“We had not played like we’d hoped to. I think that’s obvious,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
Ohio State 37, Michigan 21
Records before game: Michigan (7-0 Big Ten, 9-1 Overall); Ohio State (3-4, 6-4)
Hype leading into the game: Heading into the Big Game, Michigan had already clinched at least a share of the Big Ten Championship. But if it wanted to assure its spot in the Rose Bowl, it needed a win against the Buckeyes to claim the outright title. On the other hand, Ohio State was suffering through a mediocre season. But you can be sure the Buckeyes knew a win against the Woverines would turn their season around.
Key players: QB Troy Smith (13-of-23, 241 pass yards, 2 TDs, 18 carries, 145 yards, 1 TD), Ted Ginn, Jr. (5 receptions, 87 yards, 82-yard punt return for TD), LB A.J. Hawk (11 tackles, pass defended).Michigan: QB Chad Henne (27-of-54, 2 TDS, 2 INTs), WR Braylon Edwards (11 receptions, 172 yards, 1 touchdown), WR Steve Breaston (4 receptions, 17 yards, 1 punt return, 5 yards, 4 kick returns, 69 yards).
Quick game summary: After Michigan jumped out to a 14-7 lead to start the game, the Buckeyes dominated the next two quarters. Surprisingly (yeah, right), Michigan had trouble stopping a running quarterback and, by the end of the third, the underdog Buckeyes held a 34-14 lead.
Disappointment level: 9 out of 10. Michigan’s perfect Big Ten season was ruined, and it had to rely on Iowa to propel it to the Rose Bowl.
Postgame aftermath: After the game, all eyes turned to Iowa City, where Iowa upset Wisconsin, sending the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl. A little more than a month later, the Wolverines fell 38-37 to Texas.
Ohio State 25, Michigan 21
“We had the mindset, ‘Let’s get this stop, fellas. It’s on us,’ ” cornerback Grant Mason said of the defense’s final series. “Everybody went into it with confidence. I really felt like we were going to get the stop. We didn’t find a way to.”
Records at the time: Michigan (5-2 Big Ten, 7-3 overall); Ohio State (6-1, 8-2).
Hype leading into the game: The Wolverines had no momentum heading into Ohio State weekend, but they still had a shot at a share of the Big Ten Championship. Michigan had lost each of its three games by less than a touchdown. But Ohio State was coming into Ann Arbor, and the Wolverines had their sights set on ruining the Buckeyes’ BCS bowl hopes.
Key players: QB Troy Smith (27-of-37, 300 yards, 2 TDs – 1 rush, 1 pass); WR Santonio Holmes (6 receptions, 89 yards, 1 TD); RB Antonio Pittman (23 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD) Michigan: QB Chad Henne (25-of-36, 223 yards, 1 TD); WR Mario Manningham (4 catches, 64 yards); WR Jason Avant (4 catches, 36 yards, 1 TD).
Quick game summary: The Game came down to the fourth quarter. Michigan held a 21-12 lead with just more than seven minutes left in the game, but after two perfectly executed Buckeye drives, the Wolverines found themselves on the wrong side of a 25-21 score. Holmes’s 26-yard touchdown catch and Pittman’s 3-yard touchdown scamper highlighted Ohio State’s fourth-quarter comeback.
Disappointment level: 7 out of 10. The whole season was more disappointing than this one loss, but the late-game comeback still crushed the Wolverines.
Postgame aftermath: Ohio State took the Big Ten crown and headed to Tempe, Ariz. where the Buckeyes dismantled Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Meanwhile, Michigan stumbled into the Alamo Bowl and continued its trend of losing close games. The Wolverines dropped a 32-28 decision to Nebraska.
Ohio State 42, Michigan 39
“Their defense played good, but they’re not as good as people thought, I guess I could say,” running back Mike Hart said. “We knew we were going to be able to run the ball, but we didn’t put enough points on the board. There’s nothing special about that defense.”
Records at the time: Michigan (7-0 Big Ten, 11-0 overall); Ohio State (7-0, 11-0).
Hype leading into the game: There couldn’t be much more of it. Ohio State began the season ranked No. 1 in the country, and Michigan reached the No. 2 spot seven games into the year. Both teams then simply counted down to the season-ending Game of the Century. The winner was guaranteed a spot in the National Championship game – the loser had, at worst, a spot in the Rose Bowl.
Key players: Ohio State: QB Troy Smith (29-of-41, 316 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT), RB Antonio Pittman (18 carries, 139 yards, 1 TD), WR Ted Ginn Jr. (8 receptions, 104 yards, 1 TD). Michigan: QB Chad Henne (21-of-35, 267 yards, 2 touchdowns) RB Mike Hart (23 carries, 142 yards, 3 TDs) WR Adrian Arrington (5 receptions, 90 yards, 1 TD).
Quick game summary: The teams entered the game with two of the best defenses in the country, but it was the offenses that thrived. Smith’s performance showed why he would eventually capture the Heisman Trophy, as he picked apart the previously impenetrable Wolverine defense. Henne and Hart stepped up their games as well, helping Michigan tally 25 second-half points. But Michigan’s 14-point halftime deficit proved too much to overcome, and a roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Shawn Crable with six minutes remaining helped allow the Buckeyes to hold on for the tight win.
Disappointment level: 8.5 out of 10. With all the hype leading up to the Game of the Century, Wolverine fans had to be incredibly disappointed to come so close but not seal the deal. But losing a close road game to the No. 1 team in the country, as bad as it hurts to lose to the Buckeyes, can’t be the worst thing in the world.
Postgame aftermath: Many thought Michigan would have a rematch in the title game after No. 2 Southern Cal lost to UCLA in its finale, but Florida got the spot in the National Championship game. The Gators made good on their opportunity, crushing the Buckeyes 44-17. The Wolverines didn’t fare much better than their conference counterparts in the Rose Bowl, falling 32-18 to the Trojans.