In exactly three weeks we will be able to watch college football once again. Week 0 offers us a few preview matchups before hitting the ground running going into Labor Day weekend. One of the premier games of the season is Michigan vs Ohio State. The two programs have a long and storied history dating back to 1897. Growing up as an Ohio State fan this game was also emphasized to me early on. I always knew to root against the maize and blue but as I grew older I learned about the level of respect for the rivalry. Today’s 99 Things is about the Ohio State vs Michigan rivalry. Every fan should watch this documentary to learn more on the history.
Many fans outside of the Big Ten began to look past the rivalry over the past decade due to Ohio State’s dominance but ask any Buckeye fan and they were nervous almost every season. Michigan and Ohio State have played spoilers to each other’s season on numerous occasions. Jon Cooper was fired from Ohio State because he was unable to beat Michigan. Cooper helped form some of the most talented Ohio State teams in the programs history but he went 2-10-1 against Michigan in a 13 year period. Meanwhile Jim Tressel is revered in Ohio State fan’s minds due to his success against the Wolverines.
The 10 year war was an iconic period in the rivalry where Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler faced each other. Schembechler played for Hayes at Miami (OH) and would later coach at Ohio State under him. The first game in the series occurred in 1969 with Ohio State being a heavy favorite. The Buckeyes won the 1968 National Championship and were consensus favorites to repeat. Media had dubbed Ohio State as the “greatest team in college football of all-time” meanwhile Michigan entered the game with a 7-2 record. Schembechler’s Wolverines held Ohio State to only 12 points and defeated the Buckeyes 24-12 which is now considered to be one of the greatest upsets in the history of the series. Schembechler would finish with a 5-4-1 record against his former boss.
The 2006 game is one which stands out in my mind. Ohio State and Michigan both entered the game with a perfect 11-0 record. This was a defacto playoff game because the winner would be headed to the National Championship. Both teams had star power all over the field with Ohio State being led by future Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith. The Buckeyes also featured Ted Ginn and James Lauranitis. Michigan was led by Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long and Lamarr Woodley. The Buckeyes led 28-14 at the half but Michigan would not go away. The Wolverines would come within 3 points late in the fourth quarter. A failed onside kick attempt ended Michigan’s hopes which resulted in Ohio State finishing a perfect 12-0 in the regular season.
Last season Michigan won their first game over Ohio State since the 2011 season. Jim Harbaugh entered the game with a winless record against Ohio State in his first five attempts. His 42-27 win over Ohio State vaulted Michigan into the Big Ten Championship where they would defeat Iowa. The Wolverines made an appearance in the College Football Playoffs before losing to eventual National Champion Georgia. Harbaugh entered the 2021 season the hot seat due to a lack of success on the field and competitiveness against Ohio State. Michigan fans feel more confident entering 2022 since they have not lost to Ohio State since the 2019 season.
The win for Michigan helped spark new life into the rivalry. Outsiders began to expect Ohio State to win each year because they had won 15 of the last 16 matchups. As a homer, I want Ohio State to win every year because why would I want to lose to my arch rival? As a college football fan I want parity. Rivalries are great when the unexpected happens. Michigan fans still talk about the game where they believed JT Barrett to be short. The drama which unfolds before, during and after the game help keep fans involved. Every great rivalry needs success on both sides or else interest will begin to fade.
The 2022 game will be exciting for multiple reasons. First, how does Ryan Day bounce back after losing to Michigan last season? Where will the focus be and can he prevent his team from being pushed around again? Second, how does Michigan deal with the turnover on the defensive side of the ball? Aiden Hutchinson, David Ojabo and Dax Hill were all major playmakers for the defense who are now in the NFL. Also, will Harbaugh make a quarterback change this season? JJ McCarthy is patiently waiting in the wing for his opportunity to become the starter. Many believe his ceiling is higher than Cade McNamara but will he get a chance to show his skillset this fall? The Game should be circled on every fan’s calendar because it is bound to be full of excitement once again.