On Oct. 16, 1897, Michigan and Ohio State first faced off on the gridiron. In the 124 years since, the matchup has seen 3,900 points, 117 games and 37 head coaches — all culminating in one of the most intense rivalries in college sports.
The Michigan Daily took a data-driven deep dive into the history of the rivalry.
This piece was updated on Nov. 17, 2021.
The Wolverines and Buckeyes first met in 1897 in Ann Arbor, with Michigan shutting out Ohio State, 34-0 — a game that would set the tone for the Independent era. The Buckeyes failed to win a single game during the era, getting outscored by the Wolverines 355-12 overall.
The era included a number of notable games. In 1900, the two teams played their only 0-0 tie , one of six ties in the rivalry. In 1902, Michigan shut out Ohio State 86-0, the largest margin of victory by either team ever. The game fell in a dominant four-year stretch from the Wolverines from 1901 to 1904, where they lost only one game over four years against any opponent.
Beginning in 1918, the teams played in 102 consecutive years as members of the Big Ten conference (previously called the Western conference). Ohio State won its first game of the matchup in 1919, winning 13-3. The Buckeyes won the next two games as well, 14-7 and 14-0.
Ohio Stadium was built during the era and formally dedicated on October 21, 1922, the day when the Wolverines shut out the Buckeyes, 19-0. Though more balanced than the early years of the rivalry, the Wolverines continued their dominance through these years. Michigan was recognized as national champions six times during this era, while Ohio State managed only one national title.
The infamous 1950 game, nicknamed the Snow Bowl, was played during a blizzard in Columbus after the Buckeyes’ athletic director refused to accept a forfeit from Michigan. Eighth-ranked Ohio State and an unranked Michigan combined to punt 45 times during the course of the game, with Michigan eventually winning 9-3 and becoming conference champions. The two teams also combined for 10 fumbles over the course of the matchup.
The Hayes Era
Woody Hayes was hired as the Buckeyes’ Coach in 1951 following criticism of previous coach Wes Fesler’s performance in the 1950 Snow Bowl game, and he led them to one of their most successful eras in history. Ohio State won four national championships during this era, and outscored the Wolverines 315-203 overall.
In 1969, Michigan hired head coach Bo Schembechler, who faced off against Hayes in a historic 10-year rivalry. In the first game of the era, the Wolverines snapped the Buckeyes’ 22-game winning streak by clinching a 24-12 victory at the Big House.
The Ten-Year War pushed both teams to historic heights: Ohio State and Michigan shared the Big Ten Title six times during the 10 years. The Wolverines won outright once, the Buckeyes won outright twice and Michigan shared the title with Michigan State once.
Hayes was fired after a game between Ohio State and Clemson when he punched an opposing player after the Buckeyes surrendered an interception, ending the era.
Bo vs. Bruce
To replace Hayes, the Buckeyes hired Earl Bruce, who was named the American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year in his first season. The rivalry remained unusually balanced during the era — Ohio State won five games to Michigan’s four, and marginally outscored the Wolverines, 165-150.
Though Bruce was fired the week before the matchup against Michigan in 1987, he coached the Buckeyes anyway and snatched a narrow 23-20 victory against a heavily-favored Wolverine team.
The Cooper Era
The Buckeyes hired John Cooper, the head coach at Arizona State, to replace Earl Bruce. He faced three Michigan coaches during his tenure — Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. The Cooper era was dominated by the Wolverines, who won 10 out of 13 games and lost only twice, outscoring the Buckeyes 552-254. Specifically in 1993, 1995 and 1996, a lower-ranked Michigan team snapped an undefeated Ohio State winning streak, winning 28-0, 31-23 and 13-9 respectively.
After Cooper was fired in 2000, Michigan students celebrated “John Cooper Day” on February 10, 2001 — or 2-10 — poking fun at Cooper’s record against the Wolverines. Michigan also won the national championship in 1997, the only national championship for the Wolverines in the last 73 years.
Carr vs. Tressel
Jim Tressel took over as Buckeyes head coach in 2001, facing off against Lloyd Carr, who was promoted to the Wolverines head coaching position in 1995. Ohio State won six out of the seven matchups between these two coaches, setting the tone for the remainder of the rivalry. Michigan did clinch a 35-21 victory in 2003, the 100th matchup between the two teams.
In 2006, the two teams faced off as the top two seeds in the Bowl Championship Series rankings, with the Buckeyes ranked No. 1 and the Wolverines at No. 2. Ohio State secured a narrow 42-39 victory and became the outright Big Ten Champion.
These six years saw two head coaches for Michigan — Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke — and three for Ohio State — Tressel, Luke Fickell and Urban Meyer.
In 2010, Ohio State vacated all 12 victories from the season, including the 37-7 win against Michigan, after an NCAA investigation found violations for “improper benefits to student athletes.” Under Meyer, the Buckeyes also won a national championship in 2014, their eighth overall.
The Harbaugh Era
Jim Harbaugh, the former quarterback for the Wolverines from 1983 to 1986 and a former NFL coach and quarterback, was hired in 2015 as Michigan’s head coach. In 2016, the teams met with Ohio State ranked second and Michigan ranked third in the National Associated Press poll. The Buckeyes tied the game 17-17 on a late field goal, forcing overtime. Ohio State eventually won, 30-27, in double overtime.
In 2020, a historic 102-year streak was snapped as a COVID-19 outbreak among Michigan’s student athletes forced the rivalry game to be called off for the first time since 1917.
Michigan’s 42-27 win in 2021 marked Harbaugh’s first victory over Ohio State, and Michigan’s first since 2011.