Ohio State/Michigan. Arguably the greatest rivalry in sport. It goes back nearly 120 years, and includes songs, movies, a weird lottery drawing and a president. There’s so much history here embedded in the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry series.

1) The song

The worst thing about a rivalry has to be losing. It’s 52 weeks until the next installment after a loss. And if you lose 86-0 … well, surely that’s as bad as it can get. And yes, the 1902 Michigan over Ohio State beatdown was awful for the OSU squad. But it ended up pretty good for the university. Because on the train ride home, his spirit unbroken by being part of the beatdown, Ohio State player Fred Cornell indulged his creative side. Cornell wrote the lyrics to “Carmen Ohio,” subsequently set to a common tune and later to become the school song. Now that is turning a loss into a win.

2) A Chic to remember

Michigan owned the earliest games of the rivalry, going 13-0-2 in the first 15 matchups. Michigan then left the Big Ten for a spell, but returned in 1918 to begin a string of annual rivalry games interrupted only by 2020’s COVID-related cancellation. In 1919, Ohio State finally broke through, beating Michigan 13-3. Defeated coaching legend Fielding Yost came to the Ohio State locker room to congratulate the Buckeyes and in particular halfback Chic Harley, who Yost called “one of the finest little machines I have ever seen.” Ohio State has won 50 more games in the series since, but it was Chic Harley who turned the tide.

3) The presidential touch

While there are many distinguished alumni of Ohio State/Michigan games, perhaps the most notable player wasn’t a Heisman Trophy winner or a Football Hall of Fame inductee. Michigan center Gerald Ford is more familiar as the 38th U.S. president, and he played in 3 OSU/Michigan games. Michigan won 2 of Ford’s 3 matchups with Ohio State, triumphing 14-0 in 1932 and 13-0 in 1933 before losing during Ford’s senior season, 34-0. Years later, Ohio State coach Woody Hayes presented Ford with a football listing the scores of his 3 games in the series.

Sports Betting in Big Ten Country

There is big news coming to the upcoming 2022-23 Big Ten football season (and NFL season). Ohio online sports betting and Maryland sports betting are on the way.

4) The biggest game

This will be the 13th meeting of Ohio State and Michigan with both teams ranked in the AP poll’s top 5. But even among those games, there is one that stands as unique. In 2006, 11-0 and No. 1 Ohio State hosted 11-0 and No. 2 Michigan. Today, both teams would have a fighting chance of a CFP berth (see: 2022 situation). But back then, the BCS title game pitted the nation’s top 2 teams, so the winner of the game would be in and the loser would be out. Ohio State managed a 42-39 victory, with Troy Smith passing for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns. But this game was so big that the stories weren’t just on the field. …

5) The freaky parts of the 2006 game

First, the game in 2006 was even bigger than usual because legendary Michigan coach (and former OSU assistant) Bo Schembechler passed away in the week leading up to the game. Schembechler was honored with a pregame video tribute. As if to overscore the pre-Ted Lasso “Football is life” vibes, the Ohio Lottery’s Pick 4 drawing on the night of the game was 4-2-3-9, mirroring the score of the game.

6) Larger than life

Emphasizing the importance of the rivalry to fans is the story of pediatric cancer patient Grant Reed. Reed, a native of Columbus, was a 10-year-old who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. His family didn’t want to use the word “cancer,” and instead referred to Reed’s condition as “Michigan” on the premise that Ohio State always beats Michigan. The news gained traction within the Ohio State program, including with coach Urban Meyer, who met Reed. Reed passed away in 2019, with his father posting that he “won his final victory over M*CH*G*N because it can never hurt him again.”

7) On the big screen

Ohio State and Michigan was a big enough deal that it ended up being included in a 1942 movie. Ohio State alum James Thurber’s 1940 play The Male Animal was adapted for film, and the movie featured an Ohio State/Michigan game, although Ohio State was represented as Midwestern State. The film also featured the song “We Don’t Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan,” although the mores of 1942 required it to be “darn.” Midwestern State (i.e. OSU) won 15-14 in the movie. In real life, Ohio State won that year’s game 21-7.

8) The weirdest game

Both schools have favorites for biggest and best moments in the series, but the oddest has to be the game played in a blizzard in 1950. Ohio State — leading the Big Ten — could have cancelled the game, but refused. Instead, the teams punted 45 teams and Michigan, without the benefit of a single first down, turned a pair of blocked punts into a safety and a touchdown and won 9-3.

9) It’s historically bigger than football

The whole “football is war” mentality probably plays a role in Ohio State/Michigan … and it starts in more or less actual war. The Toledo War, a property boundary dispute in the 1830s between Michigan and Ohio, might not be the exact start of when people in Ohio and Michigan started not feeling warm and fuzzy about each other. But until college football came along, it sufficed as a reason for bad blood. Michigan ended up losing the Toledo strip but gaining most of the Upper Peninsula. It took President Andrew Jackson, never a shrinking violet himself, to coax the two sides to accept the deal.

10) The Greatest

In January of 2000, ESPN ranked the top 10 sports rivalries of the 20th century. Auburn/Alabama was No. 8 and North Carolina/Duke, probably the gold standard for college basketball, was No. 3. But No. 1? That’s Ohio State/Michigan.