If you live in Alabama, you think the Auburn versus Alabama game is the greatest rivalry in college football. If you live in Los Angeles, you might think the USC versus UCLA game is the greatest.
In Oklahoma, they think the Oklahoma versus Texas is the better rivalry game. In Florida, it’s Florida State versus Miami.
In the Big 10 area, the greatest rivalry is the Ohio State and Michigan game.
Woody Hayes was hired by Ohio State in 1951. The Buckeyes won national championships in 1954, 1957, and in 1961.
But, by 1967, Buckeye fans had grown tired of Woody Hayes. In 1966, the Buckeyes finished 4-5, but Woody and his staff changed up some things and seriously hit the road recruiting some talent. They signed an awesome class in the Spring of 1967 and those guys would be freshmen at Ohio State in the Fall of 1967. This group of recruits would become known as the Super Sophomores.
Freshmen weren’t eligible to play on the varsity in those days, so it was much of the same for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1967.
The Buckeyes finished 6-3 in 1967, which was hardly enough to keep the wolves from howling for the head of Woody Hayes.
Along came 1968 and the nation would be introduced to the Super Sophomores.
The Ohio State offense was led by super Quarterback Rex Kern and his back up Ron Maciejowski. Also, wing back Larry Zelina, Wide Receiver Bruce Jankowski and Tight End Jan White added with Offensive Tackles Rufus Mayes and Dave Foley and you had a really good offense.
Their defense was led by Safeties Jack Tatum and Mike Sensibaugh. Corner Back Tim Anderson and Linebacker Doug Adams and Nose Guard Jim Stillwagon gave the Buckeyes a very formidable defense.
This team started off with a bang and beat pass happy SMU in game one. After beating Oregon in game two, number one ranked Purdue came to town. Ohio State was ranked number four and the Purdue Boilermakers one and they were loaded with super Quarterback Mike Phipps and even more super Running Back Leroy Keyes.
People today would scoff at Purdue being ranked number one, but those were different times and Purdue was a solid team throughout the 1960’s.
The Buckeyes beat the Boilermakers 13-0. The polls dropped formerly number 2 ranked USC with OJ Simpson to the number 1 position while Ohio State dropped to the number 2 spot.
Both teams would remain in the same position for the rest of the 1968 season.
It would be the last game of the 1968 regular season that would set the tone for this rivalry for years to come.
Michigan had problems of it’s own. Head football coach Bump Elliott was in trouble in Ann Arbor. His best season had been a 9-1 record in 1964, but the rest of his years in Michigan were below standards.
But, things were looking a little better in 1968.
The Michigan Wolverines lost their opening game in 1968 to the California Golden Bears, 21-7. Then, they reeled off 8 straight wins and some of them convincing. Coming into their rivalry game, the Wolverines were 8-1 on the year and now ranked number 4.
It was number 2 versus number 4, a marquee match up.
In front of a then record crowd in Columbus, Michigan scored first and led the Buckeyes 7-0.
The Buckeyes came roaring back and scored 14 straight points before the Wolverines scored again after the Ohio State punt returner dropped the ball and Michigan recovered.
Ohio State scored again before half time to take a 21-14 lead into half time.
The first half was a battle, but the second half was a totally different story and would give the Michigan Wolverines ammunition to come into this game ready to play for many years.
Ohio State demolished Michigan in the second half. When the Buckeyes scored 50, they lined up and went for 2 instead of kicking the extra point. Woody Hayes was asked after the game why they went for 2 instead of kicking the extra point and he replied with “because the rules won’t let you go for 3”.
Obviously, that did not sit well with the Michigan Wolverines and would provide bulletin board material for years to come. Losing 50 to 14 to your most hated rival was one thing, but them going for 2 right after they had just scored 50 was something that burned every Michigan man, woman and child. Michigan folks would be worked up over that for years, and maybe they still are to this day.
The Buckeyes represented the Big 10 in the Rose Bowl and faced USC and Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson. This was another classic match up between number 1 and number 2.
The Buckeyes came from behind and whipped the Trojans, 27- 16, and claimed the national championship.
The Super Sophomores would live on in legend as one of the best teams ever and they had 2 more years of eligibility.
The Michigan Wolverines finished 1968 at 8-2. In those years, there were some strange rules in the Big 10 Conference and the Pac 12 Conference. In the Big 10, the same school could not go 2 years in a row to the Rose Bowl no matter if they easily won the conference. They also could not go to a bowl game outside of the Rose Bowl.
The Buckeyes went to the Rose Bowl, but the Wolverines stayed home for the holidays and they remembered the words of Woody Hayes, ”because the rules won’t let you go for 3”.
The Wolverines also brought in a new coach by the name of Bo Schembechler.
The 1969 Ohio State Buckeyes football team was even better than the 1968 version. The sophomores were now juniors with a national championship under their belts.
The Buckeyes started their season with a 62-0 whitewashing of hapless TCU. The rest of the season was much the same. Ohio State had little problem with the rest of their schedule leading into their last game. They beat 19th ranked Michigan State 54 – 21. They later whipped Wisconsin 62-7 and then 10th ranked Purdue 42 – 14 on national television.
The Ohio State Buckeyes were the #1 ranked team in the country and the Wolverines were ranked #12. This game would become the first game of the series between Ohio State and Michigan known as the Ten Year War.
Those were the 10 years that Ohio State under legendary coach Woody Hayes would face Michigan under also legendary coach Bo Schembechler. Those games might have very well been the greatest times involving this rivalry game. There were many hard fought battles.
The Ohio State Buckeyes of 1969 seemed unbeatable. The media, as they so often do, declared the 1969 Ohio State Buckeyes as the greatest college team ever.
Michigan was 7-2 and was pounded 40-14 by Missouri in their third game. Woody Hayes would later call this 1969 version of the Ohio State Buckeyes his best team ever and Michigan did not seem like much of a threat.
What we did not know at that time was the Missouri Tigers had a really good team and would win their last Big 8 Championship in 1969. This could have been the best Tiger team of all time and the Wolverines ran into an ambush here.
They also lost to in-state rival Michigan State which after years of success in the 1960s was pretty awful in 1969, and they finished 4-6.
Michigan looked to be no problem for the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes.
The really strange thing about this game was that even if the Ohio State Buckeyes had played up to their greatest team ever tagging, they still could not have gone to the Rose Bowl due to extraordinarily bizarre Big 10 Conference rules. A conference’s best team should represent said conference in a bowl game that is about sending the conference champion to play another conference’s champion. The rule about not sending the same school 2 years in a row may have been one of the worst all time regulations I have ever heard of. One of the main reasons we fought for independence from England so many years ago was to rid ourselves of stupid rules.
The game started off as expected with Ohio State taking a 6-0 lead on a Jim Otis Touchdown. The greatest team of all time still had the same kicking problems that they had the year before and missed the extra point.
Michigan used All American Tight End Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mandich mostly to drive the ball down the field and their own Fullback Garvie Craw punched it in and the Wolverines made their extra point to go up 7-6.
Buckeye Quarterback Rex Kern led his team down the field hitting Larry Zelina and Jan White on passes with White scoring making it 12-7. The Buckeyes made the extra point, but Michigan was off sides and they took the penalty and Woody Hayes elected to go for 2. The 2 point conversion failed and the score remained 12-7.
Huge Michigan Running Back Billy Taylor, who at 5-10, 230 was a giant of a player for his time, broke free on a 28 yard run taking the ball to the Buckeye 5. Garvie Craw would run in another Touchdown and the Wolverines went up 14-12.
Michigan returned a punt all the way to the Ohio State 3 yard line and they punched it in from there to go up 21-12, still in the 2nd quarter.
The Wolverines kicked a Field Goal to go up 24-12 at the half.
The second half was a Buckeye turnover fest. They ended up with 6 Interceptions and a fumble for a miserable 7 turnovers on the day.
The Wolverines won 24-12 and it was called the greatest upset of all time. That game opened the door for the Texas Longhorns to move to number 1 and the Arkansas Razorbacks to number 2 and their famous football game the Big Shootout in December of 1969.
The 10 Years War was on.
1970 was a terrible football season being the year that one of the planes carrying Wichita State football staff and players crashed on it’s way to play Utah State killing 31 people.
The Wichita State tragedy happened on October 2nd and as if that wasn’t enough disaster for one season, the Marshall football team plane crashed on November 14th killing everybody on board. They were on their way home from playing East Carolina.
But, all was normal and the same in the Big 10 Conference and the 10 Years War entered it’s second season.
Ohio State’s Super Sophomores were now seniors, and they were 18-1 on the football field the last 2 seasons. Of course, the one and only loss had been to the hated Michigan Wolverines.
The Buckeyes started off the season ranked number 2 behind the defending National Champions, the Texas Longhorns who had something of their own super recruiting class led by a Fullback out of Bridge City, Texas named Steve Worster. It was commonly known as the ‘Worster Bunch’. But, the biggest difference between the Super Sophomores and the Worster Bunch was Rex Kern and the Quarterback position. The biggest hero for the Longhorns in winning the national championship had been Wishbone Quarterback James Street and he had been a senior in 1969.
Rex Kern was back.
Kern had a miserable game against the Wolverines in 1969 throwing 4 Interceptions. Kern was more than anxious to redeem himself in 1970. Michigan had the fire in 1969 of Woody Hayes going for 2 in the 1968 game, but now it was the Buckeyes turn.
Michigan had ruined their season and stopped them from repeating as National Champions, plus they had broken the Buckeyes’ 22 game winning streak.
There was a lot to motivate the Ohio State Buckeyes for the annual slug fest in 1970.
But, first each team had to get there.
The Buckeyes started off the 1970 season impressively as expected, beating Texas A%M 56-13. They rolled through their season with mostly big wins over opponents until they got to the nationally televised Purdue game and they had a game on their hands. They finally prevailed with a close 10-7 win over the tough Boilermakers.
Michigan was their only opposition in reaching another undefeated season. In spite of being unbeaten, the Buckeyes had dropped to number 5 in the rankings.This was the last shot at the Michigan Wolverines for the Super Sophomores of 1968.
Michigan was cruising in 1970. Comparing scores between common opponents never works, but Michigan stomped Purdue, 29-0, in their 4th game of the season.
In games 8 and 9, the Wolverines turned it up a few notches and they pounded Illinois, 42-0, and then Iowa 55-0.
The Michigan Wolverines were 9-0 coming into their annual war with Ohio State and looked pretty intimidating. Big Wolverine Running Back Billy Taylor was running all over Big 10 opponents.
Ohio State fans were uneasy about this game. Michigan, at 9-0 and ranked number 4, was coming to Columbus, Ohio.
Michigan fumbled the opening Kickoff at their own 25 with the Buckeyes pouncing on it. The Wolverines held them to a Field Goal, but the Buckeyes went up 3-0 with just a minute and 42 seconds off the clock.
The Michigan Wolverines offense had run over everybody all year long, but the Buckeyes held them to just 37 yards rushing on the day.
Ohio State held a 10-9 lead in the 3rd quarter in a defensive struggle, until Ohio State drove deep into Michigan territory and kicked the Field Goal to go up 13-9.
When Michigan got the ball back, Wolverine Quarterback Dan Moorehead threw an interception on his own 23 and Ohio State Linebacker Stan White returned the pick to the Michigan 9. Ohio State Quarterback Rex Kern ran the option and pitched the ball to Leo Hayden to put the game away, 20-9. Hayden, yet another Super Sophomore, ran for 117 yards on 28 carries.
Only one team from the Big 10 got to go to a Bowl game back in those years and a very good 9-1 Michigan stayed home for Christmas. More outrageous Big 10 rules at work again. It was Rose Bowl or nothing and not even always the best team got to go to face the best team out West.
The Ohio State Buckeyes went to the Rose Bowl and were upset by Stanford and their Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback Jim Plunkett, 27-17.
The Super Sophomores won the national championship in 1968. They were upset by Michigan in 1969 and had to stay home. They beat Michigan in 1970, but lost in the Rose Bowl. Still, they finished with a 27- 2 win/loss record over a 3 year span. Pretty incredible group of players.
The 1971 Buckeye football team suffered from the loss of the Super Sophomores. They went into the Michigan game with a 6-3 record and in second place in the Big 10.
They lost to Colorado 20 to 14, which was hardly a disgrace because the top 3 teams in the country that season were Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado.
They lost 2 straight going into the Michigan game to Michigan State and then Northwestern. Some colleges had started playing 11 games a season by 1971, but Ohio State was still only playing 10,
Michigan, on the other hand, was rolling. They were 10-0 coming into their last game with the Buckeyes and only Purdue had gotten really close to beating them before the Wolverines prevailed, 20 – 17.
But, even though Ohio State was struggling, this game was still yet again for all the marbles. This game was still a war on the football field.
Michigan came into the 1971 version of the game not only undefeated but they had the top run defense in the country. But, it was Ohio State that played great defense on this particular day. If you are a fan only of high scoring games, then this game was not for you. Ohio State held Michigan in check almost the entire game and were leading 7-3 with time running out. The Michigan defense deserves credit as well for playing great defense because they shut out the Buckeye offense all day. Ohio State scored their 7 points off of an 85 yard punt return by Safety Tom Campana and he killed the Wolverines all day with 5 punt returns for 166 yards.
Michigan drove the ball 72 yards and scored on a Billy Taylor 21 Touchdown run with 2:07 left in the game to save their undefeated season and win the game, 10-7.
In 1971, Nebraska was clearly the best team in the country, but undefeated Michigan was at least worthy of a #2 ranking. But, in the Rose Bowl, the 8-3 Stanford Indians upset them 13-12 that day ruining one of the best Michigan seasons ever.
The 1972 season was the year of the Trojans. Many thought the 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers or the USC Trojans were possibly 2 of the best teams of all time.
However, the Ohio State Buckeyes began the season at #3 and Michigan began just outside the top 10 at #11.
1972 was also the first year that freshmen could play on the varsity in college football and it was way past time for the Big 10 to change a few rules as well.
Michigan barely beat Northwestern in their opening game and rose a position in the rankings. Then, they Tore up 6th rated UCLA in Los Angeles, 26-9. UCLA with future movie star Mark Harmon at Quarterback had just beaten #1 Nebraska the previous week.
By the time the Wolverines had made it the last game of their season they had dropped to #3 in the polls and were 10-0. They had crushed 7 out of their first 10 opponents and were ready to do the same to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State had different thoughts altogether than Michigan. The 3rd ranked Buckeyes rolled along early before having problems with Wisconsin and Minnesota before getting upset by Michigan State. The Spartans were only 5-5-1 that season but they surprised Ohio State and gave Michigan all they wanted before losing.
The Buckeyes dropped to #5 while struggling and then all the way to #9 after losing.
They came back the following week against Northwestern with a 27-14 win. But, going into their annual war with Michigan they were 8-1 and ranked 9th.
The undefeated Wolverines were the favorites, but the Buckeyes would prove to be no pushovers. True freshman Archie Griffin arrived on the scene and ran for 75 yards against Michigan.
The typical defensive battle went into half time with Ohio State up 7-3. The Wolverines came back to take the lead at 11-7.
Ohio State’s Griffin eventually broke free on a 30 yard Touchdown run to put the Buckeyes up 14-11 which was the way it would end.
The Ohio State Buckeyes earned the right to represent the Big 10 in the Rose Bowl. That dream turned into a nightmare when the USC Trojans crushed the Buckeyes on New Year’s Day, 42-17.
The 1973 college football season was one of the most unusual years ever. When all the smoke had cleared, there were still 6 undefeated teams.
Ohio State entered 1973 as the #3 ranked team in the nation. They had some good returnees including star Running Back Archie Griffin. This Buckeye team was not messing around with opponents and just destroyed everyone in it’s path. They destroyed everyone they played before Michigan by an average score of 40 to 3. Most polls had them dropped to the #1 spot going into their last game. They were 9-0.
Michigan was much the same in the 1973 season with a lot of talent returning. They started the season ranked #5 and did nothing to harm that position.
They won 10 games by an average score of 31 to 6. The Wolverine running game was brutal and they had an outstanding defense and they had dropped to #4 in the polls.
As it was in the previous years, Michigan and Ohio State were the class of the Big 10 Conference and their annual game would provide the winner of the league. This game was for first and second place in the conference.
Heavy rains hit before this game at Ann Arbor, Michigan and made this game more of a ground game than ever. The Buckeyes didn’t even have a first down in the first quarter. But, they led 10-0 at halftime. The Wolverines dominated the second half and scored 10 points in the second half.
The game ended in a 10-10, and that was long before the days of Overtime.
This game turned out to be one of the more controversial games of all time. With the game nearly over, Michigan QB Dennis Franklin went down with a broken collar bone.
The Big 10 Athletic Directors were responsible to pick he representative for the Big 10 in the Rose Bowl and they picked Ohio State. Michigan fans were livid. Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was beyond angry and it’s said that he was angry till the day he died.
The thought was that the Buckeyes were picked because of the injury to Dennis Franklin. Michigan was a running team, mostly, so that shouldn’t have mattered.
The controversy eventually turned into a good thing because it may have lead to the changing of the Big 10’s most annoying rule, the Rose Bowl or no bowl rule.
But, the Buckeyes happily took advantage of their fortune and got some revenge for the whipping they took from the USC Trojans he year before. The Buckeyes stomped the Trojans, 42 – 21.
However, even though they were undefeated and they roughed up USC, they had dropped to #4 and had been passed over by Alabama, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. The Sooners were on probation and not eligible for a bowl game. Notre Dame beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship.
The national championship was still not very satisfying because there were still 5 undefeated teams.
The 10 Years War was half over and the series was tied with 2 wins each and a very controversial tie.