It might go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: More than a couple of deserving games did not make this list, but such is the way it goes with a rivalry that has burned so hotly for so many years.
Among those we had to cut were the 34-0 in 1934 that kicked off a four-year run in which the Buckeyes were unbeaten and unscored upon by the Wolverines, a 21-7 win in 1942 that was part of a national championship season, a 50-20 demolition in ’61 when Woody Hayes went for two because he couldn’t go for three, a 20-7 victory in 1970 that avenged the most painful loss in school history, Tom Klaban’s four-field goal day that decided another top-5 matchup in 1974 and thrilling upsets in 1981 and 2004.
Ohio State 13
The double-decker front-page headline in The Columbus Dispatch said it all: “Harley-led Buckeye gridiron warriors bring back to Columbus town that long-coveted Wolverine scalp…”
This was Ohio State’s first win against Michigan, and it was and 15 games and 21 years in the making. The star of the contest was Ohio State halfback Chic Harley, a Columbus schoolboy legend who was more than a dual threat for the Buckeyes. Not only did Harley score a touchdown on a 42-yard run, he also kicked an extra point, punted 11 times for a 42-yard average and intercepted four Michigan passes while playing defense. The Buckeyes dominated the contest, outgaining the Wolverines 176-85. All of Michigan’s yards came on the ground as Fielding Yost’s team completed none of its 17 pass attempts.
Yost personally congratulated Harley and OSU head coach John W. Wilce after the game, telling the Buckeyes (per The Dispatch), “You deserve your victory. You fought brilliantly. You boys gave a grand exhibition of football strategy, and while I am sorry, dreadfully sorry, that we lost, I want to congratulate you. And you, Mr. Harley, I believe are one of the finest little machines I have ever seen.”
No. 1 Ohio State 21
No. 12 Michigan 7
The game was deadlocked at 7 as the teams entered the fourth quarter, but Michigan has the ball inside the Ohio State 5-yard line and was threatening to go in front. Instead, the Buckeye defense made a goal line stand, setting up the offense for a 99-yard drive that put the Buckeyes on top.
Howard “Hopalong” Cassady made the biggest play of the ensuing drive, a 52-yard sprint that had the Buckeyes on their way. Quarterback Dave Leggett capped the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to end Dick Brubaker, and the Ohio State faithful could start to smell the roses – and a Big Ten championship.
Cassady then struck again, this time on defense, as he picked off a Michigan pass and returned it to the Ohio State 39. The Wolverines wilting now, Cassady capped a 61-yard scoring drive with a touchdown that iced the game. Next the Buckeyes were headed to the Rose Bowl, where they would beat No. 17 USC to clinch Hayes’ first national championship and undefeated season.
No. 2 Ohio State 50
No. 4 Michigan 14
Quarterback Rex Kern and halfback Jim Otis combined to scored six times and accounted for 239 of Ohio State’s 421 rushing yards as the No. 2 Buckeyes crushed No. 4 Michigan, 50-14, in Columbus. They equalled Ohio State’s largest winning margin in series history by scoring 36 unanswered points after the Wolverines tied the score at 14 in the second quarter.
The teams traded leads in the first half, with Michigan taking the lead with a touchdown on the opening drive, only to fall behind 14-7 to its hosts. After the Buckeyes fumbled a punt deep in their own territory, Michigan was able to tie the score at 14 with a run by Ron Johnson with just over seven minutes remaining in the half.
From that point, the Buckeyes took the ball at their own 14-yard line and never looked back. Otis scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 0:36 left to cap an 86-yard drive and give the Buckeyes a 21-14 halftime lead, and the Buckeyes never looked back.
Jack Tatum led the defense with 12 total tackles, forced a fumble and intercepted a pass, while Art Burton and Doug Adams also had interceptions and Jim Stillwagon recorded nine tackles.
Otis ran for 143 yards while Kern added 96 and halfback Larry Zelina went for 92.
The meeting was the second in which both teams entered with top five rankings, following the Buckeyes’ 21-7 victory in Columbus in 1942. That win, like the 1968 victory, set up a national championship for the Buckeyes.
No. 9 Ohio State 14
No. 3 Michigan 11
The Buckeyes denied Michigan twice at the goal line and halted the Wolverines’ 15-game Big Ten winning streak. They also clinched a trip to the Rose Bowl while stunning the favored and previously unbeaten Wolverines at Ohio Stadium.
After Champ Henson put Ohio State on top 7-3 with a 1-yard run in the second quarter, but Michigan looked poised to go into the locker room on top as the Wolverines drove to the OSU 1-yard line. The Buckeyes had other plans, though, as they stuffed three straight Michigan runs then recovered quarterback Dennis Franklin’s fumble at the 2-yard line on fourth down.
Michigan answered an Archie Griffin touchdown run with a touchdown and two-point conversion to cut the lead to three, but that was as close as they would get. Ohio State’s second goal-line stand came in the fourth quarter when Franklin was stuffed on a fourth-down sneak attempt that followed a controversial 1-yard run by Michigan tailback Harry Banks. Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler argued Banks had scored on the play, but he was not awarded the points.
Schembechler could have salvaged his undefeated season and a trip to Pasadena had he opted for a field goal, but he said afterward he never considered it.
No. 1 Ohio State 21
No. 4 Michigan 14
Down 14-7 midway through the fourth quarter, Ohio State rallied with two touchdowns in less than a minute to become the only Big Ten team to reach the Rose Bowl in four consecutive seasons.
One of the game’s heroes was a Griffin, but perhaps not the one most would have expected.
While Archie Griffin’s NCAA-record 31 consecutive 100-yard rushing game streak came to an end, his younger brother, Ray, played hero with an interception in the fourth quarter that set up fullback Pete Johnson’s 3-yard touchdown run with 2:19 on the clock. Johnson, who tied the game less than a minute earlier with a 1-yard run, scored all three OSU touchdowns on the day and led the Buckeyes with 52 yards rushing. Archie Griffin added 46 yards on 19 carries.
Ohio State took its No. 1 ranking to the Rose Bowl, where the Buckeyes were denied a national title by a 23-10 loss to No. 11 UCLA.
No. 2 Ohio State 18
No. 13 Michigan 15
Ohio State used special teams to rally from a 15-12 deficit in the fourth quarter.
Todd Bell was the hero as he scooped up punt Jim Laughlin had blocked and returned it 18 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
The Buckeyes snapped a three-game series losing streak and made new head coach Earle Bruce 1-0 against the Wolverines. They also improved to 11-0 and moved up to No. 1 in the national polls, but hopes of a national championship were dashed by a one-point loss to No. 3 USC in the Rose Bowl.
Jimmy Gayle led the Buckeyes in rushing with 72 yards on nine carries while quarterback Art Schlichter completed 12 of 22 passes for 196 yards with an interception.
Ohio State 23
Neither team was ranked, but this game produced one of the iconic images in Ohio State history as the Buckeyes carried Bruce off the field in his finale game as their head coach.
Bruce had been fired at the beginning of the week and saw his team fall behind 13-0 early in Ann Arbor, but the Buckeyes charged back to take a 20-13 lead in the third quarter. Michigan tied the score at 20-20 at the end of three periods before Matt Frantz connected on a game-winning, 26-yard field goal with 5:18 remaining. Frantz had missed a potential last-minute, game-winner in OSU’s 26-24 loss to Michigan in 1986. In support of their head coach, Ohio State players wore white headbands displaying “Earle” on the front as they helped their departing leader finish his career with a winning record against Michigan (5-4).
Ohio State 26
No. 11 Michigan 20
Although this one lacked the Big Ten title ramifications of most of the memorable Ohio State wins over Michigan, it makes the list for its significance in the arc of the career of one of the Buckeyes’ national championship head coaches. It also marks the turning point in a series that had been dominated by the Wolverines for more than a decade prior.
Jonathan Wells and Mike Doss made sure new coach Jim Tressel kept his hiring-day promise to make Ohioans “proud of our young people in the classroom, in the community and, most especially, in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan.” Wells scored three touchdowns in the first half and Doss picked off a pair of Michigan passes as the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines, 26-20, for their first victory in Ann Arbor since 1987. The second of Wells’ TD runs, a 46-yard sprint on fourth-and-inches in the first minute of the second quarter, kept the momentum with the Buckeyes as they surged to a 23-0 halftime lead before a stunned crowd at Michigan Stadium.
Doss and Will Smith, who had a pair of sacks, spearheaded the OSU defense that forced five turnovers and scored a safety. Doss’ second interception set up Ohio State’s final score, a 33-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.
Quarterback Craig Krenzel, a Michigan native, won his first game as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, completing 11 of 18 passes for 118 yards. Wells finished with 129 yards on 25 carries despite missing the second half with an injury.
No. 2 Ohio State 14
No. 23 Michigan 9
The Buckeyes exorcised some demons and clinched a chance to play for the national championship with a fourth-quarter rally.
After Michigan took an early 3-0 lead, Maurice Clarett fired up the Ohio Stadium crowd by bouncing outside for a 2-yard touchdown run that put the Buckeyes on top for the first time. He had earlier logged a 28-yard run in his return from a shoulder injury that had kept him out of an overtime win at Illinois one week earlier and limited him throughout the second half of the season.
Michigan remained poised, however, and quarterback Jon Navarre drove the Wolverines for two more field goals to take a 9-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Ohio State mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter capped when Maurice Hall took an option pitch from Krenzel and scooted around right end against a Michigan defense outflanked by a play the Buckeyes had not run all season. Clarett ran for 119 yards on the afternoon and again played the catalyst on the game-winning drive with a 26-yard catch on a wheel route.
The Buckeye defense forced two turnovers after Ohio State took its final lead, first a fumble recovery by Will Smith that sent the Scarlet and Gray faithful into a frenzy as it appeared the game was iced, then on a final-play interception by Will Allen with the sell-out crowd holding its collective breath as the ball sailed toward the goal line in the south end of the stadium.
No. 1 Ohio State 42
No. 2 Michigan 39
Troy Smith was again the man of the match but he got plenty of help as Ohio State beat Michigan in the first meeting of the ancient foes as the nation’s two top-ranked teams.
Smith improved to 3-0 as a starting quarterback against the Wolverines as he completed 29 of 41 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns. The Buckeyes spread out and shredded the vaunted Michigan defense as Antonio Pittman ran for 139 yards and Chris Wells added 56 more. Each member of the Akron-born duo notched a long touchdown run, Pittman sprinting 56 yards on a version of the famous “Dave” play in the third quarter after Wells had brought the Ohio Stadium crowd to its feet with a stunning 52-yard draw-play touchdown run.
Tressel and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman had the Wolverines off balance all day, including on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Ted Ginn Jr. on which Ginn lined up as the team’s third tight end in a tight power set.
Ill-timed Ohio State turnovers helped keep Michigan in the game in the second half, and a late touchdown drive engineered by Wolverine quarterback Chad Henne cut the OSU lead to three. The Buckeyes recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock with a trio of Pittman runs, including a 6-yarder on the final play that converted a third-and-2 and put the Buckeyes over 500 total yards on the day.