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It’s not unusual for the annual rivalry contest between Michigan and Ohio State to have big-time implications. Only once however, have the teams met as No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP Poll.
That came on this day 15 years ago. In a contest that lived up to the hype, the top-ranked Buckeyes outlasted No. 2 Michigan in Columbus, 42-39.
Setting the Stage
A Big Ten championship and a spot in the BCS National Championship was on the line as the teams met on Nov. 18, 2006. Both teams came in 11-0 and had largely dominated the competition.
To that point in the season, only two opponents had stayed within eight points of the Wolverines. In Ohio State’s case, only Illinois had stayed within 17 points of the Buckeyes.
An Instant Classic
Both teams scored on their opening drives in a contest that featured 91 points and 900 yards of offense. Mike Hart scored from two yards out to give Michigan the game’s first points, but the next 21 belonged to Ohio State.
Quarterback and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith threw touchdown passes to Roy Hall, Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez in the first half. Chris Wells also rushed for a 52-yard touchdown as the Buckeyes took a 28-14 lead to the locker room.
The early parts of the third quarter however, belonged to Michigan. Hart’s second touchdown run of the day and a Garrett Rivas field goal cut the lead to four, but it took Ohio State just two plays to answer.
Antonio Pittman’s 58-yard touchdown run gave the Buckeyes a 35-24 lead. The teams combined for 17 points over the first seven minutes of the third, but the next score didn’t come until the first minute of the fourth.
Hart’s third touchdown cut the lead to 35-31, but Michigan couldn’t take advantage of an Ohio State turnover on the ensuing drive. With less than six minutes to play, Smith’s fourth touchdown pass of the day — a 13-yard strike to Brian Robiskie — pushed the lead back to 11.
After throwing a touchdown pass to Adrian Arrington earlier in the game, Michigan quarterback Chad Henne answered with a 16-yard scoring strike to Tyler Ecker. A successful 2-point conversion got Michigan as close as it had been since the second quarter, but Pittman’s 6-yard run on third down on the ensuing possession ultimately put the contest away.
Ohio State finished with 503 yards of offense, but three turnovers kept the Buckeyes from being able to put Michigan away. Smith passed for 316 yards to go with his four touchdowns in the win. Pittman rushing (139) and Ginn receiving (104) each eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
Hart led all rushes with 142 yards and three touchdowns. Henne passed for 267 yards in the loss. Michigan’s Alan Branch and Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins had the game’s only interceptions.
There was talk of a potential rematch for a national championship in Glendale, but it would be Florida that ultimately got the nod to play Ohio State. Both the Buckeyes and Wolverines would go on to be defeated convincingly in their bowl games.
Ohio State was blasted 41-14 by the Gators for the BCS National Championship. Michigan fell to USC in the Rose Bowl, 32-18.
Although Ohio State and Michigan each closed the year on a sour note, they gave fans and spectators a show they won’t soon forget. They did so on this day 15 years ago.