Separated by about 165 miles, there’s one common feeling for folks who reside in either Columbus, Ohio or Ann Arbor, Michigan. Each fan base embraces a loathing sensation in their hearts for the college football program located in the other city.
Since 1897, the two schools have combined for countless enticing matchups, often with Big Ten or national championship implications. Overall, Ohio State and Michigan have appeared in 112 meetings, with the Wolverines holding a 58-47-6 edge. On Saturday, they’ll face off once again, placing No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The table is set. If the Buckeyes prevail, head coach Urban Meyer’s unit should clinch a spot in the CFP, despite not playing in the Big Ten Championship. For Michigan, a victory would stamp its ticket for the conference title game, where a win would carry them into the four-team bonanza. Prior to Saturday’s meaningful tilt, let’s dive into the five best contests this series has seen during the past 30 years.
5. Nov. 23, 1995: Michigan 31, No. 2 Ohio State 23
Although the Buckeyes’ roster gushed with future NFL stars, such as running back Eddie George, linebacker Mike Vrabel, offensive lineman Orlando Pace and wide receiver Terry Glenn, Wolverines’ tailback Tim Biakabutuka declared himself as the hero of the contest. Leading 10-9 at halftime, Biakbutuka dragged Michigan to victory in the second half behind his mind-boggling 313 yards on the ground. His two-yard plunge midway through the fourth quarter put the game on ice.
To date, that total places as the most single-game rushing yards in the rivalry. On top of that, his performance ended both Ohio State’s undefeated season and its national title hopes.
4. Nov. 23, 2002: No. 2 Ohio State 14, No. 12 Michigan 9
In a defensive clash, the schools weaved together 632 yards on offense. Moreover, the Wolverines amounted a mere 157 yards, as well as converting four-of-11 third downs, in the second half. Nevertheless, QB John Navarre still held an opportunity to pull off the stunner in the waning moments of the contest, possessing the ball at the Buckeyes’ 24-yard line. But safety Will Allen stepped in front of the pass for an interception, sending his team to the BCS Championship Game. 41 days later, OSU knocked off Miami for its first national championship in 32 years.
While Ohio State’s offense mostly fluttered throughout, tailback Maurice Clarett dazzled, compiling 154 total yards and a touchdown. Howver, fellow running back Maurice Hall was the one to deliver the game-winning score on an option, which then-head coach Jim Tressel rarely dialed up that campaign. (You can see that touchdown at the 6:37 mark.)
3. Nov. 30, 2013: No. 3 Ohio State 42, Michigan 41
In head coach Brady Hoke’s third season, the Wolverines came into the game with a losing conference record. Michigan projected those struggles onto the enemy at the Big House, giving OSU a bundle of troubles in its attempt to head back to the pinnacle of bowl games. With 10:30 left in the action, Buckeyes’ running back Carlos Hyde fumbled the ball at their own 41-yard line, breathing new life into Michigan. QB Devon Gardner found the end zone on the ensuing possession, hitting tight end Jake Butt with a two-yard bullet.
The back-and-forth matchup continued when Hyde redeemed himself with a one-yard touchdown burst to give the Ohio State a seven-point advantage with 2:02 left. Then, Gardner led his bunch on an 11-play, 84-yard drive, connecting with wideout Devin Funchess for a two-yard touchdown. Nonetheless, Hoke was determined to avoid overtime with a two-point conversion. The pass ended up in the waiting arms of freshman defensive back Tyvis Powell, who thwarted the dramatic upset attempt.
In the end, Meyer’s crew went on to lose its next two decisions, including a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.
2. Nov. 23, 1986: No. 6 Michigan 26, Ohio State 24
Guess who started under center for the Wolverines? The utterly confident Jim Harbaugh, who guaranteed a win days before the contest. Once the ball was teed off, the quarterback backed up his smack talk by completing 19-of-29 passes for 261 yards. Yet tailback Jamie Morris actually carried the load, producing 210 yards on 29 carries, along with two touchdowns on the road. His efforts provided just enough of a spark, as Buckeyes’ kicker Matt Frantz missed a 45-yard field goal with a minute remaining to seal their fate.
Following its narrow escape, Michigan booked a trip to the Rose Bowl for the first time in four seasons, which resulted in a 22-15 loss to Arizona State. But the victory over Ohio State was also monumental for head coach Bo Schembechler, who picked up victory No. 166 to become the winningest coach in the Wolverines’ history, a record that still stands. Currently, he ranks No. 11 in on the all-time DI college football coaches’ wins list.
1. Nov. 18, 2006: No. 1 Ohio State 42, No. 2 Michigan 39
With no Big Ten title game at the time, this meeting served as a reasonable replacement. During the entirety of the campaign, both defenses exhibited dominance. The Wolverines yielded only 254 yards per game (No. 6 in the nation), and the Buckeyes gave up a stunning 10.4 points per contest (No. 2 in Division I). However, neither group could contain the opponent, as the two programs merged for 900 total yards of offense.
The turning point came about halfway through the final period. Michigan trailed 35-31 but had Ohio State pinned down at its 38-yard line on third-and-15. Even though Buckeyes’ QB Troy Smith threw an incompletion down the right sideline, Wolverines linebacker Shaun Crable leveled him on a helmet-to-helmet hit. A few plays after the penalty, Smith cashed in with a 13-yard touchdown strike to wideout Brian Robiskie, extending the lead to double figures once again.
Furthermore, that completion was one of Smith’s 29 darts on the evening, the most OSU completions all-time in the rivalry. Unfortunately, his efforts to reel in a BCS National Championship for the program were halted in Glendale, Ariz. by Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators.