Larry Lage ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The Game is set up to be a gem .
No. 2 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten, No. 2 CFP) hosts rival and third-ranked Michigan (10-1, 7-1, No. 3 CFP) on Saturday with a lot on the line , and it could join a long list of memorable games in the storied series.
Here’s a look back, in chronological order, at some of the top games in one of the greatest rivalries in sports, according to AP Sports Writer Larry Lage.
Lage’s first memory of The Game was in 1981 when Art Schlichter lifted the unranked Buckeyes to a 14-9 win over seventh-ranked Michigan with a touchdown near his father’s seats in Section 19. Lage’s first game story as a journalist covering the series came in 1995 when Tim Biakabutuka ran for 313 yards to help No. 18 Michigan beat No. 2 Ohio State 31-23. Lage has covered one Michigan road game in the series, a decade ago, and all the matchups at The Big House since 2001. The 43-year-old Lage played football across the street from Michigan Stadium at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School and one of his teammates was Mike Lantry, whose father was a central figure in The Game’s 10-10 tie in 1973.
In what is remembered as the “Snow Bowl,” the unranked Wolverines beat No. 8 Ohio State 9-3 as the temperature hovered around 10 degrees with winds reaching nearly 30 mph and the white stuff making it tough to see or play. Ohio State fired coach Wes Fesler with an 0-3-1 record against the Wolverines. The Buckeyes ended up hiring Woody Hayes, a young coach from Miami (Ohio), to take his place.
In Bo Schembechler’s first game against Hayes , his mentor, No. 12 Michigan beat the top-ranked Buckeyes 24-12 at home. Hayes lamented the loss, saying the Schembechler-led Wolverines beat the best team he ever had. The game was the start of what became known as the “Ten Year War,” with Bo beating Woody five times, losing four games and finishing one famously tied.
No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan, both undefeated, battled in an instant classic to a 10-10 tie with enough drama to be the subject of a documentary, “Tiebreaker .” The Wolverines got the better of play, but kicker Mike Lantry missed two field goals in the last 2 minutes. Big Ten athletic directors chose the Buckeyes, not Michigan — perhaps because quarterback Dennis Franklin got injured to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl at a time when the conference would only allow one team to be in a bowl. The Big Ten would later decide to allow more than one school to participate in the postseason.
Ohio State fired coach Earle Bruce just days before The Game after a three-game losing streak dropped his team to 5-4-1. The unranked Buckeyes, wearing white headbands with Bruce’s name written on them, beat the unranked Wolverines 23-20 to drop them to 7-4. Bruce was 81-26-1 overall, including 5-4 against Michigan, but Ohio State let him go and brought John Cooper to campus in a move many Buckeyes would lament because he went 2-10-1 in The Game.
The Game wasn’t close that year as No. 4 Michigan routed No. 18 Ohio State 31-3, but it produced a favorite memory for fans north of the state line and a nightmare for those to the south. Desmond Howard, who hailed from Ohio, returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown and famously struck a pose from the Heisman Trophy statue he later won.
Like Howard, Charles Woodson crossed the border from Ohio to play for the Wolverines and ended up winning a Heisman Trophy in part because of a signature moment in The Game. Woodson returned a punt 78 yards for a score, sprinting up the same sideline — Ohio State’s — and into the same end zone that Howard did to help No. 1 Michigan beat No. 4 Ohio State 20-14 en route to a national championship.
Maurice Clarett, playing in The Game for the only time, helped No. 2 Ohio State get past the 12th-ranked Wolverines 14-9 on the way to a national championship. On the final play, Will Allen sealed the victory for the Buckeyes by intercepting John Navarre’s pass just in front of the goal line. It was one of many victories in the rivalry for Ohio State coach Jim Tressel , who was 9-1 against the Wolverines before resigning in 2011 amid NCAA violations from a tattoo-parlor scandal.
In the 100th game in the series, No. 5 Michigan beat No. 4 Ohio State 35-21 at the end of a dominant run that seems like a distant memory. The Wolverines were 18-9-1 from 1976-2003 under Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. Since Carr retired, Rich Rodriguez (0-3), Brady Hoke (1-3) and Jim Harbaugh (0-1) have combined to go 1-7 against the Buckeyes . Michigan leads 58-48-6 in part because college football’s winningest program started 13-0-2 in a series that dates to 1897.
A day after Schembechler died, The Game featured the top-ranked teams in the country. No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Michigan 42-39, building a 28-14 halftime lead and holding off the Wolverines after they pulled within four points twice in the second half. Ohio State pushed its lead back to 11 with 5:38 remaining in an entertaining contest that wasn’t quite as close as the final score.
No. 3 Ohio State held off the unranked Wolverines 42-41 when Tyvis Powell intercepted Devin Gardner’s 2-point conversion pass with 32 seconds left after Hoke, an Ohioan, chose to go for the win instead of taking his chances in overtime. Hoke disliked Ohio State so much he wouldn’t say “State” when mentioning the school and couldn’t recall wearing red.