Our friends over at SB Nation have deemed this week Underdog Week, and to celebrate, I thought we could take a look back at my personal favorite Ohio State-underdog story: 2018 Ohio State vs. Michigan.
In case you missed it, our own Gene Ross wrote about the success the Buckeyes have had as underdogs in recent years. In fact, they are 7-1 as the non-favorited team since 2012. So, if you’re an opposing fan, its probably not in your best interest to bet against the Bucks.
Betting against Ohio State only fuels the fire. Betting against Ohio State when they’re playing TTUN? Well, the fire is just unmaintainable at that point. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what happened in the days leading up to Nov. 24, 2018. Let’s reminisce, shall we?
Michigan vs. Notre Dame
Sept. 18, 2018— It was the first college football Saturday of the year and the No. 14 Wolverines were set to begin their season at Notre Dame Stadium against the No. 12 Fighting Irish. Whether it was first-game jitters or simply underestimating their opponent, Michigan allowed a Notre Dame touchdown on three of its first four drives of the night. The Irish went on to rack up 21 points and 233 yards of offense in the first half, while Michigan entered halftime with just 90 yards of offense and 10 points on their side of the scoreboard.
In the second half, the game flipped. The Wolverines were able to post 217 yards of offense and one touchdown, compared to Notre Dame’s 69 yards and three points. However, there’s sixty minutes on the game clock for a reason— you are, in fact, supposed to play every single one of them.
While it wasn’t a pretty performance by either team, the fact is, Notre Dame was the more solid team from start to finish, while Michigan never really got it together, rallied late in the game, and ended up losing their season opener 24-17.
At this point, head coach Jim Harbaugh was 3-6 against division rivals Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State, and 0-1 against rival Notre Dame. And while the loss to the Irish depreciated as the season went on— Notre Dame found themselves in the college football playoffs later that year— it was still an unfavorable start for the Wolverines, but a motivating one nonetheless.
Enter: The Revenge Tour
After their loss to ND, Michigan became (seemingly) unstoppable— beating non-conference opponents Western Michigan 49-3 and SMU 45-20. Once they got into conference play, they put 10 consecutive W’s on the board, which included a most-impressive 42-7 win against Penn State and a 38-13 win against Wisconsin—which was promptly when the infamous “Revenge Tour” was born.
Senior defensive end Chase Winovich (haha remember him?) began the movement because he felt as though he and his team were getting “bullied,” and he wanted to avenge their disappointing 8-5 record from the season prior.
“We knew we had revenge to give out just on the people who were kind of bullying us, I’d say, just beating up on us last year,” Winovich told Andrew Hussey of The Wolverine. “...I knew me, personally, I wanted our lunch money back and I wanted them to pay interest.”
And hey, kudos to them. Up to this point, they got their revenge against all of the teams who “beat up on them” in 2017— Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Their top-ranked defense, featuring All-American linebacker Devin Bush, Rashan Gary and Winovich, was a scary sight for opposing teams. Their offensive line, quarterback Shea Patterson and running back Karan Higdon were clicking, and they were truly making their case as CFP contenders.
Alllllll they had to do was beat those pesky Ohio State Buckeyes.
Revenge Tour Cancelled
For the first time since the glorious year of 2014, Ohio State was named the underdog...at home...against Michigan. Now, if you remember, the 2018 Ohio State team wasn’t exactly true to form. They suffered a 20-49 loss to Purdue earlier that season and they were headed into The Game after beating Maryland by one single point the weekend prior. Thus, the Wolverines were deemed 3.5-point favorites entering the weekend.
I remember being particularly nervous for this game. Michigan was receiving loads of hype in the media, and a day didn’t go by where I didn’t see a tweet, comment, article about how good the Wolverine’s defense was. Not to mention, Ohio State was the last stop on their self-proclaimed “Revenge Tour,” and I was worried a highly motivated, talented Michigan team might be the end of the road for Ohio State’s six-game win streak in the series.
But, like I said earlier, an underestimated Ohio State team is a scary Ohio State team, and Michigan did nothing to help their cause.
And so, the Buckeyes proceeded to absolutely obliterate the “Bama Ready” Wolverines. Chris Olave made his debut with two early touchdowns thrown by quarterback Dwayne Haskins (who was also the man responsible for “bullying” Michigan the year prior). Haskins then hit a wide open Johnnie Dixon to put Ohio State up 21-6 in the second quarter. Michigan fought back, cutting the lead to just two points at one point, however by the end of the third quarter— when Ohio State put up a field goal and two touchdowns, all of which went unanswered— Michigan lost its momentum.
The Wolverines scored three more times in the fourth... but so did Ohio State. Three touchdowns by Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell again resulted in a just plain embarrassing score of 62-39—the most points allowed by Michigan to Ohio State in generations—and more than 500 yards of total offense.
A two-loss Michigan was certainly not going to the playoffs over a zero-loss Notre Dame or a one-loss Oklahoma, and so, just like that, the Revenge Tour bus’ last stop was right where you’d expect it to be— Columbus, Ohio. Please collect your belongings and form a single file line at the exit. Thank you.
It was all just a mirage
I tell ya, Winovich was truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Almost a month later, the defensive end called his team’s 62-39 loss against Ohio State a “mirage.”
“I would say to any recruit or any potential guy who sees what happened in the Ohio State game and is persuaded against coming to Michigan because of that, I would say that alone is a mirage,” Winovich said. “And you should not be fooled. What we’ve built here and what we’ll continue to build is a powerhouse. That’s the Michigan I’m leaving. A Michigan that’s competitive in its trajectory.”
As you can imagine, the Ohio State creatives had a field day with that one.
Was it just a mirage? pic.twitter.com/BqnwmOPTdl— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) December 11, 2018
Oh, and that whole thing about “continuing to build a powerhouse” and “that’s the Michigan he’s leaving behind?” Well, the Michigan he left behind lost to Ohio State 56-27.
Following that loss, Winovich—who now plays for the Patriots—and fellow UM alum Tom Brady made good on a bet with former Buckeyes Nate Ebner and John Simon by joining them in an O-H-I-O picture.
What did I tell you about betting against Ohio State?