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| 2 min read | by Doug Marrin, dmarrin@thesuntimesnews.com |

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It was November 23, 1969, and the media was hyping Ohio State’s football team as the “greatest college football team of all time.” The Buckeyes, ranked #1, were returning national champions and somehow had improved on the year before. This season no team had come within four touchdowns of or scored more than 21 points on Ohio State.

This game was the first in what would become known as “The Ten Year War” between the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes, between Michigan Head Coach Bo Schembechler and Ohio State Head Coach Woody Hayes.

It was Bo Schembechler’s first year at Michigan coming after six years coaching football at Miami of Ohio. He had been assigned the task of turning around a storied program that had fallen on hard times, by Michigan standards, over the past ten years. Bo was off to a great first season with a 7-2 record and ranked #12 going into the game.

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But to get to the Rose Bowl that year, Bo would have to go through his old mentor, Woody Hayes, and his seemingly unbeatable Buckeyes. Bo had served under Woody as an assistant coach at Ohio State. The Buckeyes were favored by 17 points going into the game.

“This game was against a team that Woody admittedly said was the best team he ever had,” Schembechler said in an ESPN Classic documentary. “All of the knowledgeable sportswriters around the country called it the greatest team of all-time. It was generally thought the only team that could compete with them were the powerful Minnesota Vikings.”

Bo Schembechler, 1969 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hayes was no doubt was out to teach his young upstart protégée a firm lesson as to who ruled the field in collegiate football. But Woody may have underestimated the iron-resolve of his former assistant.

“Ohio State wasn’t another team and he wasn’t another guy,” says Bo. “When I came in here, I told our staff that we are here to beat one and only one team Woody Hayes and Ohio State.”

Michigan Stadium was packed with a then record-setting crowd of 103,588. Ohio State scored first but failed to convert. The Wolverines responded with a touchdown of their own and the extra point put them up 7-6. The Buckeyes were trailing for the first time that season. The two teams went back and forth for another score. The Buckeyes went for a two-point conversion and failed. The Wolverines were up 14-12. The Wolverines continued to play like men possessed and added another 10 points to their score while holding the Buckeyes in check. Score at the half: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12.

The third quarter came and the wheels came off the wagon for the unnerved Buckeyes who committed seven turnovers in the second half with six of them interceptions. Michigan, however, was unable to capitalize on any of the mistakes or score on their own. Final score: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12.

The rivalry between the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes is the greatest in college football.  No other rivalry in the sport approaches the combination of history, heartbreak, and euphoria with consistent championship implications.

And here we are 50 years later. Ohio State is ranked #2 in the College Playoff Standings and Michigan is #13. The Buckeyes have had their way with the Wolverines over the past 10 years or so and are favored again this year by nine points.

The Ten Year War has turned into a Fifty Year War losing very little in the animosity the two schools have for each other. And as players, coaches, and fans all know, in a battle of arch-rivals, anything can happen.

Sources: Wikipedia: The Ten Year War | ESPN Classic Football Game: 1969 Ohio St. vs. Michigan

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