Games that changed The Game: 7 turning points in the Ohio State-Michigan series

Will this be the game that turns the Ohio State-Michigan series in favor of the Wolverines? 

That is what fans of the Maize and Blue are hoping. 

Their team has lost six straight and 15 of the last 17 against the 10th-ranked Buckeyes, but No. 4 Michigan will be favored Saturday at Ohio Stadium. 

Here are seven games that changed the trajectory of the series in the past: 

1919 — Ohio State 13, Michigan 3 

On their 16th try, the Buckeyes finally beat the Wolverines. 

Chic Harley scored a touchdown on what would become a legendary run and also intercepted four passes on the afternoon as Ohio State improved to 1-13-2 in a series that began in 1897. 

The Buckeyes would also win the next two games against the Wolverines. 

1934 — Ohio State 34, Michigan 0

Michigan won nine out of 12 games from 1922-33 to re-establish dominance in the series. 

Then along came Francis Schmidt

The former TCU coach famously told reporters, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, same as we do,” when asked about being able to beat the Wolverines, and he delivered with a 34-0 shellacking in his first Ohio State-Michigan game. 

That also meant a tradition was born. Ohio State players still receive a gold pants charm whenever they beat the Wolverines. 

Schmidt’s Ohio State teams won their first four games (all by shutout) before his reign began to fizzle out, ending with back-to-back losses to the Wolverines. 

1950 — Michigan 9, Ohio State 3 

The “Snow Bowl” was not just another win for the Wolverines. 

The game in which all of the points resulted at least indirectly from blocked punts had far-reaching consequences, most notably ending Wes Fesler’s tenure as coach at Ohio State, where he had been a star player. 

The man ultimately tapped to take over the program was Miami University coach Woody Hayes, who was born in Clifton and would go on to shape Ohio State football and the Big Ten for nearly three decades. 

1954 — Ohio State 21, Michigan 7 

A goal-line stand followed by a 99-yard touchdown drive highlighted this one as the top-ranked Buckeyes marched toward the second national championship in school history. 

Hayes entered the season on the hot seat after failing to finish higher than third in the Big Ten in his first three tries, but this season would cement him as the coach of the Buckeyes for two more decades. 

It also started a 10-year stretch in which Ohio State would win eight games against the Wolverines. 

1969 — Michigan 24, Ohio State 12 

Ohio State’s greatest coach and best team suffered the school’s most bitter defeat, ruining a perfect run that spanned almost two full seasons. 

Prior to this game, Dan Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated the most interesting game of the season would be one between No. 1 Ohio State’s offense and No. 1 Ohio State’s defense:

They combine to make up one of the most imposing teams of any season, one that carries a 22-game winning streak into Michigan this week, one that has piled up 371 points in eight Saturdays and, just as important as anything, one that will lose only seven players out of the top 22 for 1970. Kern and Tatum and a lot of other fierce individuals will be back, which suggests that the only thing the Buckeyes have to fear in the immediate future is their preseason scrimmages.

This would be Ohio State’s last game of the season because of the Big Ten’s no-repeat rule regarding the Rose Bowl, so a victory would have assured the Buckeyes a second consecutive national championship and a place among the great dynasties in the history of the game. 

That’s not how it worked out, though, and the upset started the “10-Year War” between Hayes and Bo Schembechler, who played for Hayes at Miami University and worked for him at Ohio State. 

As head coach at Michigan, Schembechler went 5-4-1 against Hayes and turned the Wolverines back into a powerhouse after the program fell on hard times in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. 

2001 — Ohio State 26, Michigan 20 

Ohio State fans endured a miserable 2-10-1 run under coach John Cooper from 1988-2000, but Jim Tressel promised to change that when he was hired as Cooper’s replacement. 

“You’ll be proud of our young people in the classroom, in the community — and most especially — in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field,” Tressel told the crowd at a basketball game in January. 

He nailed it. 

The underdog Buckeyes built up a 23-0 lead on the 11th-ranked Wolverines and held on for a 26-20 victory, the first of nine wins in 10 tries for Tressel. 

2004 — Ohio State 37, Michigan 21 

This stunner hinted Tressel’s early success against the Wolverines might not be a fluke and started a seven-game winning streak for the Buckeyes, their longest in the series to date. 

It also launched the legend of Troy Smith, who threw for 241 yards and ran for another 145 while engineering a major upset to end an otherwise disappointing season for Ohio State. 

No. 7 Michigan had already clinched a share of their 42nd Big Ten championship, and the Wolverines are still looking for No. 43. 

That of course could change if they beat Ohio State this weekend then go on to take care of Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game a week later. 


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