ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan feels overdue to upset Ohio State.
The Wolverines have lost five straight and 12 of 13 to the rival Buckeyes and even though Saturday’s game is at the Big House, they are double-digit underdogs.
Few outside Michigan expect No. 8 Ohio State to lose the 114th matchup in the rivalry known as The Game. But if Jim Harbaugh can help his program pull an upset and keep Urban Meyer’s team out of the playoff picture, it wouldn’t be the first time the unexpected happened in one of college football’s famed rivalries.
It just hasn’t happened much lately in what has become a predictable, lopsided series.
The favored team has won 12 straight games in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, according to Pregame.com, and the only double-digit underdog since 1980 to pull off an upset was the Wolverines in 1996 when the Buckeyes were favored to beat them by 17 and lost at home.
In that stunner, a seven-win Michigan beat undefeated and second-ranked Ohio State 13-9 during a stretch in which the maize and blue went 11-4-1 against the scarlet and gray. Brian Griese came off the bench to throw a touchdown pass and Charles Woodson led the Wolverines defense, much to the chagrin fans bitter that another of their own had left Ohio to play for “that school up north,” as Woody Hayes used to say.
The Buckeyes’ biggest upset in nearly four decades, according to Pregame.com, which provides odds to The Associated Press, was a 26-20 win in 2001 as an unranked team and eight-plus point underdog against the 11th-ranked Wolverines.
Here’s a look at some of the other surprising results in other rivalries resuming this week:
One of the most notable upsets in Iron Bowl history came in 1972. No. 2 Alabama, undefeated and a two-touchdown favorite, led 16-0 in the fourth quarter. Bill Newton blocked two punts and David Langner returned both for touchdowns and a 17-16 victory.
On a night in 2004 when Florida State named its playing field after coach Bobby Bowden, the unranked Gators spoiled the party with a 20-10 win that was their first on the road in the series since 1986 in coach Ron Zook’s final game in the rivalry. Chris Leak threw for 231 yards with a touchdown and interception. The loss ended any hopes the Seminoles had of a third straight Bowl Championship Series berth.
Perhaps the biggest upset in the rivalry came in 1966, Bobby Dodd’s final season as Yellow Jackets coach. Georgia Tech’s bid for a perfect season ended with its 23-14 loss to Georgia. Kent Lawrence provided the big play for Georgia with a 71-yard punt return. Georgia Tech finished 9-2 with a loss to a Florida team led by quarterback Steve Spurrier in the Orange Bowl. Georgia finished 10-1 with a Cotton Bowl win over SMU under young coach Vince Dooley.
There have been plenty of memorable and surprising wins on both sides in the Apple Cup, but none tops Washington State’s 24-20 win over the Huskies in 1982. Washington entered the game ranked fifth in the country and 9-1 overall. The Cougars were 2-7-1 and hadn’t scored more than 17 points in eight of their 10 games entering the game. The first Apple Cup played on campus at Washington State in 28 years ended up knocking Washington out of the Rose Bowl. The Cougars, decked out in all crimson uniforms for the first time since the 1931 Rose Bowl, led 21-20 late in the fourth quarter when Huskies kicker Chuck Nelson attempted a 33-yard field goal. Nelson had made an NCAA-record 30 straight field goal attempts but this one with 4:35 left was wide right and the Cougars held on.
The 113-game history of the Egg Bowl has included some of the biggest upsets in the past decade. In 2009, a Mississippi State team with a 4-7 record knocked off No. 20 Ole Miss 41-27. It was easily the biggest moment in Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen’s first season. In 2014, No. 18 Ole Miss beat No. 4 Mississippi State 31-17 and ended the Bulldogs’ hope of being included in the first College Football Playoff.
The biggest upset in the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry came in 1980 when the Tigers upset the 14th-ranked Gamecocks, 27-6. South Carolina came in 8-2, featured Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers and had won six of its last seven games. Clemson was 5-5 and coach Danny Ford knew his team needed something to pump them up, so after warmups the team changed into all-orange uniforms — a first at the time for the Tigers. Willie Underwood had two interceptions, both which led to touchdowns in Clemson’s win. The victory has been cited by many as a springboard for Clemson’s 1981 team that went 12-0 and won its first national title.
NORTH CAROLINA-NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Wolfpack fans still insist T.A. McLendon scored. Arguably the most memorable upset in the history of the rivalry came in 2004 at North Carolina. North Carolina State, a double-digit favorite, lost 30-24 when the officials ruled that McLendon was stopped inches short of the goal line in the final seconds after one of them signaled for a touchdown. McLendon then fumbled on the next play and the Tar Heels recovered to seal the win.
The most memorable upset for the Old Oaken Bucket came in 1989. The 2-8 Boilermakers were going nowhere and the 5-5 Hoosiers had everything at stake: a bowl bid, their third straight win in the rivalry and, probably, Anthony Thompson’s Heisman hopes. Larry Sullivan made a late field goal to give Purdue a 15-14 lead. Indiana had a chance to win in the end, but freshman Scott Bonnell missed a 26-yard field goal wide left. Thompson, the nation’s leading rusher, finished the season 207 yards short of becoming college football’s seventh 2,000-yard runner and settled for second in the Heisman voting behind Houston’s Andre Ware.
The rivals will meet for the 127th time Saturday, the most in a major college football series, and the biggest upsets were in consecutive years: 1993 and 1994. Wisconsin’s breakout season was 1993, reaching the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1962, but its unbeaten season came to end at the Metrodome, beaten 28-21 by a Gophers team that finished 4-7. Wisconsin could’ve been national champions since Florida State took the title with one loss. The following year, a Gophers team that finished 3-8 went to Madison and got to parade Paul Bunyan’s Axe around Camp Randall Stadium after a 17-14 victory.
The fifth-ranked Badgers are 17-point favorites against Minnesota this year, needing a win and a Big Ten championship victory over Ohio State to likely earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.