Michigan and Ohio Fans alike call it “The Game”. It’s the annual rivalry game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
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The Rivalry has inspired students, players and coaches alike since their first meeting together. The Ohio State alma mater “Carmen Ohio” was written on the train ride home from the 1902 contest against Michigan after Ohio State fell to Michigan 86-0.
Ohio State became a member of the Big Ten Conference in 1912, and Michigan rejoined the conference shortly after in 1917. The two played their first conference game together in 1918 with Michigan once again coming out on top of the rivalry as the winner logging their 11th straight win against the Buckeyes. In 1919, the Wolverines finally fell to their Ohio State foes 13-3, and this is where the rivalry truly began.
One of the most memorable games of their rivalry in the early years was the 1950 matchup. The fans now call it the “Snow Bowl”. The game was scheduled in a late November game that was called one of the worst blizzards on Ohio Record. The Ohio State Buckeyes who led the Big Ten that year were granted the opportunity to choose their fate. They could have opted out of the game, which by default would have given the Buckeyes the Big Ten title and easily put them in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
But Ohio State had too much pride. They refused the option to avoid the game and decided to take the opportunity to spank their arch-nemesis instead. The teams faced off in the howling wind and knee deep snow, and exchanged 45 punts (usually in the first down) in hopes that the other team would fumble the ball near the end-zone. Unfortunately for Ohio State, their nobility did them no good. Michigan came out of the game the 9-3 winner from gaining an advantage off of two blocked punts. Michigan ended up taking the conference title and the Rose Bowl that year. Ohio State Head Coach Fesler received so much criticism over the game, and he decided to resign that season.
The hatred continued to 1968, when Ohio State beat Michigan 50-14. They outscored their rival 29-0 in the second half and attempted a two point conversion on their final touchdown. After the game, Coach Woody Hayes was asked why he attempted a 2-point conversion on the final touchdown in such a huge lead. He replied, “because I couldn’t go for three.” Coach Hayes also coined the phrase “that team up north” so he never had to say Michigan’s name out loud.
In 2000, ESPN voted “The Game” as the greatest rivalry in all of North American Sports, and the diehard fans and will do everything in their power to keep that tradition alive.
When Nebraska joined the Conference in 2010, there were rumors that the two rivals would have to separate into different divisions, meaning no more annual rivalry games. Fans bombarded the athletics offices of the two schools and the commissioner of the Big Ten with emails and office visits. The conference was forced to keep “The Game” alive at the end of each season. The rivalry was named a “protected-crossover” game by the conference, and will always and forever more be played on Thanksgiving weekend at the end of the season.
Over the last 40 years, this rivalry has determined much more than just bragging-rights. Almost every game determines a Big Ten Conference Title and/or the resulting Rose Bowl matchups.
The pressure of titles and bowl games is unchanged going into this year’s matchup. Ohio State is going into their game as the No. 1 ranked team in the conference and No. 6 overall in the nation and playoff rankings. One more win against their rival will give them the Big Ten Conference title and a spot in the Rose Bowl in January.
Can they pull it off? They certainly have the odds advantage, but they will also be traveling to the home of the Wolverines. We are expecting for things to get very interesting.