A Look Back at Ohio State’s Six Previous Top-Five Matchups with Michigan in Ohio Stadium

By Matt Gutridge on November 24, 2022 at 11:35 am
J.T. Barrett

The Game is called The Game for a reason.

While there have been numerous nail-biting, tension-filled and epic matchups through the years, only 11 have featured both rivals being ranked in the top five. Six of those 11 were played in the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium, and those games have included some of the most memorable matchups in the history of The Game.

As the second-ranked Buckeyes prepare to host the third-ranked Wolverines in a top-five matchup at the Shoe for the seventh time on Saturday, we take a look back at the previous six Ohio State home games against Michigan with such high stakes.

1942: #5 Ohio State 21, #4 Michigan 7

Michigan came to Columbus fresh off of a 32-20 victory over Notre Dame and had a 6–2 record. The maize and blue's two losses were to the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks and Minnesota Gophers.

The stage was set for the 72,691 fans – Ohio Stadium's largest crowd of 1942 – to watch Paul Brown's fifth-ranked Buckeyes take on the fourth-ranked Wolverines.

Michigan's coach, Fritz Crisler, was a near-perfect 4–0–1 against Ohio State and his team entered The Shoe full of confidence for a game airing on national radio. Adding to the swagger of the team from the north was the knowledge that Ohio State would be without halfbacks Tommy James, Bill Durtschi, Bobby Frye and Tom Cleary.

It was a cold and rainy game, but the Buckeyes overcame the playing conditions and put it to their rival. Team MVP Chuck Csuri blocked a Michigan punt in the second quarter to set the table for Ohio State's first touchdown. Paul Sarringhaus and Shaw connected on a touchdown pass and the Bucks led 14-0 late in the third quarter.

The Wolverines cut the lead to 14-7, but the Buckeyes responded when Sarringhaus found Les Horvath for his second touchdown pass of the day. Those would be the final points of the game as Ohio State earned its first win over Michigan in five years.

This was the last time for 78 years that Ohio State did not finish the regular season against Michigan.

1968: #2 Ohio State 50, #4 Michigan 14

At stake for Woody Hayes and his talented young team was the Big Ten crown, a berth to the Rose Bowl and a possible national championship. The Wolverines were on an eight-game winning streak after dropping the first game of the season to California. Like Ohio State, Michigan was playing for a conference championship and a trip to Pasadena. 

On this 55-degree day, Michigan won the toss and chose to receive. The Wolverines made the record crowd of 85,371 nervous when they methodically marched 84 yards in 17 plays – including 15 runs – to take a 7-0 lead.

The fears turned out to be unfounded as the Buckeyes responded and secured one of the more lopsided wins in the history of The Game. Hayes even went for two after taking a 50-14 lead with 1:23 remaining, but Bill Long's pass to make it a 38-point win fell incomplete.

Ohio State's 11th undisputed Big Ten title ended a brief championship hiatus for Hayes. The Buckeyes won the league title in 1961, but faculty denied them a Rose Bowl trip. This time, the team knew it earned its way to Pasadena to play No. 2 USC, where it would win the national championship.

1970: #5 Ohio State 20, #4 Michigan 9

The Super Sophs were two years removed from their championship season and had spent the past year ruminating on the stunning upset loss to Michigan in 1969. A year's worth of frustration from the fans and team was ready to be unleashed on the Wolverines and second-year coach Bo Schembechler.

The Game's Top 5 Matchups
2022 #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Michigan TBD
2016 #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Michigan 30–27
2006 #1 Ohio State vs. #1 Michigan 42–39
2003 #4 Ohio State at #5 Michigan 21–35
1997 #4 Ohio State at #1 Michigan 14–20
1977 #4 Ohio State at #5 Michigan 6–14
1975 #1 Ohio State at #4 Michigan 21–14
1974 #4 Ohio State vs. #3 Michigan 12–10
1973 #1 Ohio State at #4 Michigan 10–10
1970 #5 Ohio State vs. #4 Michigan 20–9
1968 #2 Ohio State vs. #4 Michigan 50–14
1942 #5 Ohio State vs. #4 Michigan 21–7
Home games in bold

The team from Ann Arbor was riding a 14-game winning streak and a then-Ohio Stadium record crowd of 87,331 packed The Shoe to watch two unbeaten and untied Big Ten teams play for the conference title for the first time since 1905.

Ohio State used the energy surrounding The Game to its advantage. Michigan won the toss and chose to receive. Stan White booted the kickoff to Lance Scheffler who fumbled it right back to Ohio State. The Buckeyes converted the turnover into three points when Fred Schram made a 27-yard field goal.

The Wolverines tied the game with a field goal at the start of the second quarter, but Rex Kern and Bruce Jankowski connected on a 26-yard touchdown pass to give the home team a 10-3 lead at the half.

Shades of 1969 fell upon the stadium when Don Moorhead found Paul Staroba for a 13-yard score in the third quarter. However, Ohio State blocked the extra point and still led 10-9. 

The fears were put to rest when the Buckeyes scored the next 10 points and held Michigan's rushing game to 37 yards for the day. With the 20-9 win, Ohio State was 9–0 and the outright Big Ten champion.

Woody Hayes laid the groundwork for the 1970 victory over Michigan shortly after the 1969 loss. He installed a rug just outside of the locker room with the score against the Wolverines plastered on it. It reminded the players of the upset every day and the motivation worked as Ohio State defeated Michigan for the eighth time in 11 years.

1974: #4 Ohio State 12, #3 Michigan 10

In what was becoming an annual tradition, Ohio State and Michigan were facing each other for the Big Ten title. The Buckeyes were looking to atone for the 10-10 tie suffered by the 1973 team, arguably one of the program's best squads. The 1974 game put the “foot” in football.

Just over three minutes into the game, the Wolverines scored the game's only touchdown on its fourth offensive play. Dennis Franklin's play-action pass fooled the Buckeyes' defense as he found Gil Chapman for a 42-yard touchdown. Later in the first quarter, the Wolverines' extended their lead to 10-0 after Mike Lantry nailed a 37-yard field goal.

The rest of the day's scoring belonged to Ohio State's Tom Klaban, who made four field goals – three of them from 43+ yards – and accounted for all of the Scarlet and Gray's points in the 12-10 victory. 

Aiding to the Buckeyes' win was Lantry missing 59-yard and 33-yard field goals in the 4th quarter. The Buckeyes' ticket to the 1975 Rose Bowl was punched, a game Ohio State lost, 18-17, when USC scored and converted a two-point conversion with 2:03 remaining in the game. 

2006: #1 Ohio State 42, #2 Michigan 39

For the first time in series history, the heated rivals entered The Game ranked as the first and second-ranked teams in the country. The week leading up to the game was electric as anticipation of another shot at a national title permeated Columbus.

As if the event couldn't get any bigger, former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler passed away the night before kickoff. Lloyd Carr's team used the sudden passing as extra motivation to knock off the top-ranked Buckeyes.

An inspired Michigan team marched 80 yards in seven plays and scored when Mike Hart plunged in from a yard out. The quick score did not shake the home team as Troy Smith completed 9-of-11 passes and threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Roy Hall on the ensuing drive to tie the game at seven apiece.

The Buckeyes scored the next 14 points to extend the lead to 21-7 after Ted Ginn Jr.'s 39-yard touchdown reception. Like heavyweight boxers, the blue-blood programs exchanged and countered blows the remainder of the game. 

When the final whistle blew, Ohio State was on top 42-39, undefeated and tabbed to play for a national championship against its future coach, Urban Meyer, whose Florida Gators would defeat the Buckeyes in the final game of the season.

2016: #2 Ohio State 30, #3 Michigan 27

A decade after “The Game of the Century,” the rivals were both ranked in the top three again when they met at Ohio Stadium in 2016. Adding to the tension and drama were the new expectations and hopes of Michigan fans with their second-year coach, Jim Harbaugh, on their sidelines.

The khaki wearer and his underdog Wolverines had the Scarlet and Gray faithful fearful their team was going to succumb to the team from the north in Ohio Stadium for the first time since 2000.

Late in the third quarter, Ohio State was trailing by 10 when Jerome Baker changed the course of the game. The sophomore linebacker intercepted Wilton Speight's pass at the Michigan 35-yard line and returned it 22 yards to the Wolverines' 13. Mike Weber scored from one yard out following two Michigan penalties – including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jim Harbaugh – and a J.T. Barrett three-yard run.

Urban Meyer's team used a 5:36 drive to end regulation with a Tyler Durbin game-tying 23-yard field goal. For the first time in The Game's history, the outcome was going to be decided in overtime. 

The teams exchanged touchdowns in the first extra period and Ohio State's defense held Michigan to a 37-yard field goal in the second overtime. The stage was set for three straight remarkable plays. 

Facing 3rd-and-9 at the Wolverines' 24-yard line, Barrett threw a screen pass to Curtis Samuel. The H-back from New York looked dead to rights for a loss, but he willed his way to an eight-yard gain after running a 5K.

With the game on the line, Meyer decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 and called his quarterback's number. Barrett ran to his left and cleared the line to gain. Following an lengthy video review, Samuel won the game with the Brooklyn Dagger from 15 yards out, securing Ohio State’s berth in the College Football Playoff.

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