Love to hate: Michigan-Ohio State rivalry stretches beyond the field
Jamie Sabau / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Few rivalries in sports, let alone college football, compare to the one between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines. Often referred to as "The Game" by many followers, the two teams perennially battle for Big Ten supremacy and the results often impact the entire college football landscape.

The hostility stretches well beyond the gridiron, too. Fans and alumni alike have little issue displaying their hatred for one another, and the animosity dates all the way back to the 19th century. It's one of the many reasons why ESPN has previously ranked the rivalry as the greatest in North American sports.

Distance between schools: 183 miles
Big Ten Championships: Michigan - 42, Ohio State - 36
Series record: Michigan leads 58-49-6

Why they hate each other

The Ohio State-Michigan hatred dates all the way back to the Toledo War (1835-1836), a bloodless boundary dispute between the state of Ohio and adjoining territory of Michigan. The two areas both claimed jurisdiction over a 468-square-mile region along the border, now known as the Toledo Strip. In a proposed compromise, Michigan eventually gave up its claim to the strip in exchange for its statehood.

The short-lived border war fueled hostility between the schools well before they met for the first time on the football field in 1897. The Wolverines dominated early on, claiming victory in 22 of 30 matchups (with two ties) between 1897-1933.

The rivalry found its competitive balance soon after, however, with intense games coming at high stakes. The 1950 contest between the schools, known as the "Snow Bowl," was a perfect example of this. Leading the Big Ten, the Buckeyes had the option to cancel the game amidst one of the worst blizzards in state history, which would have given them the Big Ten championship. Instead, Ohio State elected to play the game, Michigan won 9-3, and stole the Big Ten title from Ohio State.

Then came the "Ten-Year War" between 1969-1978. The Buckeyes and Wolverines won five games apiece as the rivalry hit a boiling point thanks to the teams' head coaches: Michigan's Bo Schembechler and Ohio State's Woody Hayes. There was little love lost between the two coaches, which led to numerous passionate and hilarious quotes fans remember to this day.

The 21st century hasn't produced the same balance the rivalry was previously accustomed to, with the Buckeyes winning 14 of the 16 meetings since 2001, but it has given us some of the best games, most notably the 2006 and 2016 matchups. Despite an unbalanced recent history, the two teams continue to produce exciting, passionate affairs that often impact both the Big Ten conference and College Football Playoff.


"They couldn't beat me with two Michigan coaches. So they had to come down here and take a coach that I trained. And they haven't beaten me with him yet." - Woody Hayes

"If you could play the greatest game of your life, you would play it that day." - Rob Lytle

"I can assure you that you will be proud of our young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Mich., on the football field." - Jim Tressel


The 2016 Michigan-Ohio State matchup marked one of the most controversial moments in the rivalry's history. Trailing 27-24 in the game's second overtime, the Buckeyes went for it on fourth-and-1 rather than attempting a field goal. It appeared quarterback J.T. Barrett may have been stopped short of the line, but the officials ruled it a first down. On the next play, Curtis Samuel won the game for Ohio State on a 15-yard touchdown run.

Dubbed the "Game of the Century," No. 1 Ohio State faced off against No. 2 Michigan on Nov. 18, 2006. Both teams entered the game undefeated, and the results did not disappoint. In the end, the Buckeyes held off the Wolverines for a 42-39 victory.

Michigan's 31-3 victory in 1991's edition of "The Game" was one of the more lopsided matchups in recent memory, but it provided one of the rivalry's greatest moments. This, of course, was Desmond Howard's Heisman pose in the end zone after scoring a 93-yard punt-return touchdown.

In 1969, the 12th-ranked Wolverines took down the unbeaten and top-ranked Buckeyes, kicking off a series of hotly-contested games dubbed the "Ten Year War." Michigan's victory also snapped Ohio State's 22-game winning streak.

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

Love to hate: Michigan-Ohio State rivalry stretches beyond the field
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