The Game: 5 Significant Moments in the Michigan vs. Ohio State Football Rivalry

The 2006 Wolverines vs. Buckeyes game is the only meeting in the series' lengthy history in which the two teams were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country

The Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry is the greatest in college football history, otherwise it wouldn’t be known as “The Game.” There are others that started earlier and have featured more meetings, but none of them include two schools that have 19 national championships and 78 conference titles between them.

 

Picking the five best games of these two historic programs' 113 matchups (Michigan leads 58-49-6) is impossible, but there are some moments that stand out for their significance. Here are five.

 

Michigan 86, Ohio State 0

Ann Arbor – Oct. 25, 1902

One of Wolverine head coach Fielding Yost’s legendary “Point-a-Minute” teams provided the biggest thumping of the series. Michigan finished undefeated in 1902, outscoring its opponents 644-12, and has since been universally recognized as the national champion for the season. Ohio State actually finished with a respectable 6-2-2 record and its loss was by no means the worse suffered by a Michigan opponent that year. That honor goes to Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University), who was defeated 119-0.

 

Michigan 24, Ohio State 12

Ann Arbor – Nov. 22, 1969

The Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 and riding a 22-game winning streak when they faced Michigan and first-year head coach, Bo Schembechler, a former assistant to Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes. The 12th-ranked Wolverines built a 24-12 halftime lead and held it for the remainder of the game.  With the win, Michigan earned its first Big Ten title in five years and a berth in the Rose Bowl. The famous “Ten-Year War” between Hayes and Schembechler had begun.

 

Ohio State 23, Michigan 20

Ann Arbor – Nov. 21, 1987

Earle Bruce took over for Hayes as head coach of Ohio State in 1979, but was fired in 1987 during the week of the Michigan game in the midst of a lackluster 6-4-1 season.  Nevertheless, he was allowed to coach the final game and his players were fired up to win for him. Taking the field sporting headbands that said, “Earle,” the Buckeyes overcame a 13-0 deficit to win 23-20 in a gutsy performance that included 29 tackles by Chris Spielman.  After the game Wolverines head coach Bo Schembechler told Bruce, "I always mind losing to Ohio State, but I don't mind so much today." Few coaches have made such an exit.

 

Michigan 13, Ohio State 13

Columbus – Nov. 21, 1992

This rivalry has produced six ties, but this one is particularly unique. Not only was it the last one, but it also made Michigan the last team to finish the regular season unbeaten with only eight wins. The Wolverines started the season with a 17-17 tie with Notre Dame and then tied Illinois 22-22 the week before the Ohio State game. The Wolverines led 13-3 in the fourth quarter, but Ohio State kicked a field goal and Buckeyes quarterback Kirk Herbstreit later tied the game with a five-yard touchdown pass to Greg Beatty on fourth down with 4:24 left. Michigan beat Washington in the Rose Bowl to finish 9-0-3. Since overtime was instituted in college football’s regular season in 1997, the ‘92 Wolverines’ unique place in history is secure.

 

Ohio State 42, Michigan 39

Columbus – Nov. 18, 2006

This game is the only No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup in the rivalry. Both teams entered the annual meeting undefeated for the first time since 1973 and the hype surrounding this particular matchup has not been eclipsed by any game since. The Buckeyes jumped out to 28-14 halftime lead and held onto it despite a furious Michigan comeback. A mere 14 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) ranking points prevented a rematch from taking place in the national title game, as Florida finished with .945 and Michigan finished with .932. One final note, the drama surrounding this matchup turned to sadness when legendary Wolverines head coach Bo Schembechler died of a heart attack the day before the game.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

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