Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 2003

Looking Back is a Special Feature Highlighting
Key Rivalry Games by Jeff Cummins

The fifth and final installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us to 2003. Just a year before, Ohio State had defeated Michigan in a tightly contested game, before a partisan Ohio State crowd that was exceptionally intense. The Wolverines fought hard that day, but things just didn’t go their way.

Twelve months later, the Wolverines were poised for a rematch, fully aware that the 2003 version of “The Game” would be the 100th playing of the rivalry. By the time the Buckeyes arrived in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines were ready for them.

Michigan leaders John Navarre and Chris Perry remembered the previous year vividly. Despite playing a very good game, the Wolverines were not able to make the necessary plays at the necessary times. That was not going to happen again.

From the opening kickoff, the Wolverines were in control of the 2003 game. Well, almost. Ohio State started well, gaining eight yards on its first two plays. On 3rd down and 2 yards to go, Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel threw to tight end Ben Hartsock, who was wrapped up immediately for no gain by Michigan safety Ernest Shazor, and the Buckeyes had to punt. The teams then traded a few possessions before Michigan took over at its own 11-yard line. Perry then gained a hard eight yards, zigging and zagging through the Ohio State defense, something he would do all day. A couple of plays later, Navarre and Perry connected on a screen pass for 11 yards, and suddenly the Wolverines were cooking. Near the end of the quarter, receiver Steve Breaston lined up under center and followed his right guard into the end zone on an option play to complete an 89-yard drive, giving the Wolverines a 7-0 lead that they would never relinquish.

Michigan extended its lead in the second quarter when Navarre connected with receiver Braylon Edwards, who broke a pair of tackles and went 64 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, the game had established its identity: The Wolverines would lead with Perry on the ground, and when the Buckeyes committed too many players to stop Perry, Navarre would answer with a big pass play. A few minutes later, Navarre and Edwards connected again on a 23-yard scoring pass to give the Wolverines a 21-0 lead at halftime.

In the second half, Ohio State began to mount a comeback, and by the time Lydell Ross went over from two yards out in the fourth quarter, Michigan’s lead was down to just one touchdown. At that point, the Wolverines went back to basics, putting their faith in Perry and the offensive line. It was a wise decision, as Perry ran 15 yards for a touchdown to extend Michigan’s lead to 35-21, and the Wolverines were never threatened after that.

The victory gave Michigan the Big Ten championship. The Wolverines fell to USC in the Rose Bowl, but their performance in the regular season, with convincing victories over Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State, had firmly reestablished them as a national power.

Many thanks to ABC for the attached game broadcast. As always, we own nothing, and this blog post and video are intended strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

By the Numbers: Game 12 vs. Ohio State


The Wolverines overwhelmed the Maryland Terrapins in College Park.  The offense, defense, and special teams all found the end zone as Michigan trounced the Terps 59-18

NEXT UP: vs. Ohio State: 2nd, 32.3 

PREGAME SP+: OSU  by 5.8, Michigan Win Probability 37%

Since we reached the 2nd half of the regular season, the Buckeyes have been neck-and-neck with Georgia for the top spot in Bill Connelly’s SP+ predictive rankings.  Going into this game, OSU and Georgia have a rating of 32.3, while Michigan has climbed to 4th with a rating of 24.0.

Michigan Offense (22nd) vs. Ohio State Defense (14th) 

Most of the commentary in Michigan media this week has been focused on the Wolverines’ running attack helping to keep Ohio State’s high flying offense on the sidelines.  I agree that Michigan’s best defense will be a good offense, but there will be opportunities against the Bucks’ pass defense as well.  

Josh Gattis has put a lot of variation on film in the rushing attack.  Ohio State will need to be prepared for gap scheme runs between the tackles, and zone scheme runs that attack off tackle or outside.  Hassan Haskins will lead the charge from Michigan’s backfield, but I expect to see Blake Corum return.  Also, Donovan Edwards announced his arrival as a weapon last week in College Park.  

I believe all that run game variation will help gain rushing yards, but I think the biggest benefactor will be Cade McNamara.  The Wolverines have speedy outside receivers that must be respected by the CBs and safeties.  I think Michigan will look to find chunk yardage in the middle of the field via the intermediate passing game.  Hopefully Erick All is closer to being healthy, but Donovan Edwards could also threaten those linebackers’ coverage ability. 

Michigan Defense (7th) vs. Ohio State Offense (1st)

When the Buckeyes have the ball, Michigan will need every coach and every player to have their best game of the season.  OSU has 3 WRs that would likely be #1 pass threats on any other team in the Big Ten except Penn State with Jahan Dotson.  Nobody in the country can cover all three of those guys for more than 2-2.5 seconds.  Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo will need to lead a heroic effort to consistently force QB CJ Stroud to throw quickly.  Then all 11 Wolverines need to gang tackle because Wilson, Olave, and Smith-Njigba could each turn a 6 yard reception into a house call.   

Traditionally, this game is won by the team who rushes for more yardage.  While I don’t think this game is quite that simple to project, I do think that will end up being a true statement again this year.  5-star freshman TreVeyon Henderson has the same type of explosive ability as Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.  The Buckeyes are also deep at running back with Miyan Williams and Master Teague likely to get touches as well.  Given how dangerous the quick-strike passing attack can be for OSU, it may be beneficial to use the defensive game plan to invite the Buckeyes to march along the ground.  This would help keep the clock running and reduce the total number of possessions the same way a Michigan running attack would.   

PREDICTION: On our preview podcast for The Game, we spent a good chunk of time trying to rally our portion of the fan base.  The pitch is basically this: don’t let past results suppress your enthusiasm for this 2021 team.  The Wolverines are absolutely capable of standing toe-to-toe with Ohio State.  Michigan’s most talented players will need to turn in iconic performances.  The offensive and defensive game plans need to land successfully, especially early on.  The 2nd half adjustments will also be critical, as the Buckeyes have found a way to pull away in the 3rd quarter in the last 3 editions of  The Game.  

The numbers and analytics are pretty clear, and I reflect that analysis in my official prediction.  But, I know there are multiple paths to a Michigan victory.  I am excited to see the entire community gather in Ann Arbor to cheer this team as they try to forge one of those victory paths this Saturday.  Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and Go Blue!
Michigan 35 Ohio State 38 (PRESEASON Michigan 21 Ohio State 31)


  • SP+ Overall: 4th (↑1), 24.0
  • SP+ Offense: 22nd (↑3), 35.8
  • SP+ Defense: 7th (↓2), 14.5
  • SP+ Special Teams: 2nd (↑1), 2.6

AP Poll: 6th (↑2), 1,246

Coaches’ Poll: 6th (↑1), 1,250

CFP Rank: 5th (↑1)

U-M Resume after Game #11

Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 2002

Looking Back is a Special Feature Highlighting
Key Rivalry Games by Jeff Cummins

The fourth installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us to 2002. Ohio State wasn’t yet the football monster it is today, or at least most people didn’t perceive it to be. The 2002 game was a tight, hard-fought contest, with Michgan playing very well on the road, in an extremely difficult environment.

But in the end, none of that mattered. Ohio State won, Michigan lost, and from the Michigan perspective, it was painful. Yes, the team played valiently. But it was painful, nonetheless.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said after the game that they knew at halftime they would need a touchdown to win. They almost got a touchdown, but not quite.

After Ohio State took a 14-9 lead with 4:55 to play, but the Wolverines still had plenty of fight left in them. Quarterback John Navarre led Michigan on a pair of drives, the last one getting to the Ohio State 24-yard line. From there, Michigan had time for just one play left. With Ohio State expecting pass, defensive back Will Allen intercepted the pass just short of the goal line, and the game was over. Ironically, the Buckeyes were led by quarterback Craig Krenzel, who hailed from Uitca, Michigan.

Michigan enjoyed solid performances from a pair of juniors, Navarre and tailback Chris Perry. Stoic and resolute, both players were already plotting their revenge against the Buckeyes, but that’s a story for another day. Maybe tomorrow, in fact.

The Buckeyes, as we all know, went on to earn a controversial win against Miami in the Tostitos Fiest Bowl, giving Ohio State its first national championship since 1968. Michigan concluded its season with a visit to the Outback Bowl, where the Wolverines began a long tradition of defeating Florida, earning a 38-30 win over the Gators in the first meeting between the two schools.

Many thanks to ESPN Classic for the film of this game. As always, we own nothing, and this film and blog post are intended strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1973

Looking Back is a Special Feature Highlighting
Key Rivalry Games by Jeff Cummins

The third installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us to 1973, one of the most interesting years of the 20th century. TV viewers watched the Watergate hearings in the afternoon, the United States continued to face challenges related to Vietnam, the Mets rallied to top the Cincinnati Reds and win the National League pennant, and Yankee Stadium closed for two years to undergo renovations.

The college football world was just as interesting in 1973, as Michigan and Ohio State both entered “The Game” with perfect records. This was the midpoint of the “Ten-year War” between Bo Schembechler and Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, and tensions were at an all-time high. Before the game began, Woody and his troops fanned the flames of the rivalry by tearing down the M Club banner that Michigan players traditionally ran under to enter every home game.

The game itself was divided into two very different halves. In the first half, Ohio State grabbed a 10-0 lead. Michigan was not without big plays, but the shame is that Michigan’s biggest play of the first half was wiped out by a clipping penalty. Gil Chapman took an Ohio State kickoff two yards deep in his own end zone, and zig-zagged his way to the Ohio State 28-yard line before he was tackled. Unfortunately, the ball was brought all the way back to the Michigan 12-yard line, seriously damaging a Michigan scoring opportunity.

Ohio State led, 10-0, and the halftime break, but the second half was all Michigan. In the fourth quarter, the Michigan offense started to hit its stride. Quarterback Dennis Franklin connected with tight end Paul Seal for a 27-yard gain, a play that probably should have been used more often. Then, on 4th down and 1 yard to go at the Ohio State 10-yard line, Franklin kept the ball and darted through the Ohio State defensive line for a 10-yard touchdown, and after Mike Lantry kicked the extra point, the game was tied.

And that’s how it ended, as well. Lantry, who did three tours of duty in Vietnam, missed a pair of field goal attempts in the final minutes, and the final score was Michigan 10, Ohio State 10. Most observers felt that Michigan got the better of the play, having outgained Ohio State in yardage, 333-234. Michigan had 16 first downs to nine for Ohio State. Then there was the passing. Michigan completed nine passes for 99 yards, while Ohio State did not complete one pass. Not one.

Still, it was a tie. On the possession following Franklin’s tying touchdown, he left the game with a fractured collarbone after being hit hard by Ohio State defensive end Van DeCree. In the event of a tie, the Big Ten athletic directors voted on which team should represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. In a vote shrouded in secrecy, Ohio State was named as the representative for the Big Ten Conference. Among the many things that irk Michigan fans is that this happened in a year when Michigan had the type of team that was built to beat the champion of the Pacific 8 conference, USC. Instead, the Wolverines wound up sitting at home on New Year’s Day.

Long forgotten by most people is the fact that this Michigan team went undefeated, finishing the season with a record of 10 wins, no losses and one tie. In addition, both the National Championship Foundation and the Poling System recognized Michigan as co-national champions for the 1973 season. Thanks to the Big Ten Network for the broadcast of the game. As always, we own nothing, and this blog post is intended purely for the enjoyment of readers.