Welcome to the G.O.A.T. Game Tournament, Eleven Warriors' quest to crown the greatest Ohio State football game in history. We move on to the semifinals of the Michigan bracket, featuring wins from 1968 to 2016.
Let's look at the semifinals of the Michigan bracket:
- #1 2006 vs. #4 2016: "The Game of the Century” faces a double-overtime thriller in Columbus.
- #2 2002 vs. #3 1968: Jim Tressel and Ohio State punch a national title ticket vs. Woody hanging 50 points on a guy nicknamed "Bump."
#1: 2006 — No. 2 michigan at no. 1 ohio state
In the opening round: The Game of the Century demolished Earle Bruce's final game, 92 to 8 percent.
- 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.
#4: 2016 - No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State
In the opening road: 2016 trounced the first win over Michigan in school history, 72 to 27 percent.
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.
Facing 4th and 1 from the Michigan 16 in the second overtime, 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, Curtis Samuel drove the knife through the deflated heart of the Wolverines with a 15-yard gash to seal the 30-27 victory.
#2: 2002 — No. 9 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State
In the opening round: 2002 steamrolled 1942, 73 to 27 percent.
- Score: 14-9
- C. Krenzel: 10-14, 124 YDS
- M. Clarett: 20 CAR, 119 YDS, 1 TD
- M. Jenkins: 4 REC, 51 YDS
Jim Tressel's 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."
#3: 1968 — No. 4 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State
In the opening round: 1968 endured the closest win of the bracket, emerging victorious over 1974, 72 to 28 percent.
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.