My sports fan teeth were cut from 1973-1975 on a number of early heartbreaking losses (and a tie) that made me question why anyone would ever be a sports fan. The 22-0 shellacking of Woody and the Bucks in '76 made me finally believe that my team could win. I remember in 1978 watching the Flint boys - Rick Leach and Gene Johnson - dominate the Buckeyes while I was spending Thanksgiving weekend in New York City. I remember inveterate gambler Art Schlichter run for a winning TD with snow piled high on Canham's carpet in 1981. My college years were highlighted by Jim Harbaugh backing up his guarantee in 1986 - thanks to Matt Frantz pushing a FG just wide. Thanks Matt, I enjoyed my trip to Pasadena. And we can't forget about John Kolesar saving Michigan from a massive collapse in '88.
I have to admit, the rivalry lost a little luster in the '90s during the John Cooper years. I'm happy we were on the right side 10 out of 13 years, but many of those years tOSU just wasn't that good, and many others they were a lot better than us and it was frustrating to play so well against them, only to be left to wonder how we could have lost four games.
The last few years, the hatred for tOSU has rekindled, both because I've actually gone to Columbus for a couple of games and experienced the culture that could breed such boorish behavior and also because they've beaten us three times out of the last four years, including a couple of years we were higher ranked.
While looking over that past 30 some games in this rivalry, there were five games I could single out above the rest. In adcending order, my favorite Michigan-Ohio State games are:
- 5. Coming off two straight losses to the Buckeyes in 2003, there was a lot of pressure on a senior-laden team to show that Tressell didn't have some sort of whammy over us. We jumped out to a quick lead and held on for dear life thanks to a warrior-like effort from Chris Perry.
- 4. I mentioned 1976 above and post it here because it was the first time in my life I remember beating Ohio State. And to do it in such convincing fashion, in Columbus was extremely gratifying. I can still remember safety and holder Jerry Zuver running in for a two-point conversion on a PAT.
- 3. Harbaugh's guarantee in 1986. We were coming off a pretty inexplicable loss at home to a middling Minnesota team, knocking us from #1. We've all debated Harbaugh's value as a human being, but there's no doubt he was a Michigan man. Thomas Wilcher's fumble almost cost us, but for once the other kicker's inability to make a FG won us a great game.
- 2. The 1997 game has to be near the top of any Michigan fan's list. It was the first time since '73 that one of the teams entered the game ranked #1 and the first time for Michigan since 1948. What often gets forgotten is that tOSU was ranked #4, with only a four-point loss to Pennsylvania State keeping them from being undefeated. In perhaps the most intense Michigan game I've ever seen, Charles Woodson put on a show for the ages and we were on our way to the National Championship.
- 1. My second favorite Michigan team (after '97, of course) was 1980's squad. We lost the Harry Oliver game in South Bend, then the next week at home to a coked up George Rogers and South Carolina. But around mid-season our defense just said no one's going to score on us. And they pretty much didn't. No TDs over the last five games. This was Anthony Carter's only win over tOSU, and somewhere in my crawl space I have an autogrpahed picture of him right after he scored the lone TD in this game. A missed PAT kept the Buckeyes alive, but Robert Thompson's sack of Art Schlichter on tOSU's last drive sealed the deal as this team finally went on to give Bo a win in the Rose Bowl.