The Greatest Sports Rivalry In History: Michigan vs. Ohio State

Michigan vs. Ohio State is the greatest rivalry in college football. It is separated by 200 miles between the north and the south, across two states, and sometimes by an invisible line in a bed in any household. Every 3rd Saturday in November, friendships are tested, face paint is applied like war paint, and local news channels are soaked with stories of couples who are happily, and sometimes unhappily, living in “A House Divided”.

The rivalry between the University of Michigan and The Ohio State is not only the greatest rivalry in college football, but the greatest rivalry in any sport and it is rich in history.

Michigan vs. Ohio State, the greatest sports rivalry
Photo: TrueBlueReport

For me, there was never a choice. With family that were University of Michigan graduates, cheering for the Maize & Blue didn’t just occur during chilly fall Saturdays, it was a year-round dedication. The Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry existed before any NFL rivalry and even before the NFL existed. It causes personal attacks on each state’s way of life, their traditions, the school’s graduates, and created never-ending jokes. It’s a religion; it’s how we determine our friends, with which family members we spend the holidays, and it’s how we decide who we date.

Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry
The greatest tickets I’ve ever held in my hand.

If you think I’m joking, ask anyone I’ve ever dated. When you’re asked if you’re a Michigan or Ohio State fan, your answer had better not be “I don’t care”. That in itself starts its own rivalry.

If you live in or near Ann Arbor or Columbus, the choice is often very clear and defined. However, if you live near the border, in the “Toledo Strip”, the division becomes blurred. This was an unclaimed area between the two states that was fought over by Ohio and Michigan. It ended up being claimed by Ohio, but there have been Ohio players that played for Michigan, Michigan players that played for the Buckeyes, and personal rivalries are strong and clearly communicated.

How do you get an OSU grad off your porch? You pay him for the pizza.

Each November, area residents worship the Maize & Blue or the Scarlet & Gray. We worship the legacy of Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes – the men who fueled the rivalry in the late 60s and early 70s. The same men who, when each passed, their honor was celebrated across both state lines. The coaches that came before and after are a part of the rivalry’s legacy, but none will be as remembered as these two great coaches.

The greatest sports rivalry in history, Michigan and Ohio State
Our love for the Maize and Blue is a family affair. #GoBlue

The game happens every year at the same time and each game feels like an historical event that fans will never forget. You can try to choose your team, but often your team is chosen for you. It moves through generations. It’s a part of your childhood. You likely have baby photos of yourself donned in maize & blue or scarlet & grey. 

How do make Michigan cookies? Put them in a bowl and beat them for 3 hours.

Each game is a memorable one, whether your team wins or loses, but there have been definitive games that are responsible for fueling the fire between state lines. When Ohio Stadium opened in 1922, Michigan welcomed them by beating them 22-0. In 1969, when Bo Schembechler took over as Michigan’s coach, he upset Woody Hayes’ No. 1-ranked, undefeated Buckeyes. Four times over the six years that followed, both teams were ranked in the top five when they met. In 1970 and 1973, both were undefeated (they tied 10-10 in ’73). From 1970 through 1975, Michigan was undefeated every year. The Wolverines won just once. Ohio State was 9-0-1 in 1993, 11-0 in 1995 and 10-0 in 1996, but lost to Michigan each time.

That is quite a rivalry history.

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