Jack Park: Buckeyes aim for seventh straight win over Michigan under Urban Meyer

Jack Park For The Columbus Dispatch
Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Rashan Gary (3) greets Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer following Saturday's NCAA Division I football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on November 25, 2017. Ohio State won the game 31-20.

Ohio State will host Michigan Saturday in search of their seventh consecutive victory over the Wolverines. This year’s clash will be the 115th between the two rivals, with the Wolverines holding a 58-50-6 edge over the first 114 games.

The two have met every season since 1918. The last 105 contests are exactly even at 50-50-5 (1908 through 1912 and 1918 through 2017). Michigan has outscored Ohio State by just 23 points over these 105 games, 1,694 to 1,671.

OSU has won 13 of the last 14, 15 of the last 17, and 16 of the last 20, but only 22 of the last 42. The “home team” has won 58 and the “visitor” 50. The other six ended in ties. The “home team” has won 10 of the last 16, and 13 of the last 21.

Michigan was 13-0-2 against Ohio State in the first 15 games, outscoring the Buckeyes 369-21.  Led by legendary halfback Chic Harley, OSU finally obtained its first win in the 16th meeting at Ann Arbor in 1919, 13-3. 

With last year’s 31-20 triumph at Michigan Stadium, Urban Meyer became the first Ohio State coach to lead the Buckeyes to victories over the Wolverines during each of his first six seasons at the helm (2012 through 2017). Coach Frances Schmidt’s first four Ohio State teams shut out the Wolverines by a combined score of 114-0 from 1934 through 1937, before Michigan broke the Schmidt’s streak with an 18-0 triumph in 1938.

The date of Saturday’s game is November 24, the same date as the controversial “tie-breaker” contest at Michigan Stadium 45 years ago in 1973. After battling to a 10-10 tie, Ohio State and Michigan shared the Big Ten title with league records of 7-0-1. This co-championship forced the 10 Athletic Directors to vote for the league’s representative to the Rose Bowl.

To the complete surprise of many, including most Buckeye fans, Ohio State won the vote. Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was extremely bitter, stating that his team had led Ohio State in first downs, 16-9, and in total offensive yards, 333-204. He also emphasized that Ohio State had played in the Rose Bowl the previous year. Ironically, the Big Ten’s “no repeat” policy was abolished just one year earlier, and Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham had actively helped promote the change.

The Big Ten office would not release the official count, but the Detroit Free Press reported the vote favored OSU six to four. The Free Press indicated Ohio State received votes from Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Michigan received the support of Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota.

Michigan was visibly disturbed that its “sister school,” Michigan State, had voted for Ohio State. MSU’s vote was cast by Athletic Director Burt Smith, who was a graduate of the University of Michigan. Chicago had dropped out of the Big Ten after the 1939 season, and that void was finally filled by Michigan State in 1953. Michigan openly had supported Pittsburgh to fill the opening in an obvious attempt to keep Michigan State out of the conference. Several veteran media  representatives suggested that Michigan’s action in 1953, some 20 years earlier, helped sway Michigan State’s 1973 vote in favor of Ohio State.

The last time the winner was behind at halftime was 2016. The Wolverines led 10-7 after two quarters, but Ohio State won 30-27 in double overtime. Last year’s game was tied 14-14 at the half, before OSU outscored UM 17-6 in the final two quarters for a 31-20 triumph.

Ohio State coach Woody Hayes was 16-11-1 against the Wolverines, Earle Bruce 5-4, John Cooper 2-10-1, Jim Tressel 9-1, Luke Fickell 0-1, and Urban Meyer is currently 6-0. Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was 11-9-1 against the Buckeyes, Gary Moeller 3-1-1, Lloyd Carr 6-7, Rich Rodriguez 0-3, Brady Hoke 1-3, and Jim Harbaugh is currently 0-3.

Enjoy the game!