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

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

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.

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