No one game can define the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. Even a whole decade of games isn’t up to that task.
But there are five games, all of them in the last 50 years, which have played major roles in making the rivalry what it is.
If those five games had turned out differently, things might have changed for both programs.
So, let’s get in the time machine and imagine five memorable OSU-Michigan games with alternative endings.
1969. Michigan 24, Ohio State 12. This game launched the Bo Schembechler vs. Woody Hayes era. Ohio State was being hyped as the greatest team ever. If the Buckeyes had done what was expected and won by two or three touchdowns, Michigan’s rebuild after four losing seasons in six years might have been delayed.
1995. Michigan 31, Ohio State 23. Who knows how long John Cooper might have been able to coach at OSU if the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes won this game? And Biakabutuka wouldn’t be a swear word for Ohio State fans.
2001. Ohio State 26, Michigan 20. Newly hired Jim Tressel didn’t guarantee a victory but he did tell OSU fans they would be especially proud of their team on the football field in 310 days in Ann Arbor. The Tressel era might have looked different if the 2-10-1 misery of the Cooper years had continued.
2006. Ohio State 42, Michigan 39. What if Michigan won and then beat Florida and Urban Meyer for the national championship? Would Lloyd Carr have stayed longer, meaning Rich Rodriguez would never be hired? And what might it have meant for Meyer’s future?
2015. Ohio State 42, Michigan 13. A Michigan win in Jim Harbaugh’s first season might have turned the rivalry in a new direction, just like OSU’s win did in 2001.