It’s called “The Game”. It is the meeting between two traditional Big 10 Powerhouse teams, the Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes. These two premier programs in the Midwest feel there isn’t room on the college football stage for both teams, and they love to mix it up on the gridiron to determine who is the best. As it currently stands, Michigan is ahead in the rivalry, with an overall record of 58-44-6. However, Ohio State has gone 7-2 in the last ten years; the 2009 game was vacated due to rule violations by OSU. These two teams are scheduled to play on Saturday, so let’s look at how this game will compare in the overall history of the rivalry?
Both teams have a history of success, Michigan holds claim to 11 national championships and 42 conference championships and Ohio State claims 7 national championships and 34 conference championships. Michigan is the most winning team of college football with a total of 910 total victories and Ohio State is ranked at number 6 with 843 victories. Among Big 10 coaches, OSU coach Woody Hayes and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler share the record for most Big 10 Championships at 13 apiece. With 108 games to consider, I can’t give you a complete history of the rivalry, but here is what you need to know:
It all began in 1897. The rivalry was born from distant memories of the Toledo War. The dispute about the actual boarder of Michigan and Ohio intensified the on field emotions and helped the rivalry to grow in the early days. Michigan hosted the first game in 1897 and won in a lopsided 34-0 victory. The Wolverines did not lose a game to the Buckeyes until 1919, 16 games into the series.
Michigan won so often in the early days, the press started believing they were unbeatable. After winning National Championships in 1932 and 33, the media asked new OSU head coach Francis Schmidt if he could beat Michigan. Schmidt responded “Of course we can win, Michigan puts their pants on one leg at a time just like we do.” Not only did Schmidt’s Buckeyes beat the Wolverines that year, they won the next three as well. 1934-37 was the first four year victory streak the Buckeyes had in the rivalry. This also started the Golden Pants tradition of OSU, where team members receive a small golden pants pendant if the team beats Michigan.
In 1941, the Wolverines and the Buckeyes faced each other as ranked teams for the first time. The AP polls began in 1936, and it was 6 years later when the#5 Wolverines hosted the #14 Buckeyes. The game finished in a 20-20 tie. The teams would go on to face each other while both were ranked in the AP poll 5 more times in the 1940s. At the end of the decade, the Wolverines were ahead in the series with a record of 30-12-4.
1950 brought about the Snow Bowl blunder, a game with 45 punts between the two teams which lead to the hiring of Woody Hayes by Ohio State. Hayes would win 12 of the next 18 games and managed to heat up the rivalry once again. In “The Game” of 1968, OSU had just scored and attempted a 2 point conversion despite being up 50-14. When asked why he went for two, it is rumored Hayes responded, “Because I couldn’t go for three.” The 50-14 lose would lead to the hiring of Bo Schembechler. Thus began the Ten-Year War, pitting head coach Woody against former assistant coach Bo. The end result had Schembechler on top 5-4-1.
Woody Hayes was fired from OSU in 1978, and that is when Earle Bruce stepped up and won five of nine against Schembechler. Once Bruce left, OSU brought in John Cooper, who lost 10 of the 13 games in the series. In 1995, Michigan brought in Lloyd Carr as head coach. Carr has been an assistant for Schembechler and 5 for 7 against Cooper and won 4 Big 10 Titles and a National Championship during that time. Jim Tressel would replace Cooper in 2001 and did his best to reestablish the importance and significance of the rivalry. During his introductory speech to the university, Tressel gave a countdown until the next time OSU plays at Michigan. With the added importance, Tressel’s Buckeyes beat Carr’s Wolverines 6 of 7 times, which included the most significant game between the teams, the 2006 “#1 vs #2.” Both teams were undefeated going into the game and Ohio State managed to pull a slim 42-39 victory, which sent them to a National Championship game against Florida.
The Wolverines wouldn’t win again until 2011, the first year of “Michigan Man” Brady Hoke’s coaching tenure with the Wolverines. Last year in 2012, new OSU head coach Urban Meyer lead his team to victory over the Wolverines during a perfect season, but couldn’t win the Big 10 title due to NCAA sanctions on the program in the wake of a Jim Tressel controversy.
Coming into this game, the Buckeyes are riding a 23 game winning streak and are ranked #3 in the BCS. They have been nothing short of impressive. Michigan has won 7 games this season and they have not been ranked in the top 25 since week 8. By the numbers, Ohio State has a definite advantage. Michigan only averages rushing 128.8 yards a game, which pales in comparison to the 314.7 yards averaged by Ohio State. Ohio State puts up an average of 48.7 points/game while Michigan puts up an average of 33. If we compare victory margin for common opponents between the two teams, Ohio State has won by an average of 21.75 points vs Michigan’s 6 points. Michigan does have the advantage in overall passing yards. Devin Gardner has thrown for more yards than Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton combine, but his 17 TDs and 11 INTs aren’t impressive compared to OSU’s combined 33 TDs and 6 INTs.
Things are not looking good for the Michigan Wolverines. They haven’t put as many points on the board as the Buckeyes, and they allow an average of 6.5 more points per game than the Buckeyes. However, this is a rivalry game. Although things look bad, and the outlook is bleak, Saturday is still a rivalry game. Despite being terribly unlikely, an upset is always possible, as strange things seem to happen when these two teams come together each year for “The Game.”