Ohio State’s two decades of dominance

By Jim Naveau - [email protected]

Where it began: Ann Arbor, Michigan. Nov. 24, 2001

Where it ends: No one knows

Ohio State has defeated its biggest rival, Michigan, the last eight times they have played football.

Going back even farther, the Buckeyes have won 15 of their last 16 games against the Wolverines — and 17 of the last 19.

That unprecedented run of success for OSU against Michigan began with a 26-20 win at Michigan on the last weekend of its 2001 football season.

It came after Michigan dominated the series from 1988 to 2000, when the Buckeyes were 2-10-1 against the Wolverines in the John Cooper years.

A walk down memory lane to look at how Ohio State went from the lows of that era to the nearly unbroken success of the last 20 years:

2001: Ohio State 26, Michigan 20

The Buckeyes (6-4) came into the game unranked while Michigan (8-2) was ranked No. 11. Ohio State built a 23-0 halftime lead and held on. The turning point of a game that changed the direction of the rivalry was when Jonathan Wells broke a 46-yard touchdown run on fourth and one at Michigan’s 46-yard line in the second quarter.

2002: Ohio State 14, Michigan 9

This win, which clinched a trip to the BCS national championship game, looked like a throwback to the low-scoring Ohio State-Michigan games in the 1970s. It was the sixth time in 2002 that eventual national champion OSU won a game by a touchdown or less.

2003: Michigan 35, Ohio State 21

If Ohio State had won, it would have returned to the BCS championship game to try to repeat as national champion. But No. 4 OSU’s defense, which had given up more than 20 points only twice all season, did not have a good day against No. 5 Michigan.

2004: Ohio State 37, Michigan 21

Ohio State was unranked and Michigan was No. 7 but for the second time in four years OSU surprised the Wolverines. This was the first of three straight wins over Michigan with Troy Smith at quarterback. An 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Ted Ginn Jr. put Ohio State in control of the game.

2005: Ohio State 26, Michigan 21

In an amazing rally, OSU came back from nine points down in the final seven minutes when Troy Smith led scoring drives of 67 yards and 88 yards and the defense stopped Michigan to get the ball back.

2006: Ohio State 42, Michigan 39

The emotion and drama of No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan was heightened by the death of Bo Schembechler the day before the game. OSU really did look like the No. 1 team in the country that day, but didn’t 51 days later in the national championship game against Florida and Urban Meyer.

2007: Ohio State 14, Michigan 3

It was a game Woody Hayes would have loved. Chris Wells ran for 222 yards on 39 carries and Ohio State passed the ball only twice in the second half. The defense held Michigan to 91 yards total offense.

2008: Ohio State 42, Michigan 7

Ohio Stadium was not particularly loud and only a few students were on the field after the game, two signs Buckeyes fans now expected to beat Michigan. It was the first season of the short and unhappy Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan.

2009: Ohio State 21, Michigan 10

Like the other wins over Rich Rodriguez’s teams the year before and the year after, this was not a thriller.

2010: Ohio State 37, Michigan 7

This was the last of 24 Big Ten games Rich Rodriguez coached. Michigan won only 6 of them.

2011: Michigan 40, Ohio State 34

The Buckeyes had faced a multitude of issues, including Jim Tressel being dismissed, Terrelle Pryor passing up his senior year and several players being suspended for parts or all of the season. But if Braxton Miller’s pass to DeVier Posey running free down the sideline with two minutes to play had been five feet shorter, it would have been a touchdown and OSU might have won.

2012: Ohio State 26, Michigan 21

Urban Meyer’s first season produced a 12-0 season. But the Buckeyes couldn’t compete for a national title because of an NCAA postseason ban.

2013: Ohio State 42, Michigan 41

Ohio State’s national championship hopes, which would be shattered a week later by Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, were in doubt until the final minute when Tyvis Powell’s interception on a two-point conversion preserved the win.

2014: Ohio State 42, Michigan 28

This game is often remembered for No. 3 quarterback Cardale Jones having to replace J.T. Barrett in the second half after Barrett suffered a broken ankle. But Jones (3 passes, 2 rushes) had a lot of help, like a 44-yard touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliott and a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Darron Lee.

2015: Ohio State 42, Michigan 13

There were a lot of questions about how Ohio State would react to seeing its national championship hopes disappear a week earlier in a 17-14 loss to Michigan State, a defeat Urban Meyer described as “a kick in the stomach.” OSU scored six of the first eight times it had the ball against what was supposed to be the Big Ten’s best defense.

2016: Ohio State 30, Michigan 27

Ohio State came into the game No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings and Michigan was No. 3. With Michigan leading 27-24 in a second overtime, OSU went for it on fourth and one instead of attempting a field goal. J.T. Barrett’s quarterback sneak made it by a tiny margin and the Buckeyes won on Curtis Samuel’s touchdown.

2017: Ohio State 31, Michigan 20

Dwayne Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett in the third quarter with Michigan leading and played the rest of the game in his first a significant playing time at quarterback.

2018: Ohio State 62, Michigan 39

Both teams came into the game with only one loss. Michigan talked about getting revenge for past losses but Ohio State shredded a defense that came into the game ranked No. 1 in overall defense and in pass defense.

2019: Ohio State 56, Michigan 27

Justin Fields passed for 302 yards and four touchdowns, one of them on a spectacular throw to Garrett Wilson right after a trip to the medical tent on the sideline.


By Jim Naveau

[email protected]