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Why is Ohio State vs. Michigan called ‘The Game’

Here’s how one of the biggest rivalries in college football gets its name.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave catches a touchdown pass behind Michigan Wolverines defensive back Josh Metellus during the first quarter of the NCAA football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

The Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines have one of the biggest rivalries in college football, meeting in the final week of the Big Ten regular season for usually more than just bragging rights. The 2021 winner will be heading to the Big Ten championship game and likely the College Football Playoff as well. For a contest with this much at stake, being known as “The Game” seems somewhat plain.

Why is it called The Game?

While there is no official reasoning for this rivalry being dubbed “The Game”, the stakes it typically carries when it comes to national championship implications have moved its followers to call it that. There’s a lot of animosity between the two schools and states, with Ohio State fans refusing to reference Michigan by name during the rivalry week by using “TTUN or “TSUN” (That Team Up North or That State up North). The effect of the contest on the national landscape seems to be the biggest reason for the name. Everyone knows what’s at stake, so the simple name fits best.

Who won last year?

There was no contest last year, and it is a sore spot among Ohio State fans. The Buckeyes couldn’t compete due to COVID protocols, and Michigan administrators cancelled the game. Ohio State fans believe the Wolverines were actually ducking them due to Michigan being massive underdogs under the guise of protocols. Expect some of that lingering anger to be on display Saturday. The Buckeyes won in 2019, and have won the last eight meetings.

All-time results

Michigan actually leads the all-time series 58-51-6. The Wolverines started off the series with 13 wins and two ties, while Ohio State has dominated the rivalry lately with a 17-2 mark (including a vacated win) in the last 19 meetings.


The teams first met in 1897 and met every year from 1900-1912. After a five-year gap, the contest has gone uninterrupted from 1918-2019 before the 2020 game was cancelled. Outside of three instances, the game has always been played at the end of the regular season.

There have been several memorable results, with the Buckeyes winning a double-overtime thriller in 2016 and the Wolverines bagging a 40-34 victory in 2011. But the biggest game was dubbed “The Game of the Century” when No. 1 Ohio State met No. 2 Michigan in 2006 in Columbus.

The Buckeyes won 42-39, and fans cashed in on that score. The Ohio state lottery Pick 4 winning numbers for that day were 4-2-3-9 and according to the lottery spokesperson, the 401 people who made $1 wagers on those numbers got paid out $5,000 each.


There’s no trophy for this game, because there’s already so much at stake. Ohio State players do receive a gold pin in the shape of pants, stemming from former head coach Francis Schmidt’s comment about Michigan players “putting their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us”, believing the Wolverines weren’t invincible during their most dominant years of the rivalry.