Ohio State's unbeaten: Here's 5 memorable Michigan-Ohio State tilts with perfect-season potential
A contest where legends are born, families are torn, championships are won and perfect seasons often go to die.
Michigan will travel to Ohio State on Saturday for the 109th meeting in this famed series. And, as has been the case several times in the past, one team (Ohio State) enters with a perfect record.
Due to NCAA sanctions, the Buckeyes (11-0) cannot win a Big Ten championship this season, and they can't go to a bowl game. But, they can win an Associated Press national championship if the chips fall in their favor.
But first thing's first, they've got to get by Michigan.
The Wolverines have spoiled Ohio State's perfect record before, and the Buckeyes have also returned the favor.
In honor of this installment of "The Game," here's a look back at five memorable Michigan-Ohio State games where at least one team entered with an unblemished record.
No. 1 Ohio State (9-0) at No. 4 Michigan (10-0)
Nov. 24, 1973
Final score: Ohio State 10, Michigan 10
One of, if not the, most controversial events in the history of this series took place following this epic 1973 tie.
The game itself ended with kicker Mike Lantry missing a pair of field goals (one from 58 yards) with less than two minutes to play, the final a 44-yarder that barely missed in the game's final seconds.
The aftermath, though, was more dramatic. Both teams finished the season with unbeaten records, and the bid to the Rose Bowl was put up for a vote by the Big Ten's athletic directors.
Michigan felt its chances were rock solid, and it was said that Ohio State coach Woody Hayes was almost sure his team wouldn't be playing Pasadena.
But, in a shocking turn of events, the athletic directors ultimately voted the Buckeyes into the biggest bowl game of the season -- something that would keep Michigan coach Bo Schembechler angry for the rest of his life.
No. 1 Ohio State (8-0) at No. 12 Michigan (7-2)
Nov. 22, 1969
Final score: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12
The game that kickstarted the legacy of Bo Schembechler, and officially began the legendary "Ten Year War" between Schembechler and Hayes.
Ohio State was the defending national champion, and had out-scored its opponents 371-69.
But, Schembechler had famously claimed to his Michigan troops in 1969 that "those who stay will be champions." He was right, of course.
Michigan got second-quarter touchdowns from Garvie Craw and Don Moorhead before pitching a shutout in the second half to earn the stunning victory.
The rivalry has never been the same since.
No. 21 Michigan (7-3) at No. 2 Ohio State (10-0)
Nov. 23, 1996
Final score: Michigan 13, Ohio State 9
Michigan wrecked Ohio State's national championship hopes a year prior in Ann Arbor with a 31-23 victory. And heading into the 1996 game, most were sure the Buckeyes wouldn't let history repeat itself.
But, of course, they did.
Michigan linebacker Jarrett Irons was a man amongst boys on this Saturday afternoon, racking up 16 tackles. Fellow linebacker Sam Sword tallied 13 of them and kept the Buckeye offense to its lowest output in three years.
Replacement quarterback Brian Griese, who had completed just six passes all year, hit Tai Streets on a 69-yard slant pass for a touchdown in the second half for the game's only score.
Afterward, Ohio State was left in shock -- yet again: "Right now, honestly, I'm in denial. I can't believe this is happening," Buckeye linebacker Greg Bellisari said afterward.
No. 2 Michigan (11-0) at No. 1 Ohio State (11-0)
Nov. 18, 2006
Final score: Ohio State 42, Michigan 39
Playing just a day after Schembechler's passing, the Wolverines and Buckeyes squared off in the "Game of the Century," fighting each other for the right to play for a national championship in the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in series history.
Michigan twice fought back from a two-touchdown deficit to pull within three points late in the fourth quarter, but Ohio State quarterback -- and eventual Heisman Trophy winner -- Troy Smith made one play too many, finishing with with 316 passing yards and 4 touchdowns to help the Buckeyes grab the narrow victory.
Some folks wondered aloud whether or not Michigan and Ohio State should play again for the BCS national championship game, but the spot opposite the Buckeyes was eventually given to Florida (and current OSU coach Urban Meyer).
The Gators then proceeded to thrash Ohio State, 41-14, to win the national championship.
No. 4 Ohio State (10-1) at No. 1 Michigan (11-0)
Nov. 22, 1997
Final score: Michigan 20, Ohio State 14
Of course Michigan's dream season would come down to this: One final battle for the Rose Bowl against Ohio State.
And just like Desmond Howard had done six seasons earlier, Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson sealed his Heisman Trophy against the Buckeyes with a punt return for a touchdown.
Woodson's dazzling return, along with an interception return for a score by Andre Weathers, proved to be enough to push Michigan past a very tough Buckeye squad that had won the Rose Bowl one season earlier.
Woodson famously celebrated with a rose in his teeth on the Michigan sidelines after the game -- a little more than a month later, he and the rest of his Wolverine teammates celebrated a national championship.