From the day he was hired on January 18, 2001, Coach Jim Tressel has made "THE GAME" a priority, and the results have been impressive. Nine wins in ten years, and seven straight wins in the series. A truly remarkable turnaround from the days when Ohio State fans lamented Coach John Cooper's 2-10-1 record against "That Team Up North".
Below are my rankings, with various links, on Coach Tressel's victories in "THE GAME". As always, I am open to discussion and debate on how I came to the rankings. Enjoy.
9. 2010 (Ohio State 37, Michigan 7). I was in attendance for this one (thanks again for the ticket, Sean), and it truly never felt like it was in doubt. Ohio State led 10-7, when Jordan Hall returned a kickoff for a touchdown, and Ohio State never looked back. Coach Rich Rodriguez left the rivalry having never tasted victory, going 0-3 against Ohio State.
8. 2009 (Ohio State 21, Michigan 10). The closest of the games that took place during Rich Rodriguez's tenure as Michigan's head coach, Ohio State was able to capitalize on multiple turnovers by Michigan QB Tate Forcier for this win. Ohio State was able to knock Michigan from bowl eligibility with this win, clinch the outright Big Ten championship, and Ohio State fans were able to openly mock Coach Rodriguez with signs and the O-H-I-O cheer in Michigan Stadium.
You may be wondering why I rated these two games as my lowest of the Michigan wins in Coach Tressel's first ten years - it might have to do with the altered uniforms that were selected in both 2009 and 2010.
7. 2008 (Ohio State 42, Michigan 7). Ohio State throttled Michigan in Coach Rodriguez's first trip to Columbus. The game could be encapsulated by this one play. In July of 2008, someone foolishly predicted Michigan would go 4-8 in Coach Rodriguez's first season - actually, Michigan wound up 3-9 in 2008.
6. 2007 (Ohio State 14, Michigan 3). Michigan RB Mike Hart made the statement prior to the 2007 season that he came back for his senior season to win the national championship, and to "beat the Buckeyes" - neither came to pass, and Hart left Michigan winless against Ohio State in his career. Pregame speculation was rampant that this would be Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr's last season, and it turned out to be true, with Carr resigning a few days after this game. Ohio State, behind the running of RB Chris Wells and a dominant defensive effort, won their fourth straight game in the series to clinch The Big Ten and a Rose Bowl berth. Ohio State vaulted to the 2008 BCS Championship Game a few weeks after this game, with Pittsburgh's upset of West Virginia.
5. 2004 (Ohio State 37, Michigan 21). The game that started the current win streak, and my lovely wife and I were in attendance for this one (thanks again for the tickets, John). Ohio State was only 6-4 coming into this game, with Michigan 9-1, and Ohio State dominated the second half. Michigan wound up with a touchdown near the end, but this game was pretty much done for most of the fourth quarter. This game also served as the emphatic announcement of Ohio State QB Troy Smith as a dynamic playmaker for Ohio State, beating Michigan with both his arm and his legs.
4. 2005 (Ohio State 25, Michigan 21). This game in Ann Arbor definitely would have qualified for the nailbiter category, if I had not decided to have excluded it for this part of the series. Michigan led late in the fourth quarter 21-12, before Ohio State was able to mount a furious comeback, led by Troy Smith. Ohio State WR Anthony Gonzalez will forever be remembered for "The Catch" that led to Ohio State's victory that allowed Ohio State to share the conference title with Penn State in 2005.
3. 2001 (Ohio State 26, Michigan 20). Coach Tressel called his shot 310 days earlier, on the day he was hired and introduced. For the first time since 1987, Ohio State went into Ann Arbor, and left with a victory. Michigan native Craig Krenzel made his first career start for Ohio State truly memorable. This game not only knocked Michigan out of The Rose Bowl - it served notice to Michigan that Ohio State would be a force to be reckoned with, and is cherished by Ohio State fans everywhere to this day.
2. 2006 (Ohio State 42, Michigan 39). #1 versus #2, both undefeated, with the winner advancing to The BCS Championship Game. The death of former Michigan head coach (and former Ohio State assistant coach under Coach Woody Hayes) Bo Schembechler the day before "THE GAME". Troy Smith in his last home game in Ohio Stadium, destined to win the 2006 Heisman Trophy. Michigan battled until the final seconds, when Ohio State was able to secure an onside kick attempt and run out the clock with RB Antonio Pittman.
1. 2002 (Ohio State 14, Michigan 9). Even though the 2006 game matched both teams when they were undefeated, this game gets my nod as being the best of the victories as Ohio State won this game to advance to the 2003 Fiesta Bowl for the national championship against Miami (FL). I was in attendance for this one (thanks again for the tickets, Painter), and I can vividly recall watching Michigan QB John Navarre drop back to pass on the final play of the game that was intercepted at the goal line by Ohio State DB Will Allen.
All in all, a very impressive list. It almost makes me want to say something to the effect of "Hail To The Victors...Champions By The Vest".
Part Seven: The Comparisons
Part Six: The Bowl Wins
Part Five: The Nailbiters
Part Four: The Defeats
Part Three: The Seasons
Part Two: The Recruits
Part One: The Speech