The 10 Year War

In the 1967 football season, the Indiana Hoosiers tied for first place in the Big 10 with Purdue and Minnesota. It was a 3 way tie. Indiana beat Purdue, Purdue beat Minnesota and Minnesota beat Indiana. The way they settled it back then was to pick the team that had been to the Rose Bowl the longest period back which was Indiana.

Indiana earned the right to play #1 USC and lost 14-3. USC was National Champions in 1967. It would be the last time in a long time before anyone not called Ohio State or Michigan would go to the Rose Bowl from the Big 10 conference.



In 1968, the Ohio State Buckeyes and their Super Sophomores won the National Championship. Before wrapping up the national title, they stomped the Michigan Wolverines, 50-14. The Buckeyes went on to the Rose Bowl and they beat USC in a come from behind win, 27-16.


In 1969, the Buckeyes were the favorite to win it all again as the Super Sophomores had matured into juniors. As Woody Hayes and his Buckeyes prepared to conquer the nation again, the enemies of the North had hired Bo Schembechler to take over the Michigan program.

Ohio State had won all of their games in 1969 by an average score of 49 to 8. But, the Michigan Wolverines although were ranked #12 pulled one of the bigger upsets of a team that many thought were unbeatable, and beat the Buckeyes 24-12.

The Big Shootout in Arkansas between the Razorbacks and the Texas Longhorns never would have happened if not for the Michigan Wolverines and this upset.


This game started off what has become known as the 10 Years War. For 10 consecutive years, every Big 10 Championship came down to Ohio State vs Michigan. There were no Indiana’s or Purdue’s or Minnesota’s for that time period, it was just Michigan or Ohio State.

It was an exciting time for this rivalry, probably the best period in history for the Ohio State vs Michigan rivalry.  This has always been a great rivalry game, but the period between 1969 and 1978 stands out as the best due to the ferocity and the deep meaning of each and every game. It was for all the marbles. It was Woody vs the hated enemy of the North. It was Bo vs Woody, his former boss. It was what has made college football great over the years.


The 1970 season brought more of the same, 2 powerful teams looking to win the conference.


The Ohio State Buckeyes returned all of the Super Sophomores for their senior season. Texas had stolen their thunder with the 1969 championship and the Horns were ranked #1 for most of the season, but the Buckeyes were right there. They started off with a bang and were ranked #2, but dropped later in the season because of good showings by Notre Dame and others.

They came into the Michigan game at 9-0.


The Michigan Wolverines were in the top 10 all season long. They had 15 guys on the roster that went on to play professional football, so they were loaded with talent from top to bottom.

They won every game and were coming in at 9-0 with only the Buckeyes between them and a Rose Bowl berth.


It was the 4th ranked team vs the 5th ranked team for a shot to play Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Ohio State got a measure of revenge with a typically hard fought 20-9 win. The Buckeyes got the Rose Bowl game and Michigan stayed home for the holidays. For many years, only the champions of the Big 10 and the Pac 8 were allowed to go to a Bowl game. A lot of good teams and good players stayed home for Christmas back then. There are too many bowl games now, but that scenario is better than a great team like Michigan or Ohio State staying home when they finished second in the Big 10.


The year was 1971 and the 10 Years War was in full swing. But, this was the year of the Big 8 Conference. Any discussion of any other contenders in 1971 is foolish when you look at actual historical results. Nebraska was the top team in the country and one of the top teams of all time. Oklahoma was #2 and a very close second and Colorado was #3. These guys beat up each other but they absolutely punished every other team they played that season.

Ohio  State had lost the special group of players that dominated from 1968 through 1970.

The Buckeyes weren’t a bad team, but they lost a number of close games. Colorado beat them in the 2nd game and the Buffaloes turned out to be extremely good.

Ohio State then won 5 straight to make their record respectable at 6-1. Then, they lost to Michigan State and Northwestern and were 6-3 coming into the game with their bitter rivals the Wolverines.


Michigan, on the other hand, did their part to uphold the quality of the rivalry as they were 10-0 coming in and ranked #3.

The Wolverines put over 60 points on the scoreboard in a 61-7 win over Indiana and a 63-7 win over Iowa.

Michigan had scored 399 points before the Ohio State game to their opponents 43.  They just terrorized teams coming in, but this was a war and the Buckeyes weren’t scared.


The Wolverines moved the ball up and down the field but couldn’t score. They had a 3-0 lead until the 3rd quarter when the Buckeyes’ Tom Campana had a spectacular 85 yard punt return for a TD giving Ohio State a 7-3 lead in the 3rd quarter.

Michigan finally put a drive together and scored a TD to go up 10-7. The game ended in controversy with a no call on a probable pass interference. Woody Hayes went ballistic as he was often famous for doing back in the day.

Wolverines won, 10-7. This game was the typical hard fought battle between the two 1970s powerhouses, just an absolute battle with everything left on the field that day.



The 1972 season saw Michigan produce another powerful football team. The Wolverines were 10-0 coming into Columbus, Ohio to meet the 8-1 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes were ranked #5, but in the 8th game when they were again upset by the Michigan State Spartans.

In another hard fought battle, the #9 Buckeyes pulled off a minor upset  of the #3 ranked Wolverines, 14-11.


There were many good things about the 10 Years War, but Michigan staying home with a 10-1 season was a tragedy.


The year 1973 brought the college football fan a fantastic  season. This year was the only one of it’s kind that I know of due to the large number of undefeated teams at the end of the year.

The #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes came into Ann Arbor, Michigan to take on the #4 ranked Michigan Wolverines.

Once again, it was a hard fought defensive battle with nobody winning. The slug fest ended in a 10-10 tie. The tie did cost OSU the top spot in the polls giving it to the Alabama Crimson Tide who then lost to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Sugar Bowl.

The Big 10 Presidents had a secret vote and they elected to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl. Obviously, Michigan was outraged claiming that the Presidents picked OSU because of an injury to the Michigan QB, Dennis Franklin and the Buckeyes had a better shot at winning.

The Buckeyes did as the Big 10 President’s had hoped and spanked USC in the Rose Bowl, 42-21. It was one of the few wins by the Big 10 over their Pacific Coast rivals during these years.


The 1974 season was much like the 1972 version, in that the Buckeyes were upset by the Michigan State Spartans in the 9th game when they were ranked #1. Michigan was undefeated at 10-0. #3 Michigan vs #4 Ohio State with the Buckeyes prevailing 12-10. The Michigan State Spartans apparently had the Buckeyes’ number since they beat them 3 out of 4 years.

The Buckeyes had repeat Heisman winner, Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975.


During the 1975 season, Ohio State was 10-0 entering the game and ranked #1. Michigan tied Stanford in game 2 and then again they tied Baylor in game 3. #1 Ohio State took down the #4 Wolverines, 21-14.

This was the first year that the other teams in the Big 10 could go to other bowls and the Michigan Wolverines played Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.


In the 1976 season, Michigan was #1 for most of the season until they were upset by Purdue, 16-14. They were ranked #4 when they visited Columbus in November of 1976.

The Buckeyes took a much different approach. After being ranked #2, they lost at home to Missouri, 22-21. Then, they tied UCLA at home, 10-10. They went on a 6 game win streak making their record 8-1-1 coming in to meet their biggest rivals.

It didn’t really matter if Ohio State recovered from early season blues because the Wolverines smashed them, 22-0.

Ohio State went to the Orange Bowl where they beat Colorado, 27-10.

Michigan was beaten in the Rose Bowl by #3 USC, 14-6.


Along came the 1977 season and the Buckeyes came into this year’s version at 9-1 with their only loss coming to Oklahoma in a game I wrote about in my Saturday’s series. That game could have gone either way with Oklahoma winning on a last second Field Goal.

Michigan was upset by Minnesota in game 7 after being ranked #1. They were also 9-1. The Buckeyes were ranked #4 and the Wolverines were #5 and the game was the typical 14-6 defensive war with Michigan coming out on top.

Ohio State got destroyed in the Sugar Bowl by an Alabama team that all Bama fans still think should have been crowned champion that season. They actually do have a good argument.

Michigan was beaten in the Rose Bowl by a surprising Washington Husky team.


In 1978, Michigan was upset by in state rival, Michigan State, 24-15. They were 9-1 when meeting OSU.

The Buckeyes had an off season. They lost to Penn State in the first game. Then, they were later tied by SMU and lost to Purdue, 27-16. 7-2-1 coming in to the last game.

Michigan won in a 14-3 struggle and got that coveted Rose Bowl berth.

Ohio State went to the Gator Bowl where they lost to Clemson, 17-15. This game was famous because long time Buckeye coach, Woody Hayes, hit a Clemson player after he intercepted an Art Schlichter pass ending the game.

Hayes was let go by the Buckeyes after this game.


The 10 Years War started with the hiring of Bo Schembechler by Michigan and it ended with the firing of Woody Hayes by Ohio State.


The game is still important, but in the 10 Years War period every game decided who would represent the Big 10 in the Rose Bowl. Michigan had a slight edge in the war with a 5-4-1 record against the Buckeyes, but both teams were a smashing success.


Even though the 10 Years War was exciting and fun, the winner of the game was 2-8 in the Rose Bowl against the Pac 10 Champion.


2 thoughts on “The 10 Year War

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