Ohio State vs. Michigan: A Recap of the Past Decade on Offense


It is not very often that we get to discuss a game of this magnitude, but once a year we get to dissect one of the most historical rivalries in all of sports.

The Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines have two of the most illustrious histories in college football and since 1935, there’s been so many great games to reminisce. The latest installment of “the game” is approaching fast and while  we cannot examine every contest since 1935, we can take a look at the last ten years.

From 2004 to 2013, the Ohio State Buckeyes absolutely dominated this series. In the last decade, the Bucks have gone 9-1 against the slowly declining Wolverines, with the only loss coming by way of the forgettable 2011 season. Luke Fickell had taken over the helm on an interim basis, following the embarrassing “Tattoo Gate” scandal.

During the past ten years, Ohio State was ranked in the top-10 eight times Michigan was ranked six time in the top-25; twice in the top-10.

In 2005. we saw one of the more epic battles of this decade with #9 OSU overcoming the determined, #17 UM team, 25- 21. This set up perhaps the most intense game of the entire rivalry as the #2 Michigan Wolverines entered Columbus to take on the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes in 2006. The Bucks won the titanic contest to a tune of 42- 39. The 2012 match-up offered another memorable contest as the #4 Buckeyes squeaked by #20 Wolverines, 26- 21.

Not only was this decade full of high stakes but they were also full of talent. A breakdown of the offensive talent featured in this series means revisiting some of the most talented players in all of college football during their time and in most cases, some of the NFL’s brightest, young players now.

January 1,2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson (16) against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback: Troy Smith v. Denard Robinson: Troy Smith was a Buckeye from 2002- 2006, receiving a redshirt in 2002. He didn’t take over the reigns under center until Justin Zwick suffered an injury against the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2004. From that point on Smith made it his mission to destroy Michigan and he went un-defeated as a starter against that team up North. In 2006 he really showcased his talents as he was not just an All- American, but also a Heisman Trophy winner.

Denard “Shoelace” Robinson’s career at Michigan was a highlight reel and the fact that he fumbled then recovered and scored on his first snap describes his career perfectly . He was a Wolverine from 2009- 2012 and even though he was only 1-3 against the Bucks, he was lighting in a bottle. Robinson came in with another highly touted Freshman in Tate Forcier and Forcier was the starter until he was benched against Iowa in the same season. Robinson came into the game and set the UM record book on fire.

This goes against everything I believe in, but this is a toss- up and if I had to choose one I might even pick Robinson. Smith was blessed to be on some amazing Ohio State teams, including the amazing 2006 season where his top four receivers were eventually drafted within the first four rounds (Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez were both drafted in the first). Robinson was throwing to Jeremy Gallon, who went in the seventh round and was his most consistent receiver all four years.

Nov 30, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde (34) runs the ball during the third quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Running Back: Chris “Beanie” Wells, Carlos Hyde v. Mike Hart, Fitzgerald Toussaint: This one isn’t even fair. Wells put himself on the map his Freshman season against the Wolverines, when he broke off a 52- yard run to finish off the victory. When Antonio Pittman graduated, Wells took over the full RB duties as a Sophomore and had the second most rushing yards in OSU history against UM with 222. After another successful season he decided to go pro early. Hyde was less explosive than Wells, but dominant none the less. He took over the starting RB duties his Junior season and never looked back. Eventually becoming All- Big Ten and All- American his Senior season.

Hart was the more impressive Wolverine back of the two even though he went 0-4 against the Bucks during his time. In 2004 Hart bursted onto the scene and earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year after breaking the UM Freshman record for most rushing yards in a season with 1,455. His sophomore year was mired by injuries, but he still accumulated 662 rushing yards and remained a vital part of the Wolverine rushing attack. He was healthy in 2006 and was even fifth in the Heisman race. The lowlight of his career came on his own Senior day against Ohio State when he only gained 44 rushing yards. The second UM back on this list is Fitzgerald Toussaint, who was the starting back from 2011- 2013. After taking a redshirt in 2009 and remaining a back- up in 2010, he had his most successful season in 2011 as he earned All- Big Ten Honorable Mention. Toussaint and Robinson formed a devastating rushing attack. His 2012 season was cut short after breaking his leg and even though he returned in 2013 it was a bit more mediocre than expected.

This match- up is too easy and the lack of talent at the running back position the last ten years at UM is alarming. There have been numerous top recruits go to Ann Arbor and none of them have panned out. There has been a serious lack of development up North, meanwhile Ohio State has had two of the more impressive backs in the recent history of the Big Ten. The edge here goes to the Buckeyes for sure.

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Wide Receiver: Ted Ginn Jr., Santonio Holmes, and Anthony Gonzalez vs. Braylon Edwards, Mario Manningham, and Devin Funchess: The OSU lineup is full of speed, starting with Ginn, who started out his collegiate career at CB before making his transition to WR. He wasted no time making an impact and was perhaps his most dangerous returning punts as he took four back to the house as a freshman. His sophomore season is where he finally started at the WR position, but as a junior he teamed with Gonzalez to form one of the more dominant receiving duos. Ginn earned All- American and All- Big Ten honors during his career as a Buckeye from 2004- 2006.

Holmes took a red shirt in 2002, but after that he was one of the most consistent play-makers in OSU history. His career totals are jaw dropping as he recorded 245 receptions for 3,496 yards from 2003-2005. He was another speedster that shined extremely bright during his time in the scarlet and gray Anthony Gonzalez was my third choice for this list of elite talent and he was amazing. Much like Ginn, Gonzo was recruited as a defensive back and made his way to the offensive side of the ball fairly early in his Buckeye career. Again much like Ginn, Gonzo had the speed to electrify and make defenses pay. It is hard to remember a better OSU receiving core than the 2006 team that featured Ginn and Gonzo.

The Wolverine All- Decade receiving core can hold its own. Even though the UM running back core was a bit lackluster, these receivers can ball with the best of them. Obviously the leader here is Braylon Edwards. He made his presence felt from 2001-2004, but his senior season was by far his best season and lucky for us that was at the beginning of the decade. In 2004, He was an All- American, Biletnikoff Award winner, and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

Oct 11, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Devin Funchess (1) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Now we have the first current player on this list, as Devin Funchess has been making defensive backs pay since his arrival in 2012. During his first game he recorded over 100 yards receiving, which was the first game a UM tight end reached that milestone in a single game since 1997. He continued that success throughout his freshman season and eventually earned freshman All- American honors. Funchess played TE in 2012 and 2013, but made the move to WR this season. He will be looking for his first win against OSU this season.

Manningham is one of the few Ohio boys that chose to dawn the maize and blue for their college career, but he made it matter. He was best known for his performances in big games, even though he never defeated the Buckeyes he had epic performances against great teams such as Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Penn State. His best season was his last in 2007 as he etched his name in the UM record books in numerous categories while gaining All- American honors.

Obviously, the edge for the receiver category goes to the Ohio State Buckeyes, but this was much closer than the running back comparison. The Wolverines have had a host of elite receivers walk through their program, but Holmes, Ginn, and Gonzo were on another level. They impacted the game on offense and on special teams. Their may be a tad bit of bias considering that Ginn and Gonzo played together on the same field, but it was pure magic and Manningham just doesn’t hold a candle to those guys.

Nov 30, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Jeff Heuerman (86) receives congratulations from offensive linesman Jack Mewhort (74) offensive linesman Corey Linsley (71) and offensive linesman Andrew Norwell (78) after touchdown in the third quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: Nick Mangold, Jack Mewhort, Kirk Barton, Mike Brewster, and Justin Boren vs. Jake Long, Taylor Lewan, David Baas, David Molk, and Adam Stenavich: Mangold was a three year starter for the Buckeyes and emerged as a force to be reckoned with on the interior after Alex Stepanovich suffered an injury early in 2003. Once Mangold took the reigns in 2003 he never let go and went on to become All- Big Ten in 2004 and 2005, before being a first round selection by the New York Jets.

Mewhort stepped on the OSU campus ready to compete and was named a Freshman All- American in 2010. He only improved from there as he played at an elite level his entire career, eventually becoming an All- American in 2013. Barton was another quality Buckeye lineman that had few accolades, but played a vital part on the Buckeye offensive line from 2004- 2007.Mike Brewster was another one of the more impressive offensive linemen in Ohio State history as he began starting his freshman season after Steve Rehring suffered an injury and never looked back. Brewster’s 49 consecutive starts is the second longest streak in OSU history. He earned a plethora of accolades ranging from All- American to All- conference throughout his career. Justin Boren is the last player on this list and perhaps the most interesting, because he attended Michigan before transferring to OSU after head coach Lloyd Carr retired. Due to Big Ten rules he was forced to pay his own tuition. He went on to earn All- American and All- Big Ten honors throughout his career.

Jake Long is arguably the greatest UM player to ever see the field and the fact the Miami Dolphins selected him first overall only emphasizes this point. He was in Ann Arbor from 2003-2007 and was redshirt-ed during the 2003 season. During his time at UM, Long was a two time All- American. Taylor Lewan was another massive and elite talent that sprung onto the scene after his redshirt season in 2010. He was so impressive during his time at UM that he won Big Ten Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year twice.

David Baas was a dominate interior offensive linemen in the beginning of the decade from 2001- 2004. Guards usually do not receive much credit, but Baas earned first team All- Big Ten honors his last three seasons. He was even versatile enough to start at center halfway through his senior season. David Molk is the next guy on this list and even though he is no where near as impressive as the three above him, he was still an integral part of the Wolverine rushing attack his last two seasons. He was a part of this program from 2007 to 2011, and his final season was his finest as he took home the Rimington Trophy. The final UM O- lineman on this list is Adam Stenavich, who is best known for missing the 2005 Rose Bowl due to a public urination charge, but he was also the starting left tackle from 2003- 2005. He earned All- Big Ten his last two seasons.

The offensive line edge goes to the Wolverines, who have the enormously talented Long and Lewan. Enough can not be said about the talent Jake Long has and he will go down as one of the most gifted Wolverines in history. The Buckeye offensive line has been no joke in recent years, but the talent UM has up front year in and year out cannot be ignored. The main misfortune for the Bucks is the fact that Boren never lived up to the hype that surrounded him when first transfered to OSU.

Kicker: Mike Nugent vs. Garrett Rivas: The “Nuge” was arguably the most consistent kicker in Buckeye history from 2001-2004. He was a two- time All- American in 2002 and 2004 as well as a Lou Groza Award winner his senior season. Nugent owns 22 OSU records, including most points in a career with 356 and is the only kicker in team history to be named team MVP. Enough cannot be said about how important Nugent’s leg was during his time as a Buckeye, but his numerous records help prove my point.

Rivas was not as nationally recognized, but he still made his way into the Wolverine record book on numerous accounts. He was the starting kicker from 2003-2006 and was All- Big Ten in 2006 as well as honorable mention in 2004 and 2005. During his time at Michigan, Rivas saw his fair share of close games and he was known for doing his job as well as anyone at the time.

Rivas was a very good kicker in his day, but the “Nuge” was arguably one of the greatest kickers in Ohio State history. This contest was easy, because OSU produces great kicker after great kicker on a regular basis. Michigan has had some great success in the kicking game, but not on the kind of level OSU has.

Nov 8, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer leads his team onto the field prior to a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Overall the Ohio State Buckeyes have had better offenses than the Michigan Wolverines and the talent above illustrates that point. After looking over the past ten years and each team’s key players it is easy to see why OSU has gone 9-1 this past decade. With studs like Ted Ginn Jr., Santonio Holmes, and Chris Wells compared to Fitzgerald Toussaint, Mario Manningham, and Mike Hart the winner was easy to choose.