Perhaps no single matchup of The Game was bigger than in 2006, when the number one Ohio State Buckeyes hosted the number two ranked Michigan Wolverines. The first time in the rivalry's history that the two top ranked teams in the country met, more was on the line than just a Big Ten championship and a berth in the national title game. This was Ohio State-Michigan, and what played out proved to be one of the best editions seen in a long, long time.
What follows is an "oral history" of the 2006 matchup between Ohio State and Michigan. Quotes from the commentating crew (Brett Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, and Bob Davies) are directly from the live broadcast, while the quotes from various Ohio State and Michigan players and coaches occurred both in the weeks prior and after the game.
Most quotes obtained from Ohio State's sports information department (player names contain linked attribution). The few not are linked and credited to their sources appropriately.
Ohio State 0 Michigan 0. 15:00 Remaining in the 1st Quarter
Public-Address Announcer: Michigan has lost a coach (Bo Schembechler died just two two days before the game) and patriarch ... The Big Ten has lost a legend and icon ... Ohio State has lost an alumnus and friend.
Play-by-Play Announcer Brent Musburger: This is one of the noisiest venues in college football!
Ohio State Right Tackle Kirk Barton: I think we had a great deal of confidence coming into this game. We heard a lot of people saying we had not played anyone.
Michigan received the ball first. Early on in their first drive of the game, Michigan quarterback Chad Henne hit a streaking Mario Manningham down the middle for 24 yards.
Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel: There were a lot of good play-makers out there today ... it was a fast-break game the whole way.
Color Commentator Kirk Herbstreit: Chad Henne in rhythm is where he is most dangerous.
Musburger: They (Michigan) think they can do business against this (Ohio State) secondary.
The Michigan drive continues thanks to the hard running of senior running back Mike Hart.
Herbstreit: One of the things that helps Mike Hart to get through there is the passing to slow down these safeties and linebackers.
Ohio State Defensive Tackle Quinn Pitcock: One of the best, Hart, best back we've faced.
Henne and Manningham continue to pick apart the Buckeyes secondary, the latest connection placing the Wolverines at the Ohio State one yard line.
Ohio State Defensive Tackle David Patterson: He (Henne) looks like a veteran out there. He sits back in the pocket and gets the balls to his play-makers. He is doing a great job.
Running back Mike Hart walks into the end zone to give the Wolverines an early lead.
Musburger: Somewhere, some place Bo Schembechler is smiling.
Ohio State 0 Michigan 7. 12:32 Remaining in the 1st Quarter
The Buckeyes received the kickoff and quickly got to work. Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith was the key early, as Tressel called for eight straight pass plays to start the drive.
Color Commentator Bob Davie: You see the key already in this football game: can Ohio State protect.
Michigan Defensive End Lamar Woodley: You know, we was getting pressure on them, but he (Smith) managed to get the ball off a few times and scrambled and got a few passes.
On a big 3rd and 16 Smith completes a strike down the middle to Roy Hall for 27 yards to extend the drive.
Davie: It all comes down to the quarterbacks.
Michigan Quarterback Chad Henne: Troy Smith's a great quarterback and he proved that today.
Facing his fourth 3rd down of the drive, Smith finds Hall again, this time for a touchdown.
Musburger: The Buckeyes convert 3rd and 4, 3rd and 16, 3rd and 5, and now 3rd and goal.
Ohio State Quarterback Troy Smith: One way I stay focused (in a hectic moment) is by staying wrapped up in my teammates. We have such love and passion for each other because of our situation and all of the ups and downs we experience with each other throughout the season. I just try to wrap myself up in them.
Ohio State 7 Michigan 7. 6:03 Remaining in the 1st Quarter
The following three drives produced very little yardage, zero points and three punts. Ohio State regained possession of the ball early in the 2nd quarter.
Ohio State 7 Michigan 7. 13:18 Remaining in the 2nd Quarter
Smith scrambles ahead for six yards but takes a big hit from Michigan linebacker David Harris.
Herbstreit: David Harris, the leading tackler for the Wolverine, puts it on him!
Ohio State Defensive Tackle Joey Penton: It was an incredibly physical game. You have big, strong Big Ten players battling.
On the very next play Ohio State true freshman running back Chris "Beanie" Wells took a handoff all the way to the house.
Musburger: And spinning loose, breaking free heading for the end zone ... Chris Wells! 52 yards!
Ohio State Right Tackle Kirk Barton (to Bleacher Report): Wells braking that long run early in the game, I ran up, and my job was to block the safety ... so I got the safety. I ran up and shoved him right into the umpire, and that umpire went flying. Beanie went for 50-plus yards, and I was watching this umpire get crushed (you can see this happen about five seconds into the below clip).
Tressel: Those guys blocking for (Wells) did a good job.
Ohio State 14 Michigan 7. 12:29 Remaining in the 2nd Quarter
Herbstreit: For the first time this stadium here has come alive!
Smith: It is going to be complete pandemonium around the stadium with two teams of this caliber and tradition. There is going to be mile-high excitement all around.
At the start of the next Michigan drive Chad Henne is pressured and is forced into an intentional grounding foul by Ohio State cornerback Antonio Smith
Herbstreit: You're starting to sense that the Ohio State defensive front is beginning to win the battle in the trenches.
Michigan is forced to punt, but a roughing the center call (seriously) gives the ball back to Michigan. Ohio State quickly holds again, and once again gets the ball back.
Smith: Big players make big plays in big games.
Herbstreit They're (Ohio State) one of the more explosive offenses in the country.
Musburger: 2nd down powering ahead ... great fake! Wide open Ginn! Touchdown Ohio State! And it was off a beautiful fake by Troy Smith, a 39-yard explosion.
Davies: It's not the x's and o's, it's the Jimmys and the Joes.
Ohio State Wide Receiver Ted Ginn Jr.: First, the protection was great for Troy. Then I had to sell the fact I was going to stay in and block. Once I got by my man, I just ran as fast as I could up the seam.
Tressel: You know, that was a play we'd been working on for a while, and Beanie, when Beanie comes in, he's our short yardage back, and it was only a second and one, but we thought maybe we could bait them into thinking we were just going to get the first down, and great execution, the offensive line did a great job protecting and Beanie did a good job of jumping up there and Troy kept his head down, and Teddy's fast.
Herbstreit: You better bump Ted Ginn at the line of scrimmage, if you let him off I don't care how fast you are.
Ohio State 21 Michigan 7. 6:11 Remaining in the 2nd Quarter
Mike Hart began imposing his will on the Ohio State defense, breaking free for 30 yards early in the drive.
Henne: Both offenses were making plays and the defenses were definitely fighting hard.
When Michigan dropped back to pass on 1st and 10 inside Ohio State territory Henne was dropped for a big loss.
Patterson: I think we have been putting a lot more pressure on people. Our defense as a whole has done a great job.
Then on 2nd and 20 Henne connected with wide receiver Adrian Arrington for a 37 yard touchdown.
Pitcock: (Michigan) is the toughest team we've played all year.
Ohio State 21 Michigan 14. 2:33 Remaining in the 2nd Quarter
Ohio State responded with their own touchdown, courtesy of a nine play 80 yard drive that saw Smith connect with wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez to put the Buckeyes up 14 headed to halftime.
Ohio State 28 Michigan 14. Start of the 2nd Half
Musburger: Kirk, you and I were talking, Troy Smith has been unbeatable in big games.
After Musburger jinxes Smith and the Buckeyes into three straight incompletions, Ohio State is forced to punt.
Herbstreit: That's exactly what Michigan needed to start the first half.
Mike Hart breaks off a 33 yard run on 3rd and short.
Musburger: First man cannot stop the little rascal (Hart)
Davies: This is Bo Schembechler isolation football!
Musburger: Call your friends folks, call them right now. This one's getting real interesting.
Mike Hart's short touchdown run trims Ohio State's lead to just one score.
Ohio State 28 Michigan 21. 12:12 Remaining in the 3rd Quarter
After Ohio State regains possession, an errant Smith pass is deflected into the arms of Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch.
Ohio State Center Doug Datish: We said going into this game, it'd be the most physical battle we've face all year and it definitely lived up to that reputation.
Ohio State's defense holds Michigan to a field goal, but the Buckeyes' already slim lead is down to four.
Ohio State 28 Michigan 24. 8:41 Remaining in the 3rd Quarter
Herbstreit: This is where you really show what you're made out of as a quarterback after hitting some adversity for one of the first times this season.
Musburger: With White leading the way ... breaking free again! Touchdown Ohio State, this time it's Antonio Pittman.
Tressel: Pitt's (run), he hit a crease. I don't know if anyone got a glove on him.
Michigan Head Coach Lloyd Carr: We gave up too many big plays ... those are mistakes in a game like this, in any game, that will get you beat.
Pittman's 56-yard touchdown straight through the heart of the Michigan defense gave Ohio State a two score advantage yet again.
Ohio State 35 Michigan 24. 8:04 Remaining in the 3rd Quarter
Musburger: And the Akron twins, Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells, have done their job.
Musburger: Jim Tressel is simply the best play caller in college football that I have watched in a long, long time.
Upon receiving the kickoff from Ohio State, Michigan was forced to punt. This was followed up by a bad snap from center Doug Datish which was recovered by Michigan lineman Alan Branch.
Tressel: Michigan's a great football team everyone saw that, they weren't going to give up because that's the way they're built.
Ohio State Defensive Back Brandon Mitchell: We were fighting hard to try to make plays. Michigan had a great offensive plan, but I don't think we played as well as we could.
Hart takes advantage of the turnover and punches it in from a yard out for his third touchdown of the night, making it a one score game once again.
Musburger: An amazing performance by 5'9 Mike Hart.
Herbstreit: Legends are made in this rivalry.
After the Hart touchdown Ohio State now led 35-30. Michigan ran their offense back out onto the field to go for two, but after an Ohio State timeout, Michigan kicked the extra point instead.
Carr: Well, the chart said two, and I was happy to have them use a timeout. You know, we had a play call. They lined up, saw what we were in, and then called a timeout. And he was happy to have them use a timeout at that point. I just felt it was a little bit early.
Ohio State 35 Michigan 31. 14:41 Remaining in the 4th Quarter
Ohio State began driving until a second bad snap by Datish led to another Wolverines recovery.
Ohio State Center Doug Datish: The first one, obviously was high. The second one got caught in a divot on the field, the ball got stuck on the divot. There's no excuse, that's my sole and first huge duty on the field is to give Troy the ball.
Michigan took over with solid field position, but were forced to punt following an incomplete Henne pass on 3rd and short.
Henne: They were trying to bring in from every which way. I was sliding most of the protection to the threat, but, I mean, they're great athletes and they're going to get by. You put them one on one, and 50 percent of the time they're going to win and 50 percent we're going to win.
Ohio State began driving down the field with help from a trick play to Pittman to pick up a big Buckeyes first down.
Davies: The ole Statue of Liberty.
Ohio State stalls following a delay of game, and faces a long 3rd and 15 with just 6:58 remaining in the 4th.
Musburger: Smith has to take off, dances free now, he'll throw ... incomplete. And a penalty flag. Michigan will debate this. Crable over on the nearside. Smith was going out of bounds, personal foul, a huge call.
Tressel (to Ann Arbor.com): If you want to be a champion as a quarterback, toughness is No.1. And he (Smith) is that. He stands in there and he knows that's part of the game and he pops back up for the next one.
Musburger: He (Carr) can complain all he wants, there was helmet contact.
Woodley: I think we were just a second off from getting back there a few times. And then a few times, some of our plays didn't work.
Troy Smith drives the Buckeyes down inside the Michigan 10 yard line where he hits wide receiver Brian Robiskie with a strike for a Buckeyes' touchdown.
Herbstreit: 11 plays, 83 yards, and more importantly, five minutes off the clock.
Woodley: I thought it would be a low-scoring game ... it kind of shocked everybody.
Smith: Robiskie just made a great catch. It was an adjustment that he made that not too many people could make.
Henne: Troy Smith's a great quarterback and he proved that today.
Ohio State 42 Michigan 31. 5:38 Remaining in the 4th Quarter
Musburger: The Buckeyes are five minutes away from playing for a national championship.
Michigan slowly marches down the field curtesy of several short Henne passes. Upon testing the middle of the Buckeyes defense, Laurinaitis makes a Wolverines receiver pay.
Patterson: James works so hard. He is always busting his butt and putting in extra time and watching films. His work ethic is very similar to A.J. Hawk's. Being under A.J. and Bobby (Carpenter) helped him a lot.
Davie: That was a great hit by Laurinaitis.
Michigan gets saved on a questionable 4th down pass interference call on Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, and the Wolverines take advantage with a touchdown pass from Henne to tight end Tyler Ecker. The two-point conversion attempt was successful.
Ohio State 42 Michigan 39. 2:16 Remaining in the 4th Quarter
Musburger: Here it is onside kick, battle for the scrum, there he is, Tedd Ginn wraps it up for the Buckeyes.
Hart: We lost. You know, that's the only thing. You know, we didn't score enough points on offense. We lost.
Musburger: Game over, Ohio State will play for a national championship. The Buckeyes beat their archrival ... again.
Smith: The national championship was something aside, was something different from this. This is The Ohio State University-Michigan game. It's the biggest game in college football. And today the best team won.