No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan meet in the Game of the Century.
When you hear the word “rivalry”, many Midwestern sports fans think of Michigan vs. Ohio State. This matchup of two bitter rivals has produced some of the best moments in college football. While there are several great games to look back on, one made history 12 years ago.
For the first time in the series, the Wolverines and the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. With both teams undefeated at 11-0, this game would not only determine the winner of the Big Ten Championship, but also one of the teams who would play in the national championship. It also marked the first time in the BCS era that the two top-ranked teams faced each other in the regular season. The game was dubbed “The Game of the Century”.
Michigan began the year ranked No. 14, but quickly moved up in the polls after beating No. 2 Notre Dame. The Wolverines were led by quarterback Chad Henne who had several weapons at his disposal, including Mike Hart, Steve Breaston and Mario Manningham. Lloyd Carr guided Michigan to an undefeated record for the first 11 games and the No. 2 ranking in the AP Top 25.
Unlike their rival, Jim Tressel’s Ohio State started at the top and never looked back. The Buckeyes dominated No. 2 Texas and defeated ranked Big Ten foes Penn State and Iowa. With eventual Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith at the helm, Ohio State came into the game with the top ranking.
The fireworks began early. Hart opened the scoring for Michigan with a short touchdown run to cap off an 80-yard drive that wore the Buckeye defense down. Smith and Ohio State quickly responded with a touchdown catch from Roy Hall. In the second quarter, the Buckeyes started to pull away with touchdowns from Chris “Beanie” Wells and Ted Ginn Jr. The Wolverines responded with a score of their own, but another touchdown, this time from Anthony Gonzalez, gave Ohio State a 28-14 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Buckeyes started to crumble. The Wolverines scored again and Smith made his first mistake of the day by throwing an interception, setting up a Michigan field goal. Antonio Pittman quickly put Ohio State back up by 11 with a 56-yard touchdown run, but Smith’s struggles continued. A high snap over his head and a fumble gave Michigan the ball back to start the fourth quarter.
Hart scored again to bring Michigan back within four. Another fumbled snap gave them the ball again, but the Ohio State defense forced a punt. With 5:38 left, the Buckeyes appeared to put the game away for good when Smith found Brian Robiskie for a 13-yard touchdown. On their next possession, Michigan answered again with a touchdown and two-point conversion to narrow the lead to three. Unfortunately, the onside kick failed and Ohio State won 42-39.
The win gave Ohio State the Big Ten title and a berth in the BCS National Championship. Sadly, their luck ran out against Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators. The Buckeyes lost 41-14, putting a damper on what had been a tremendous season.
Michigan ended their season in similar fashion. The loss dropped them out of the national championship discussion and they faced No. 8 USC in the Rose Bowl. The hometown Trojans were too much and Michigan fell 32-18 to finish 11-2.
Michigan/Ohio State is arguably the best rivalry in college football and in sports. In recent years, fans have enjoyed brilliant moments in this historical grudge match. Will we see another instant classic this Saturday?