Feeling each other out (1897-1934)

Paul Wong
Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library
Tom Harmon (98) dominated the 1940 matchup.

In the first 31 games of the series, Michigan rolled to a 22-7-2 record, and it wasn’t until the 16th match of the rivalry that Ohio State won its first, in 1919.

Stalemate between the states (1935-1959)

Over the next 25 years, neither team could gain the upper hand – with spectacular individual performances under wacky weather conditions symbolizing this era of the rivalry. The memorable 1940 battle was fought on rain-soaked turf in Columbus, as legendary Michigan great and Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon further solidified his status among college football lore. Harmon’s three touchdowns helped pummel the Buckeyes 40-0 and led many to think that this Michigan team was its best in history.

n In the infamous “Snow Bowl” of 1950, more than 50,000 rabid fans braved the 29-mile-per-hour gusts of wind and a full-scale blizzard – the worst

Columbus had seen in 37 years – to watch the Wolverines shock the Buckeyes, 9-3, to win the Big Ten and earn a Rose Bowl berth.

And the “Snow Bowl” was almost the “game that never was.” Ohio State Athletic Director Dick Larkins nearly called the game off, but said he’d “never be able to live it down” if he forfeited and gave the title to Michigan.

It was a mockery of a football game, as players slipped, slid and stumbled all day long. Numbed fingers led to a lot of fumbles, and the Wolverines capitalized on a Tony Momsen blocked punt with 47 seconds left. Momsen fell on the ball in the end zone for the winning score.

“Cause I couldn’t go for three” (1968-1978)

No Wolverine will forget the 1968 thrashing at the hands of the top-ranked Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium. Michigan kept it close until the half, but Ohio State ran off 29 straight points for the 50-14 victory – but legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes wanted more.

On the Buckeyes’ last touchdown, Hayes elected to go for the two-point conversion. When asked afterwards by reporters for his reasoning? He replied simply,

“Cause I couldn’t go for three.”
The following year, Michigan got the ultimate revenge. Under first-year coach Bo Schembechler, the Wolverines recorded one of the biggest upsets in college football history, as No. 12 Michigan beat No. 1 Ohio State, 24-12 at the Big House.

The rivalry continued its stalemate throughout the ’70s, with Ohio State going 5-4-1 over that decade.

“Good ole Cooper” (1988-present)
Once John Cooper took the helm of the Buckeyes in 1988, the once-proud rivalry turned completely one-sided. Michigan has won 10 of the past 13 meetings between the schools – including spoiling dream seasons for three undefeated Ohio State teams in the 1990s.

Jim Tressel has rejuvinated the Buckeyes since taking over last year, when Ohio State swept the rug from under a Michigan team in Ann Arbor.

Now, with the Buckeyes once again undefeated and one game away from a berth in the national title game, who knows what’s in store for the next battle in the “Border War.”

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