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The Game: Inside the Ohio State vs. Michigan Rivalry

Ohio State and Michigan will meet on Saturday at noon. Here’s how these longtime rivals have fared on and off the field.

There are few games that are bigger for both Ohio State and Michigan than what’s come to be known as The Game. Currently, Ohio State is on its longest win streak in the rivalry’s history at eight games straight, dating back to 2012.

More importantly, playoff implications abound for both teams. With Georgia the last standing undefeated Power 5 school, there is a possibility that for the first time ever, a two-loss team could make the College Football Playoff.

The Buckeyes fell earlier in the year to Oregon, and Michigan suffered a defeat to in-state rival Michigan State. Lucky enough for Michigan, Michigan State lost a week later to unranked Purdue, causing the Spartans to drop below the Wolverines. The Buckeyes currently sit inside the CFP top four at No. 4, while Michigan is at No. 6. Whoever comes out of the game victorious will likely hold a top four position afterward. The loser will likely miss out. 

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The rivalry between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines dates back over 100 years to 1897. For the first 50 years of The Game, Michigan ruled, winning 33 of the matchups. Four of the games from the first half-century resulted in a tie and the Buckeyes won the remaining 13, resulting in a 50-year tally of 31-12-4, in favor of Michigan.

From 1951 to 2000, the Buckeyes began to make up ground. Ohio State won 22, Michigan was the winner in 25, and two were tie games. One hundred year tally: 56-34-6, in favor of the Wolverines.

But for Michigan fans born after the year 2000, there have not been many happy days when the two teams have faced off. Since the start of the new millennium, the Buckeyes have beaten the Wolverines 17 times to Michigan’s three. Current tally: 58-51-6. (Ohio State vacated all 2010 Big Ten victories.) And with the Buckeyes on their longest winning streak in series history, Michigan will try to right nearly a decade of wrongs. 


Ohio State: Crossing out the ‘M’s: In the lead-up to The Game, Buckeye students, alumni and fans want absolutely nothing to do with the letter ‘M.’ So much so that in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and on Ohio State’s campus, fans cross out the letter M wherever they might find it. Even local stores and shops participate in “canceling” Michigan. 

Ohio State: Gold Pants: Outside of pride and bragging rights, if the Buckeyes win, players receive a gold pants charm that symbolizes the Wolverines’ yellow pants to showcase the win. 

Michigan: Those Who Stay Will Be Champions: The phrase comes from long-time Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler. In 1969 Schembechler took the reins of the Wolverine coaching staff and enacted a culture change that initiated more conditioning and tougher practices. The practices weren’t popular and weeded out nearly half the preseason roster. Schembechler coined the phrase “those who stay will be champions.” That same season, Michigan went on to upset the No. 1 Buckeyes to win the Big Ten Championship

Michigan: Go Blue Banner – Since 1962 as Michigan players exit the locker room and head toward the field, all members of the team jump to touch the “Go Blue: M Club Supports You” banner. The banner was made by the Michigan graduate “M” Club. 

Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images


In terms of money and athletic budget, Ohio State and Michigan aren’t far apart. Though Michigan earned more money from football in the 2019-20 season, Ohio State spent more. One could argue that the money spent was worth it because the Buckeyes made it to the national championship game last season before falling to Alabama.

As for head coaching salaries, Ryan Day tops Jim Harbaugh, according to USA Today. Day comes in at $6.75 million whereas Harbaugh makes $4 million. 

There is a slight discrepancy in terms of the recruiting budget. Michigan spends $1.86 million on recruiting and Ohio State spends $1.38 million. Still, the Buckeyes are doing more with less. Their 2021 football recruiting class was ranked second only to Alabama. Michigan comes in at No. 13, per 247Sports.

Overall, Ohio State’s athletic revenue is $40 million more than its nemesis, Michigan. The Buckeyes raked in $233.8 million, while Michigan comes in at $192.4 million, according to Sportico. The $40 million difference comes in large part from ticket sales and donations. Ticket sales contribute $65.9 million to Michigan’s $57.1 million. For donations, Michigan receives $32 million to Ohio State’s $48.1 million.

Michigan Athletic Revenue: $192,403,168
Ohio State Athletic Revenue: $233,871,740

Michigan Football Operating Revenue: $125,773,306
Ohio State Football Operating Revenue: $115,510,031

Michigan Football Operating Expense: $44,684,585
Ohio State Football Operating Expense: $52,616,230

Michigan Football Head Coach Salary: $6.75 million
Ohio State Football Head Coach Salary: $4.00 million

Michigan Men’s Athletics Recruiting Salary: $1.86 million
Ohio State Men’s Athletics Recruiting Salary: $1.38 million

NFL Players

At the next level, Ohio State and Michigan are among the most prestigious schools to produce players for the NFL. Currently, Ohio State outranks Michigan with total players in the league; the Buckeyes have 57 pros and the Wolverines have 41. Of those players, the Buckeyes’ combined career earnings are nearly $1 billion, according to Spotrac, at $975.9 million. With the Wolverines outnumbered, their value is significantly less at $736.4 million. However Michigan, has more players in the Pro Football Hall of Famers with 13, compared to 10 for Ohio State. 

About The Author
Randall Williams
Randall Williams
Randall Williams is a Staff Writer covering sports business and music for Boardroom. Before joining the team, he previously worked for Sportico, Andscape and Bloomberg. His byline has also been syndicated in the Boston Globe and Time Magazine. Williams' notable profile features he has written include NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent, Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad, BMX biker Nigel Sylvester and both Shedeur and Shilo Sanders. Randall, a graduate of "The Real HU" - Hampton University - is most proud of scooping Howard University joining Jordan Brand nearly three months before the official announcement.