punt 78 yards for a score and sprinted up the same sideline — Ohio State’s — and into the same end zone Howard did to help No. 1 Michigan, No. 4 Ohio State en route to one beating the national championship 20-14.
Maurice Clarett, who made his only appearance in The Game, helped the No. 2 Ohio State overtake the 12th-ranked Wolverines 14-9 en route to a national title. In the final game, Will Allen sealed victory for the Buckeyes by intercepting John Navarre’s pass just short of the goal line. It was one of many wins in the rivalry for Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who beat the Wolverines 9-1 before resigning in 2011 for violating the NCAA over a tattoo parlor scandal.
In the 100th game of the series, No. 5 Michigan beat No. 4 Ohio State 35-21 at the end of a dominant run that seems like a distant memory. The Wolverines were 18-9-1 from 1976-2003 under Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr.
A day after Schembechler’s death, The Game showed the best teams in the country. No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Michigan 42-39, building a 28-14 halftime lead and holding off the Wolverines after drawing within four points twice in the second half. Ohio State extended their lead to 11 with 5:38 staying in an entertaining contest that wasn’t quite as close as the final score.
Ohio State No. 3 held off the unranked Wolverines 42-41 when Tyvis Powell intercepted Devin Gardner’s 2-point conversion pass with 32 seconds left after Michigan coach Brady Hoke, an Ohioan, opted to bet on the win , instead of taking his chances in extra time . Hoke liked the state of Ohio so much he didn’t want to say it “Federal State” at the mention of school and couldn’t remember wearing red.
The second-placed Buckeyes defeated No. 3 Michigan 30-27 in double overtime after barely converting a crucial fourth and one that likely still bothers coach Jim Harbaugh.
With the ball on the Michigan 16, then-Ohio State coach Urban Meyer decided not to attempt a field goal with a kicker who had already missed two short goals in the rule. JT Barrett kept the pigskin and ran in the back of his blocker AJ Alexander, but the disputed point stood after a video review. Ohio State soon scored the winning touchdown.
“It wasn’t a first down” said Harbaugh after the game. “I am bitterly disappointed with today’s leadership.”
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