Ohio State and Michigan battle for spot in the College Football Playoff. But before the action, take in this 2006 retrospective.
The Game itself warrants a far different perspective than our usual “What to Watch” previews. We’ve already looked at the key match ups between Ohio State and Michigan and if this rivalry has taught us anything, it’s that the numbers, rankings, and on paper advantages don’t mean a thing.
That’s why we fly back to 2006, the last time this game meant so much to both sides of the rivalry.
So we start a bit in reverse, The accolades for individuals that played in this game is hard to fathom. Ohio State’s Troy Smith became the seventh Buckeye to win the Heisman Trophy while also bringing home the Walter Camp and Davey O’Brien Awards. James Laurinaitis and Quinn Pitcock, along with Smith, were named to All-American teams with Laurinaitis also earning the Bronco Nagurski trophy.
Michigan had its own share of hardware after the 2006 season. Lamar Woodley was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and appeared on various All-American teams. Jake Long and Leon Hall, both future first rounders, were also on various All-American teams. Woodley, though, was easily the most decorated player on the Wolverines. In addition to his Player of the Year honors, he won the Lombardi and Hendricks Trophies on the national level.
What happened to both teams after this game could not be more different. The following season would be Lloyd Carr‘s last. It would be a year that started with the now infamous loss at home to Appalachian State and ended with the fourth consecutive bowl loss for the Wolverines. It was also Carr’s sixth loss in seven games against Ohio State in 2007, essentially ending his Michigan career in much the same way Carr ended John Cooper’s tenure at Ohio State.
For Ohio State, Jim Tressel kept rolling along, Tressel and the Buckeyes would go on to play (and lose) in the 2006 and 2007 National Title Games, appearances in three additional BCS Bowl Games thereafter, and even with the vacated wins, Tressel and the Buckeyes would win at least 10 games in each season until the coach was forced out as a result of “Tattoogate”. As a blessing in disguise, this would allow the Buckeyes to hire Urban Meyer, fully recharged after a year off to get healthy and focused. The rest, as they say, is history.
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The 2006 game was easily the best game I have ever witnessed in person. I kid you not, there had to be at least half a million people in the general area of Ohio Stadium. It was an energy and atmosphere that is impossible to put into words and has to be experienced to fully comprehend. The back and forth nature of the game, even with the 21-0 run the Buckeyes went on, kept everyone on the edge of their seats. It was close in spite of the Buckeyes gaining over 500 yards of offense due to 3 turnovers. Troy Smith, though, could point to this game as what sealed his Heisman Trophy by throwing for over 300 yards against not just the #2 team in the country, but the biggest rival that he would face all season.
So why look at all of this a decade later? What does it matter to fans experience an Ohio State-Michigan game of this magnitude for the first time? It’s important to keep the history of this rivalry in mind. Younger fans have been spoiled, as Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke made the rivalry just another game on the schedule. Even the end of Lloyd Carr’s tenure saw Jim Tressel own the rivalry.
In this century (200-2016), Ohio State has gone 13-3 against Michigan. Yes, you read that correctly. 13-3. Ohio State has not lost this game at home since 2000. Younger fans are not first hand witnesses to just how important this game is and should be. At least this year, everyone will be on the edge of their seats at kickoff.