COLUMBUS – When Ohio State plays Michigan on Saturday it will be the 25th time I have watched those two rivals play against each other.
Here’s my list of how I rank the first 24 I’ve seen. Feel free to agree or disagree. It’s just how I remember them. You might remember them differently.
I ranked them by which games were most memorable, not just by how well Ohio State played that day.
1. 2006: Ohio State 42, Michigan 39. No. 1 against No. 2. The game was played a day after Michigan legend Bo Schembechler died. Ohio State really did look like the best team in the country that day, even if it didn’t 51 days later against Florida.
2. 2002: Ohio State 14, Michigan 9. This win, which clinched a trip to the BCS national championship, was a throwback to the low-scoring OSU-Michigan games of the 1970s. It was the sixth time in 2002 Ohio State had won by a touchdown or less.
3. 1995: Michigan 31, Ohio State 23. No OSU-Michigan game has ever been more stunning to me. Tshimanga Biakabutuka and 313 yards are all you need to know.
4. 2005: Ohio State 26, Michigan 21. The last seven minutes of this game were amazing. Troy Smith avoiding the rush and hitting Anthony Gonzalez, who out-jumps a Michigan defender to set up the game-winning touchdown. OSU came from nine points down in the final seven minutes.
5. 2001: Ohio State 26, Michigan 20. Ohio State backed up Jim Tressel’s words about making its fans proud in 310 days in Ann Arbor and totally changed the rivalry.
6. 2013: Ohio State 42, Michigan 41. Ohio State’s national championship hopes, which would be shattered a week later by Michigan State, were in doubt until the final minute when Tyvis Powell’s interception on a two-point conversion preserved the win.
7. 1997: Michigan 20, Ohio State 14. Charles Woodson probably pushed his Heisman Trophy candidacy over the top with a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown and an interception. OSU couldn’t survive three turnovers by quarterback Stanley Jackson.
8. 1994: Ohio State 22, Michigan 6. This one might have saved John Cooper’s job after Penn State had destroyed the Buckeyes 63-14 three weeks earlier. The one play that stands out is Bob Hoying diving for the end zone early in the game.
9. 1996: Michigan 13, Ohio State 9. This proved that just when you think it can’t happen again, it will. After entering the Michigan game without a loss in 1993 and 1995 but losing, the unthinkable happened again.
10. 2004: Ohio State 37, Michigan 21. This was the first of three straight wins over Michigan with Troy Smith at quarterback. Unranked OSU upset No. 7 Michigan.
11. 2014: Ohio State 42, Michigan 28. The legend of Cardale Jones took its first baby steps when he replaced an injured J.T. Barrett early in the fourth quarter.
12. 2015: Ohio State 42, Michigan 13. There were a lot of questions about how Ohio State would react after a crushing defeat against Michigan State a week earlier. Ohio State answered the questions by scoring six of the first eight times it had the ball against what was supposed to be the Big Ten’s best defense.
13. 1992: Ohio State 13, Michigan 13. My first Ohio State-Michigan game. Other than that, nothing much stands out for me and it would probably be lower on the list if it weren’t the first.
14. 1993: Michigan 28, Ohio State 0. Ohio State’s Rose Bowl chances disappeared after an unexpectedly dominant performance by Michigan. Big Dan Wilkinson said afterward that if OSU was going to play that badly it didn’t deserve to go to the Rose Bowl. It was hard to disagree.
15. 1998: Ohio State 31, Michigan 16. This was probably the most dominant performance by a John Cooper team in a Michigan game.
16. 2012: Ohio State 26, Michigan 21. It started John Simon hobbling across the field before kickoff, unable to play his final game at Ohio Stadium on Senior Day. It ended with OSU going 12-0 in Urban Meyer’s first season.
17. 2003: Michigan 35, Ohio State 21. If Ohio State had won this game, it would have returned to the BCS championship game to defend its 2002 title. But Michigan, led by Chris Perry, John Navarre and Braylon Edwards, ended that dream.
18. 2008: Ohio State 42, Michigan 7. If ever an Ohio State win over Michigan was ho-hum, this was it. Ten years earlier, the Ohio Stadium crowd would have gone for the jugular. After five straight wins over the Wolverines, the fans were almost jaded.
19. 2010: Ohio State 37, Michigan 7. This was the last Big Ten game Rich Rodriguez coached. All but six of those 24 conference games ended in a Michigan loss.
20. 2011: Michigan 40, Ohio State 34. Michigan ended a seven-year losing streak to OSU, but just barely. A team that had lost important players to suspensions throughout the season and was playing for an interim coach nearly pulled off an upset.
21. 2000: Michigan 38, Ohio State 26. Drew Henson threw for three touchdowns for Michigan. Steve Bellisari threw three interceptions for OSU. And John Cooper’s record against Michigan dropped to 2-10-1.
22. 2007: Ohio State 14, Michigan 3. It was a game Woody Hayes would have loved. Chris Wells carried 39 times for 222 yards and OSU passed only twice in the second half. The defense held Michigan to 91 yards total offense.
23. 2009: Ohio State 21, Michigan 10. Like the other two wins over Rich Rodriguez’s teams, it was not a thriller.
24. 1999: Michigan 24, Ohio State 17. Ohio State put a bad ending on a bad season by turning the ball over three times in the second half and watching Michigan score two touchdowns and a field goal after those mistakes. Tom Brady threw the game-winning touchdown pass with four minutes to play.