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Michigan vs. Ohio State: History of rivalry between Wolverines and Buckeyes

The biggest rivalry in college football will be renewed this Saturday as undefeated Michigan faces undefeated Ohio State. We’ll look into the history of their matchups.

Ohio State University Archie Griffin

The most prestigious rivalry in college football will add a new chapter this Saturday as the Michigan Wolverines head down to Columbus, OH, to face the Ohio State Buckeyes. The stakes will be sky high for “The Game” as both of these powerhouses are undefeated with a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game and a possible spot in the College Football Playoff on the line in Ohio Stadium.

The eyes of the college football world will be on this epic showdown this Saturday and the tension will radiate through your screens. Before we dive into the 118th edition of UM-OSU, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at the history of this border war.

History of Michigan vs. Ohio State

Total games played: 117
Record: Michigan leads 59-51-6
Last game: Michigan won 42-27 in Ann Arbor

Just over 60 years after the states of Michigan and Ohio nearly engaged in a full blown war over the city of Toledo, Michigan and Ohio State first met on the gridiron in 1897, a game where the Wolverines crushed the Buckeyes 84-0. UM would dominate the early years of the series with a 13-0-2 record before OSU finally got on the board with a 13-3 victory in Ann Arbor, MI, in 1919. The two would spend the next few decades enjoying various stretches of success over the other as both programs continued the rise as national powers.

After failing to beat Michigan in the seven seasons following World War II, Ohio State hired Woody Hayes as their new head coach in 1951. On top of re-establishing the Buckeyes as a dominant program at the top of the Big Ten, he turned the tide of the rivalry by winning 12 of his first 18 matchups against the Wolverines. Tired of losing to OSU, UM hired former Hayes assistant Bo Schembechler as its new head coach in 1969. In their first meeting that fall, Schembechler and the Wolverines pulled off a massive upset of Hayes and his No. 1 defending national champion Buckeyes. This game kicked off the golden age of the rivalry that has since become known as the “Ten Year War”.

During the “Ten Year War”, Ohio State and Michigan stood atop the Big Ten with these games routinely having Rose Bowl and national championship implications. Schembechler ultimately edged out Hayes with a 5-4-1 record before the Ohio State head coach was fired for punching a Clemson player during the 1978 Gator Bowl. Schembechler would go 6-5 against Ohio State for the rest of his tenure before retiring following the 1989 season.

Michigan mostly dominated the rivalry in the 1990’s into the turn of the century, prompting Ohio State to fire head coach Jon Cooper after the 2000 season. In walks Jim Tressell, who reversed the tide of the rivalry as Ohio State re-emerged as a national championship contender. The 2006 game saw the No. 1 Buckeyes defeated the No. 2 Wolverines 42-39 in a game that earned the “Game of the Century” superlative.

Between Tressel, Urban Meyer, and Ryan Day, OSU enjoyed its most dominant stretch in the rivalry’s history, winning 17 of 19 contests from 2001-2019. After the game took a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19, Michigan head coach and alum Jim Harbaugh ended the streak with a 42-27 victory in Ann Arbor in 2021.

Biggest game in series history: 1973

The 2006 game was an epic encounter between No. 1 vs. No. 2, but the 1973 game tops it just from the controversy it stirred afterwards.

Both teams were 10-0 heading into the matchup with Ohio State ranked No. 1 and Michigan ranked No. 4. The game proved to be a classic example of Big Ten trench warfare as both combatants attempted to beat each other with sheer brute force. In fact, Buckeye quarterback Greg Hare didn’t complete a single pass in the game as two-time Heisman Trophy winning running back Archie Griffin took 30 carries for 174 yards in the contest. With the game tied late, Michigan had two different opportunities to win the game with a field goal. Both of the kicks missed the mark, ending the rivalry matchup in a 10-10 tie.

With the game ending in a tie and both teams being declared Big Ten co-champions, the conference was left with a dilemma over who would get the Rose Bowl bid. The league had recently reversed a rule that teams were ineligible to go the Rose Bowl two years in a row and that opened the door for the Buckeyes to potentially go for a second straight year. A vote by the Big Ten athletic directors the following day determined that OSU would get the bid, a decision that infuriated Bo Schembechler until his death. With the conference still having a rule that only one team could compete in the postseason, Michigan’s season ended despite them being undefeated.

The vote itself has been the subject of theories and hearsay over the years as the other eight Big Ten schools picked sides based on their own personal beefs with either Ohio State or Michigan. This game ultimately embodied both the nasty nature of the Ten Year War and the pettiness and in-fighting of the league at large.

Odds for 2022 game via DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Ohio State -7.5
Total: Over/Under 57
Moneyline: Ohio State -300, Michigan +250

This year’s matchup will be the first Michigan-Ohio State game to take place on Columbus since 2018. The Buckeyes are led by quarterback C.J. Stroud and as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner, he’ll have a chance to wrap up the award with a nice performance in a victory on Saturday. OSU’s struggles to run the ball has been a concern throughout the year and is something to be monitored heading into this showdown.

The Wolverines are looking to clear its biggest hurdle en route to a second straight Big Ten Championship Game berth. The biggest storyline for UM will be the status of Heisman contending running back Blake Corum, who sustained a knee injury against Illinois last Saturday.