Welcome to the G.O.A.T. Game Tournament, Eleven Warriors' quest to crown the greatest Ohio State football game in history. We start with the Michigan bracket and its annual conquests over the Wolverines ranging from 1919 to 2016.
Let's meet the bracket for the “The Game” region:
- #1 2006 vs. #8 1987: The “Game of the Century” faces Earle Bruce's final game.
- #4 2016 vs. #5 1919: The first overtime game in the series squares off against Chic Harley handing Fielding Yost his first loss to the Buckeyes.
- #2 2002 vs. #7 1942: Tressel earns his first national championship berth, while Paul Brown rolls the Wolverines in '42.
- #3 1968 vs. #6 1974: Woody hanging half a hundred goes against the pinnacle of the “10 Year War.”
#1: 2006 — No. 2 michigan at no. 1 ohio state
No. 2 Michigan at No. 1 Ohio State in 2006 came with all the 21st century hype available for the highest-ranked rendition of The Game in nearly a century of the Midwestern blood feud—and it surpassed every expectation.
- Score: 42-39
- T. Smith: 29-41, 316 YDS, 4 TD, 1 INT
- A. Pittman: 18 CAR, 139 YDS, 1 TD
- T. Ginn: 8 REC, 104 YDS, 1 TD
Now known as "The Game of the Century," Lloyd Carr's and Jim Tressel's offenses both scored on their opening possessions, with the Wolverines drawing first blood on a one-yard Mike Hart touchdown run, and the Buckeyes rebutting when Troy Smith found Roy Hall for a two-yard touchdown reception.
Ohio State true freshman Beanie Wells, a five-star recruit from Akron, Ohio, gutted Michigan on a 52-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter. The subsequent extra point from Aaron Pettrey made it 14-7, and the Buckeyes would never surrender the lead again.
Troy Smith went to work shortly thereafter, using his arm to mince the Wolverines defense. He finished with 29 completed passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers.
Smith found Brian Robiskie with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter to put Ohio State up 41-31. Pettrey made it 42-31 on the next play, effectively punching the Buckeyes' national title tickets.
#8: 1987 — OHIO STATE AT MICHIGAN
Earle Bruce's team entered the 1987 season as the No. 5 team in the country. It entered Michigan week already having lost four games on the season, not including a 13-13 tie with LSU but including a 21-point loss to unranked Indiana in Columbus.
- Score: 23-20
- T. Tupa: 18-26, 219 YDS, 2 TD
- E. Ross: 4 REC, 43 YDS, 1 TD
- C. Snow: 21 RUSH, 67 YD
They had lost their previous three outings, albeit by a total of 10 points. And having already lost three of the last four against Michigan, Ohio State President Edward Jennings relieved Bruce of his duties that Monday, though Bruce would still coach the final game of the season in Ann Arbor.
Despite the team wearing pro-Bruce headbands, the Wolverines jumped out to a 13-0 lead as they manhandled the Buckeyes for 300 first-half yards.
His team trailing 13-7, Buckeye freshman tailback Carlos Snow took a six-yard Tom Tupa pass on the first play of the second half and shredded the Wolverine defense for a 70-yard touchdown reception that stunned the over 100,000 UM fans in attendance.
With the game locked at 20 late in the fourth quarter, Bruce tapped kicker Matt Frantz, who had missed a 45-yard, potentially game-winning field goal against Michigan the previous year in Columbus, to attempt the 28-yard field goal for the 23-20 win.
Frantz rewarded his coach's faith on the next play, and Ohio State whisked its coach in the history books on top of their shoulders.
#4: 2016 - No. 3 michigan at no. 2 ohio state
A decade after The Game of the Century, The Rivalry returned to Columbus with national title implications on the line for both teams.
- Score: 30-27 (2 OT)
- J.T. Barrett: 15-32, 124 YDS, 1 INT
- J.T. Barrett: 30 CAR, 125 YDS, 1 TD
- Noah Brown: 3 REC, 40 YDS
Gone, however, were Lloyd Carr and Jim Tressel, replaced by Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, effectively.
Ohio State had rolled Michigan, 42-13, in 2015 for Meyer's first head-to-head victory between the two coaches. From the Wolverines perspective, things would be different in 2016 despite playing in Columbus.
Michigan entered as the oldest team in college football, with Ohio State the youngest. For three quarters, it looked like the seniority would play a decisive role in the contest.
Michigan bludgeoned Ohio State's offense from the start. The Buckeyes only points came on an interception returned for a touchdown from safety Malik Hooker.
Trailing 10-7 midway through the third, Ohio State attempted a fake punt and Michigan snuffed it. Five plays later, Wolverine fullback Khalid Hill caught an eight-yard touchdwon pass from Wilton Speight to help make it 17-7.
Meyer, with his team trailing 17-14 and perhaps harkening back to the 1987 season he spent as Ohio State's receiver coach, summoned kicker Tyler Durbin, who had missed his previous two field goal attempts, to attempt the potentially game-tying 23-yarder.
The third time proved to be the charm, and The Game went into overtime.
It was in the second overtime, after the teams traded touchdowns in the opening rounds and the Ohio State defense held Michigan to a field goal in the opening salvo, where J.T. Barrett and Curtis Samuel etched their names into Rivalry lore.
Facing 4th and 1 from the Michigan 16, Meyer elected to roll the dice on the legs of his quarterback. After a referee spot, which was good, determined Barrett earned the first down, Samuel drove the knife through the deflated heart of the Wolverines with a 15-yard gash to seal the 30-27 victory.
#5: 1919 — ohio state at michigan
Entering the 1919 game against Michigan, which occurred in Week 4 between dates with Kentucky and Purdue, Ohio State had lost 13 of the last 15 meetings against their budding rivals. The best previous Buckeye performance happened during a 3-3 tie in 1910. They had lost the previous three meetings by a combined score of 47-0.
- Score: 13-3
- C. Harley: 1 TD, 2 FG
- Ohio State: 247 YDS
This year would be different, though. Chic Harley, who played running back, quarterback, defensive end, and safety while also handling kicking duties, had returned to Columbus after a World War I stint as an Army Air Service pilot.
Harley led 3,500 Buckeye faithful to Perry Field in Ann Arbor, where roughly 25,000 people watched Michigan coach Fielding Yost suffer his first loss to Ohio State.
Harley did it all on the afternoon, scoring Ohio State's only touchdown on a 40-yard run and kicking two field goals to give the Buckeyes the 13-3 win.
Ohio State finished with 247 yards of total offense while only needing to pass the ball four times. Michigan mustered a mere 82 while failing to complete a single forward pass.
#2: 2002 — No. 9 michigan at No. 2 ohio state
Jim Tressel entered the 2002 Michigan game already a certified legend after delivering on a prophesied 2001 victory over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
- Score: 14-9
- C. Krenzel: 10-14, 124 YDS
- M. Clarett: 20 CAR, 119 YDS, 1 TD
- M. Jenkins: 4 REC, 51 YDS
His team had won its previous 12 contests, despite it requiring a handful of heart-stopping victories like "Holy Buckeye" in West Lafayette against Purdue in Week 11 and a come-from-behind OT victory at Illinois in Week 12. Now, in week 13, they stood on the cusp of the national title game.
The Buckeyes stuck to the game plan and gave the Wolverines a heavy dose of star freshman tailback Maurice Clarett. The former Warren G. Harding Raider anchored the offense on 20 rushes for 119 yards and a touchdown. He also chipped in two receptions for 35 yards.
Krenzel played the cool customer as always. He only threw 14 times but completed 10 for 124 yards. He didn't throw a touchdown. More importantly, he didn't throw an interception. He finished with a QBR of 145.8.
Per the Tressel Way, the Silver Bullets ultimately decided the game. Trailing 14-9 with one second left on the Buckeyes' 24-yard line, Wolverine quarterback John Navarre lobbed a prayer to receiver Braylon Edwards.
Defensive back Will Allen knifed across the goal line to deny Edwards' reception and Michigan's dreams. The Buckeyes finished the regular season as 13-0 co-Big Ten champions and were off to the first national title game since 1970.
"We might not go out and score 50 points. We might not hold teams to 10 yards," Clarett told reporters after the game, "but we make the plays when we have to."
#7: 1942 — No. 4 Michigan at No. 5 ohio state
Paul Brown's Buckeyes entered the 1942 Michigan game having only lost to Wisconsin in front of 45,000 fans in Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, which meant the Buckeyes still clung to national title hopes when the Wolverines rolled into Columbus.
- Score: 21-7
- L. Horvath: 1 TD REC, 1 TD PASS
- P. Sarringhaus: 1 TD REC, 2 TD PASS
Brown needed the best from his players, and he got it from offensive all-everything Les Horvath, who threw a 10-yard touchdown pass and caught a 32-yard reception for the game's final score. A fullback named Gene kicked the two extra points.
Michigan dominated every statistic but the scoreboard. As The Cleveland Plain Dealer remarked on the 17 to 9 first-down differential, "when you go 60 yards for a touchdown they do not count it as a first down."
The 21-7 rout, coupled with a win the following week over the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks in Columbus, propelled the Buckeyes to the first national championship in school history and Horvath to its first Heisman Trophy.
#3: 1968 — No. 4 Michigan at no. 2 ohio state
Woody Hayes' 1968 Ohio State team—loaded with its legendary "Super Sophomores"— started the season as the No. 11 team in the country. It promptly rolled its next nine opponents by a combined score of 296-134 to earn the No. 1 ranking when No. 4 Michigan, coached by "Bump" Elliott to Columbus with national title implications on the line for both teams.
- Score: 50-14
- R. Kern: 19 CAR, 96 YDS, 2 TD
- J. Otis: 34 CAR, 143 YDS, 4 TD
- L. Zelina: 8 CAR, 92 YDS
When Michigan went into halftime trailing only 21-14, the Wolverines felt good about their upset chances. However, they would never score again.
Buckeye running back Jim Otis got loose for four touchdowns as OSU poured on 421 yards of rushing.
Hayes, with his team ahead 48-14, went for two late in the fourth quarter because, according to legend, he couldn't go for three.
“[This is t]he best victory we ever had," Hayes told reporters after the game. "This is a good football team, and we played a good football team. ... All of our kids played real good football."
The win propelled the Big Ten champions to a Rose Bowl national title date with the USC Trojans. It would be the last game Elliott coached at Michigan.
#6: 1974 — No. 3 michigan at No. 4 ohio state
Bo Schembechler and No. 3 Michigan came to Columbus in 1974 with revenge on their minds. The previous year, a 10-10 tie resulted in a Big Ten vote awarding the conference's Rose Bowl berth to Woody Hayes' Ohio State.
- Score: 12-10
- C. Greene: 19 CAR, 69 YDS
- A. Griffin: 25 CAR, 11 YDS
- T. Klaban: 4/4 FG
The two foes played a true slobber-knocker worthy of the 10 Year War. Michigan quarterback Dennis Franklin only completed five passes on the day. However, he found receiver Gil Chapman for a 42-yard touchdown strike on the first play from scrimmage. A Mike Lantry field goal made it 10-0 minutes later, and for awhile, that looked like it'd be enough to hold off Hayes' boys.
But then Archie Griffin went to work, finishing with 111 rushing yards on the day. It would have been all for nought, though, had Buckeye kicker Tom Klaban not been perfect on the day. Klaban nailed field goals of 47, 25, 43, and 45 yards to give Ohio State a 12-10 lead.
A score by which Ohio State held on to when Lantry's potentially game-winning 33-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
The win sent the Big Ten champion Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl.
Image credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports