While watching another epic battle between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament, I started thinking; who are Ohio State’s true rivals, in the 21st century?
The Ohio State/Michigan game is one of the oldest and most significant rivalries in all of sports. On the gridiron, this game dates back to the late 1800s and has remained relevant ever since. These two teams combine for a whopping 18 national championships and have dominated the Big Ten conference over the last fifty years. They have knocked each other out of national championship contention and have stolen countless Big Ten titles from one another in the process.
Until the mid 1930s this game was controlled by the Maize and Blue, as the Buckeye’s were still establishing a solid foundation. Michigan had already won 9 national championships before the start of the AP era and were considered college football’s most dominant team.
In 1934 things started to change for the Ohio State Buckeyes with the hiring of head coach Francis Schmidt. Schmidt immediately came in and led his team to four straight victories over the Wolverines by a combined score of 114-0. From 1934 through 2012 the Buckeyes hold a slight edge with a record of 39-36-4 against that team up north. Over this time period, Ohio State has claimed a piece of a Big Ten title 32 times while Michigan has done so 27.
Although considered more of a football rivalry, both teams have found a tremendous amount of success on the hard wood as well. They combine for 17 final four appearances and the Buckeyes lead the Big Ten with 11. Some of the all-time greats have played in this rivalry, from Bob Knight to Chris Webber and many other legends in between.
Throughout the start of the 21st century however, this age-old rivalry has lost some of its flair. Since 2001, Ohio State is 10-2 against the Wolverines in football, winning seven Big Ten titles to Michigan’s two. Ohio State has made an appearance in eight BCS games during this time period, which is more than any other school in the country, along with winning a national championship in 2002.
The majority of this success can be attributed to Jim Tressel. Tressel held the reins from 2001 through March of 2011 before his resignation in the wake of the “Tatoo-Gate” scandal. During his time at the Ohio State University, Tressel held an overall record of 106-22. After defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, stepped in as interim head coach for one season, athletic director Gene Smith, decided to make the biggest hire in this university’s storied history. On November 28, 2011, Urban Meyer was introduced as the new head coach of the Ohio State University’s football team. Meyer finished a perfect 12-0 in his first season with the Buckeyes but was unable to compete in the post-season due to a one year bowl ban.
Over the past 13 years Michigan has been to four BCS games but has only won one, the 2012 Sugar Bowl. The Wolverines have seen three different coaches throughout the 21st century. After 28 seasons with the Wolverines, first as an assistant, then a defensive coordinator, and finally the head coach, Lloyd Carr retired after his win against the Florida Gators in the 2008 Sugar bowl. Carr was replaced by Rich Rodriguez, which would prove to be a costly decision. During “Rich-Rod’s” three seasons with the Wolverines, he finished with a record of 15-22 and was replaced by current head coach, Brady Hoke, in 2011. Wolverine fans are convinced that Hoke is the answer to this program’s recent struggles but coming off of an 8-5 season, one can only wonder if he can succeed.
In basketball, Ohio State has the advantage over Michigan by a margin of 20-7 over the past 13 seasons. The Buckeyes have won at least a piece of the Big Ten regular season title six times while the Wolverines have only shared it once in 2012. Michigan hasn’t fared much better in the conference tournament as Ohio State has cut down the nets five times while Michigan has yet to do so in the 21st century. To add insult to injury, Ohio State has reached the sweet 16 five times while Michigan is heading back for the first time since the “Fab Five” scandal in the early 1990s. Ohio State head coach, Thad Matta, has brought the Buckeyes to the final four an astonishing 25% of the time in his eight years coaching the scarlet and gray and has a great shot to do so again in 2013.
While scrolling through the list of Big Ten champions over the past 13 years it won’t take long to realize that another school has emerged as Ohio State’s true rival throughout the start of the 21st century. The Wisconsin Badgers have proven that they can compete for a Big Ten Championship with the Buckeyes in both football and basketball, every year.
Since 2001, when battling on the basketball court, Wisconsin has beaten Ohio State 15 times while Ohio State has defeated the Badgers only 10. The Buckeyes have claimed at least a piece of the Big Ten regular season crown six times and won the conference tournament five, compared to Wisconsin’s three and two respectively. Thad Matta and Wisconsin head coach, Bo Ryan, also have the best winning percentages in the Big Ten.
Football has been a similar story as the Buckeyes hold a slight lead in the series by a margin of six wins and four losses. Ohio State has managed to win the majority of the Big Ten championships over the past 13 years as they’ve won the conference seven times. Wisconsin has only done so three times, in 2010, 2011 and 2012. It will be interesting to see how things change now that Urban Meyer took over the Ohio State Buckeyes and Gary Anderson did the same with the Wisconsin Badgers.
For most young people it’s probably difficult to understand the magnitude of the Ohio State/Michigan game because of how lopsided it’s been throughout recent history. A 17 year old being recruited to play basketball in the 2014 class wasn’t even born the last time Michigan made it to the Sweet 16. For these people, will the Ohio State/Wisconsin game be the rivalry of their generation? We can only wait and see.