Getting Back to Ann Arbor: Sad Bus Rides up Route 23

By Mike Young on June 9, 2014 at 11:00a

College football's home-field advantage is incomparable across sports, particularly in rivalry games.

Texas and Oklahoma fans don't know the rush of beating their biggest rival in their home stadium, or crushing the hopes of opposing fans by beating them on the road. Beginning in 1932, the annual "Red River Showdown" game has been held in the Cotton Bowl.

Since the turn of the century, Michigan fans aren't too familiar those emotions, either –they've only beaten the Buckeyes three times. With another game at Ohio Stadium this season, it serves as a reminder that the Wolverines haven't had a fun ride home since 2000.

In light of a 14-year drought, here's a tweet from Michigan commit Alex Malzone:

As with most things on Twitter, Malzone's words inspired hateful replies (reminder: don't tweet at recruits). Rather than pile on, I'll tell you that his tweet sparked useful inner-dialogue and beautiful childhood memories.

After checking Wikipedia to make sure I was right about 2000 being the last year Michigan won in Columbus (the internet's most useful encyclopedia didn't exist that year, by the way), I began to recollect my memories of that year's Ohio State – Michigan game: 

Wait, none of that looks familiar to me, because I was only 10 years old when it happened. With the typical high-level of play in this rivalry a 14-year road losing streak should never happen. Michigan hasn't even been favored to win since 2004, when they went on to lose 37-21.

A drought of this magnitude may feel unprecedented. Even within the context of the rivalry, however, it isn't so rare for one team to go so long without winning a road game.

If you need more evidence to support the effective incompetence John Cooper displayed against the Wolverines, his Buckeye teams never won a game in Ann Arbor. You probably already knew that, but forgot after Jim Tressel rode in on his white horse and ended the road losing streak at 14 years. So, that's right, this century's Michigan is now entering John Cooper territory.

Before this present losing streak, their longest span between winning games in Columbus was only 10 years. That occurred from 1966-76, which is a significant chunk of "The Ten Year War."

The current streak is still well off the pace set by the 1931-55 Buckeyes, a 24-year stretch without winning a game in Ann Arbor. Michigan Stadium was only four-years-old when that streak started and nearly 30 when it ended. It would take another decade of losing for the decaying Lloyd Carr, plus Rich Rodriguez, Brady Hoke and Lane Kiffin (just a prediction) era to match that impotence. 

For further context, the Wolverines' current drought isn't that bad when compared to other annual rivalry games:

Rivalry Longest Road Drought Team Site
The Iron Bowl 11 years (1989-2000) Auburn Birmingham1 and Tuscaloosa
Florida State – Miami 12 years (1984-1996) FSU Miami
Clemson – South Carolina 14 years (1970-1984) South Carolina Clemson2
The Big Game 16 years (1946-1962) Stanford Berkley
Florida – Florida State 18 years (1986-2004) Florida Tallahassee3
The Civil War 18 years (1973-1991) Oregon St. Eugene
The Holy War 22 years (1971-1993) Utah Provo4
Paul Bunyan's Axe 22 years (1922-1945) Wisconsin Minneapolis
Michigan – Ohio State 24 years (1931-1955) Ohio St. Ann Arbor
Jeweled Shillelagh 28 years (1939-1967) Southern Cal South Bend
1 Neutral site until 1990    2Columbia was "neutral" site until 1960    3Alternated sites after 1972    4Alternated sites after 1964

Given trends, Ohio State may have an opportunity to compound Michigan's road woes in the Shoe.


Comments Show All Comments

niblick's picture

2-10-1 with a team of nfl pro-bowlers year after year. If I live to be 5000 years old I will never understand this.

+21 HS's picture

True that. I like so many things Coop did for the program, and believe he was a solid dude, but when he fell to 0-3 after the 1990 game I would have fired him. That's the standard I set for The Game and the rivalry. 

In that year, at home, with the score tied and 1:47 left and facing a fourth-and-1 on the OSU 29, Coop ordered an option by Frey who was stuffed. We lost and went on to play Air Force (let's not go there). Had we won, we would have been in the Rose Bowl. It was time to move on.  And so 91 happened, and 93 and 96 and 97 and ... Argh.  


+1 HS
countrybuckeye's picture

I feel your pain.  I recommend you try remembering what makes a Buckeye BETTER than a Meeeshitt-again skunk weasel -- class, honor, self-awareness, perspective on reality, and REAL tradition.  

JT delivered on a promised and was always about the institution.  The Senator.  The Vest.  

Now we are graced with another "Ohio boy be a BUCKEYE in UFM.  Fear not.  His vision will make possible a return to recognition by all as 'the' elite program.   

"Momma told me there would be days like this."

CC's picture

I was at Coop's final UM loss in the Shoe.  Our seats are next to the opposing team's section.  Somebody had a sign in maze and blue that read "Thanks for the memories Coop, 2-9-1."

45has2's picture

It is what happens when you coach coaches and not players.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes


I gave up 'understanding' Cooper way early in his career... Loved his recruiting, but could not stand his ambivalence to The Game.  They say forgiveness is more for the forgiver than the perpetrator... Tressel and Urban has helped, but I don't see myself shaking that man's hand until he apologizes to the Buckeye faithful.

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

+1 HS
countrybuckeye's picture

I cannot revisit that era.   Therapy and pharmaceuticals make the memories of the JCE (John Cooper Era) tolerable.   The only visceral salve I have against the cross I must bear as an tOSU Alumnus is to have been in the Rose Bowl when Cooper's Buckeyes throttles ASU with "Jake the Snake" Plummer.  A decade of unmet expectations washed (over) by a Rose Bowl victory. 

[I need a moment to cry alone.  The pain is still too much to bear.  Patience is a virtue, and the healing of James Tressel brought my soul, to the Rebirth of the Buckeyes under another real Buckeye -- Urban F. Meyer, reaffirmed my faith



"Momma told me there would be days like this."

+1 HS

Amen Brother.

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

Seattle Linga's picture

Well said Niblick - Hopefully the dumpster fire up north will continue this tradition year in and year out.

Can't wait til we leap frog them in head to head records

+2 HS
daveyt11's picture

It is hard to understand the UM drought under Coop, he is however credited with bringing speed to the BIGTEN, starting with Galloway. Then recruiting out of Cal and Texas and Fla.

+1 HS
causeicouldntgo43's picture

Please, please, Lane Kiffen, come to Ann Arbor after Brady is let go.

+2 HS
Yenots11's picture

Agreed! They'd just be trolling themselves at that point, right?

Go Bucks!! 

"Aut viam inveniam aut faciam!"

jamesrbrown322's picture

I really feel like that 2004 Game really turned the tide. OSU was motivated in 2002, but in 2004 *ichigan was favored, and by all accounts looked like the better team. Then, Ted Ginn and Troy Smith showed up and the game was over.

It was after that game that I think Buckeye Nation finally realized how deep the talent gap was widening...and it hasn't stopped in the decade since.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+6 HS
Jason Priestas's picture

The crowd in that Gonzo shot is amazing.

jamesrbrown322's picture

I love that every *ichigan fan looks pissed, save for the one guy with his hands on his head who just looks forlorn. 

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+2 HS
New alum's picture

I've always thought the same thing. If there is a moment that crystallizes the new direction of the rivalry it was Ted Ginn taking a punt up the Michigan sideline...a la Howard and Woodson. At the time I thought, "how ironic." Had no idea how the next decade would unfold.

Proud Michigander, OSU grad. Life is complicated.

+1 HS
Crumb's picture

I think that 14 year mark is what has me nervous about The War this year. For some reason I can't shake a feeling of uncertainty, or that the blueholes are due. However we should curb stomp them. And we can never beat them enough in the Shoe until in the years they are scheduled to play here they just forfeit cause they have no chance and no hope.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

hit_the_couch's picture

TSUN was favored by 7.5 in '11. I'm not sure if that was the opening line or the final line though. Unless you're strictly talking about them being favored in the rivalry for away games, then disregard this comment, and it will self destruct in 5, 4, 3,.......

TSUN really hasn't had a serviceable team since probably '06.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

All I want to see is that streak continue to grow higher and higher. If they never win another game in Ohio stadium as long as I live I will be very happy!
Go Bucks.

+3 HS
Shangheyed's picture

If you have ever been  up north for a game, you know what a pretender that school is... most who follow TSUN are not even grads... indeed walmart wolverienes.

cronimi's picture

While that may be true, we have a fair number of non-alumni fans too. 

+1 HS