Army-Navy. Alabama-Auburn. Oklahoma-Texas. There’s nothing better than a bitter college football rivalry, and there might not be a more iconic matchup than when the maize and blue face off against the scarlet and gray.
Ohio State-Michigan is such a storied rivalry that the matchup is simply referred to as “The Game.” The two college football giants have faced off in nearly every season since 1897, but this season is far different from the rest. Ohio State and Michigan won’t play this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, when was the last time “The Game” wasn’t played?
The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry dates back to 1897
Nothing sums up the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry quite like former OSU head coach Woody Hayes in 1968. After a late touchdown in the 50-14 drubbing against Michigan, Hayes elected to go for a two-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point. When asked after the game why he went for two, Hayes responded, “because they wouldn’t let me go for three.” At least, that’s how the story goes.
Hayes’ detest for the maize and blue perfectly illustrates what makes this rivalry so great. It’s not a respectful matchup between two all-time greats. It’s a bloodbath filled with hatred from both sides. Ohio State hates Michigan so much that the university crosses out every ‘M’ on campus in the week leading up to “The Game.” You can’t even utter the word Michigan if you’re a Buckeye. Instead, you called them “The Team Up North.”
The rivalry dates all the way back to 1897 when the two Big Ten foes met for the first time. Despite Ohio State’s recent dominance in the matchup, Michigan leads the all-time series, 58-51-6. The Wolverines won 13 of the first 15 meetings, but Ohio State has won eight in a row.
“The Game” won’t be played this year
This college football season has been unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged numerous programs across the country, which has shaken up the College Football Playoff picture as we know it.
Big Ten teams were only scheduled to play eight games each this season, but many didn’t even reach that threshold. Michigan was forced to cancel its matchup against Maryland in Week 14 because of rampant positive tests in the program. The Wolverines couldn’t get the spread under control in time, and “The Game” was officially canceled earlier this week.
When was the last time Ohio State and Michigan didn’t play in a season?
Ohio State-Michigan has been a fixture down the backstretch of the Big Ten season for over 100 years. The matchup usually carries conference championship or playoff implications, too, so it represents one of the most important rivalries in the sport.
But college football fans have been stripped of the iconic game this season. It will mark the first time Ohio State and Michigan won’t play in a season since 1917. The two have faced off annually for the last 102 years.
2020 just continues to ruin everything.
All stats courtesy of Bentley Historical Library