The Michigan–Ohio State football rivalry, known as The Game by some followers,is an American college football rivalry game played annually by the Wolverines of the University of Michigan and the Buckeyes of Ohio State University. It has attracted particular national interest over the last four decades as most of the games have determined the Big Ten Conference title and the resulting Rose Bowl match ups, and many have influenced the outcome of the national college football championship. The game was ranked by ESPN in 2000 as the greatest North American sports rivalry.
Ohio State vs Michigan
Saturday, November 26, 12:00 PM
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
The two Midwest state schools first met in 1897, and the rivalry has been renewed annually since 1918. The game has been played at the end of the regular season since 1935 (with exceptions in 1942, 1986, and 1998). Since 1918, the game’s site has alternated between Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan (Michigan hosts it in odd years and Ohio State in even years), and has been played in Ohio Stadium since 1922 and Michigan Stadium since 1927. Through 2010, Ohio State and Michigan have decided the Big Ten Conference championship between themselves on 22 different occasions, and have affected the determination of the conference title an additional 27 times.
For many years, the game has aired on ABC, often in the 12 PM time slot.
Early years (1897–1949)
When the University of Michigan and Ohio State met for the first time in 1897, the Toledo War was within the memories of some still living, and the short-lived border war may have fueled the rivalry between the two opposing teams. The inaugural game, held at Ann Arbor, resulted in a lopsided victory for Michigan, with the Wolverines posting a 34–0 win over Ohio State’s Buckeyes. The teams did not meet in 1898 or 1899, but played again in 1900.
The first game foretold a long Michigan winning streak, with Michigan winning or tying every match from 1897 to 1912 and thereby compiling a 12–0–2 record before the contest was postponed for several years. The Ohio State Alma Mater “Carmen Ohio” was written on the train ride home to Columbus following the 1902 contest, which saw Ohio State losing to Michigan 86–0. The lyrics and melody (Spanish Chant) have remained largely unchanged since its conception.
Ohio State became a member of the Big Ten Conference in 1912. In 1917, Michigan rejoined the conference after a ten-year absence. In 1918, the teams played their first conference matchup, with Michigan prevailing 14–0 and lodging its eleventh shutout over the Buckeyes. The rivalry has been renewed annually every year since then. In 1919, the Buckeyes (led by legendary halfback Chic Harley) won their first game in the series, beating the Wolverines 13–3. The Buckeyes won the following two contests as well, to bring the series record to 13–3–2.
Ohio State was the opponent in the dedication game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
Harley’s prowess spurred the university to campaign to build a stadium for Ohio State football. The stadium was completed in 1922, and the first of many historic games in Ohio Stadium took place on October 21, 1922, the day the stadium was dedicated in Columbus. In front of a record 71,000 fans, the Wolverines posted another shutout of the home team Buckeyes, 19–0. According to lore, there was a wager on the outcome of this game, and yellow flowers on a blue background still exist today in the upper part of the stadium’s rotunda. Michigan won the next five games before OSU picked up the final two victories of the decade. At the end of the 1920s, the series stood at 19–5–2 in favor of Michigan.
A football signed by Woody Hayes and gifted to Gerald Ford that lists the scores of the Michigan–Ohio State game from 1932–34, the three years that Ford played on Michigan’s varsity team.
Michigan won three of four contests between 1930 and 1933, claiming the national championship twice. In 1934, Francis Schmidt came on as the head coach for Ohio State. The team had lost nine of the previous 12 Michigan-OSU contests, and when a reporter asked Schmidt if Ohio State could beat Michigan that year, he replied, “Of course we can win, Michigan puts their pants on one leg at a time just like we do”. The Buckeyes thereupon ran off four straight shutout victories against Michigan, outscoring the Wolverines 114–0 from 1934 to 1937. Schmidt’s quote spawned an OSU tradition—since 1934, every Ohio State player receives a gold pants pendant after a victory against Michigan.
Michigan won the three games from 1938 to 1940. The 1940 game, won by Michigan, 40–0, was the benchmark performance of what some consider to be the greatest Michigan team in history, and was the final collegiate game of the legendary tailback tandem of Tom Harmon and Paul Kromer.
In 1941, Michigan and Ohio State met for the first time with each team ranked in the AP Poll, which had started in 1936. The 14th-ranked Buckeyes played the 5th-ranked Wolverines to a 20–20 tie in Ann Arbor.
In 1945, Michigan quarterback Howard Yerges led Michigan to a 7-3 victory over Ohio State. Yerges played for Ohio State in 1943 as a freshmen (freshmen were eligible to play during wartime) and then transferred to Michigan in 1944 making one of three players to play on both sides in the rivalry. Five more times during the 1940s, the teams were both ranked for their annual matchup. Michigan won five of the next seven games before playing to their second tie of the decade in 1949. The series record stood at 30–12–4 at the mid-century mark.
“Snow Bowl” and Woody Hayes (1950–68)
One of the more famous games in the rivalry is the 1950 contest, colloquially known as the Snow Bowl. Eighth-ranked Ohio State, coached by Wes Fesler, was scheduled to host the game on November 25 in Columbus amidst one of the worst blizzards on Ohio record. The Buckeyes, who led the Big Ten, were granted the option to cancel the game against Michigan, which would have, by default, given the Buckeyes the Big Ten title outright. Ohio State refused, and the game was set to be played. Amid howling snow and wind, in a famous example of a “field position” game, the teams exchanged 45 punts, often on first down, in hopes that the other team would fumble the ball near or into their own end zone. Ohio State’s Vic Janowicz, who would claim the Heisman Trophy that year, punted 21 times for 685 yards and also kicked a field goal in the first quarter for the Buckeyes’ only points. Michigan capitalized on two blocked punts, booting one out of the back of the end zone for a safety and recovering another one in the end zone for a touchdown just before halftime. Despite failing to gain a single first down or complete a single forward pass, Michigan gained a 9–3 victory, securing the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth. Heavy criticism of Fesler’s play calling led to his resignation and the hiring of Woody Hayes as his successor.