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The best of the the Big Games

By TOM JONES
Published November 18, 2006


The Big Game. There's a reason it's called that, you know. Almost every year, it seems, the Big Ten title is on the line. Since 1913, the teams have either combined for all or part of the Big Ten championship 70 times. On 19 occasions, the game outright decided the Big Ten title. On 21 other occasions, the game affected or helped decide the conference champ. To pick the 10 best games in this classic rivalry (57-39-6 in Michigan's favor) is virtually impossible, but we'll give it a try, along with providing interesting numbers and tidbits. So enjoy what any right-minded fan would have to consider the greatest rivalry in sports.

Favorite anti-Michigan joke

Two Michigan football players are partying when a bartender asks what they're celebrating. The smart one says that they just finished a jigsaw puzzle and it only took them two months. "Two months?!" the bartender says. The proud Wolverine answers: "Yeah! The box said four to six years!"

 

Favorite anti-Ohio State joke

Did you hear that an Ohio State football player was almost killed in a tragic horse-riding accident? He fell off and was nearly trampled to death. Luckily, the Wal-Mart manager came out and unplugged the horse just in time.

 

Favorite joke if you hate both schools

A Michigan football player and a Ohio State football player are in a car. Who's driving? Answer: The cop.

Tidbits

- Toledo, Ohio, is considered the "Border City" in this rivalry, with the town evenly split between Buckeye and Wolverine fans. In the Toledo suburbs of Sylvania and Perrysburg, you can find The Buckeye & Wolverine Shop.

- In 2003, a judge in Columbus allowed an inmate charged with forgery to stay in a local jail so he could watch the 100th meeting between the teams. Jeff Renne told the judge he would plead guilty if he could stay in jail for the weekend and watch the game before going to prison. What a mistake. Michigan beat Renne's Buckeyes.

- The race in Ohio's 15th congressional district remains up in the air between incumbent Republican Deborah Pryce and Democratic challenger Mary Jo Kilroy. A recount was postponed until after today's game.

- Michigan won the first meeting 34-0 at Ann Arbor in 1897 and won or tied every game until 1918, going 13-0-2.

2002

 

The Buckeyes preserved their No. 2 ranking with a tight 14-9 victory. They went on to beat Miami in the BCS title game for their first national championship since 1968.

 

1997

 

Michigan came in ranked No. 1 against No. 4 Ohio State. In the game that many believe earned Michigan's Charles Woodson the Heisman (he had a reception, a key interception in the end zone and a 78-yard punt return for a TD), the Wolverines won 20-14 and went on to win the national championship.

 

1995

 

Ohio State, led by eventual Heisman winner Eddie George, was ranked No. 2 and needed a victory to play for the national championship. But Michigan's Tim Biakabutuka went nuts. He rolled to an incredible 313 yards rushing on 37 carries in the Wolverines 31-23 victory.

 

1986

 

Michigan running back Jamie Morris rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns, but the Wolverines, down 14-3 at one point, still needed a missed field goal from Ohio State's Matt Franz late to escape with a 26-24 victory and win a trip to the Rose Bowl.

 

1975

 

Ohio State was 10-0 and came in ranked No. 1, and Michigan (8-0-2) was ranked fourth. Michigan held a 14-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Ohio State rallied for a 21-14 victory. Ray Griffin's interception and return to the Michigan 3 set up the winner.

 

1974

 

Michigan was 10-0 and ranked third, and the Buckeyes were 9-1 and ranked fourth. The Buckeyes couldn't score a touchdown but won 12-10 behind kicker Tom Klaban's four field goals.

1973

 

A game that led to one of the Big Ten's biggest controversies. No. 4 Michigan missed two late field goals and had to settle for a 10-10 tie against top-ranked Ohio State. Both teams were undefeated and split the Big Ten title. In those days, the league's athletic directors secretly voted on whom to send to the Rose Bowl if there was a tie. Ohio State won the vote. Legend has it that Michigan's rival, Michigan State, cast the deciding ballot for Ohio State.

1972

 

Ohio State was outgained 344-192 in total yardage, but won 14-11 thanks to two goal-line stands. To this day, Michigan fans are certain Harry Banks crossed the goal line in the fourth quarter, but officials ruled he was stopped just short.

1969

 

The year before, Ohio State had rolled it up on Michigan 50-14, and Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes even went for two after the final touchdown. When asked why, he said, "Because I couldn't go for three." Then came payback. Hayes called the 1969 team his best ever, yet it couldn't beat Michigan. The unbeaten and top-ranked Buckeyes, riding a 22-game winning streak and going for a second straight national championship, lost 24-14 in the first meeting between Hayes and his former assistant Bo Schembechler. From 1970 to 1975, both teams were ranked in the top five going into the Big Game.

1950

 

The Snow Bowl. With a ferocious blizzard forecast for Columbus, Ohio State, which ruled the Big Ten in those days, was given the option to cancel the game and be awarded the championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl. It refused and took on Michigan. With snow falling at more than an inch per hour, the teams combined for 45 punts - some on first down as each team hoped the other would fumble. Michigan won 9-3 on a blocked punt for a TD and a safety and went to Pasadena.

By the numbers

0 Times the teams have been ranked first and second in the polls going into the Big Game.

1975 The year the last time both teams were undefeated going into the Big Game.

9 Unbeaten seasons ruined in the Ohio State-Michigan series.

24-24-2 The record of the series over the past 50 meetings.