Ohio State football has unrivaled tradition and history. Now, it’s time to relive those epic moments once more. Each Monday over the coming weeks, you can listen to a new episode from Season Two of I Want to Go Back — Land-Grant Holy Land’s exclusive podcast series that brings to life the greatest lost stories from Ohio State football history. This season, we’ll go back to OSU’s rise to power in the early days of the Big Ten Conference.
On This Week’s Episode — Ohio State’s First Win Against Michigan
OSU was winning. In 1916 and 1917, John Wilce’s fourth and fifth season as head coach, the Buckeyes claimed back-to-back Western Conference championships. OSU had its first true All-American star in a quiet, humble halfback: Chic Harley. A Columbus native who dazzled at East High School, Harley shifted gears like a Ferrari. His athleticism running, throwing, and even kicking the ball drove defensive coordinators mad and swelled the grandstands of Ohio Field with adoring fans.
The only thing that could stop Ohio State from claiming a third-straight championship was something far bigger than football: World War I. The 1918 season was largely an afterthought as America’s sons and daughters contributed to the war effort — and the Spanish Flu swept through the country. With OSU’s top stars in the service, the Buckeyes would wobble to a 3-3 record, marking the end of the season with a 14-0 loss to an opponent who had just rejoined the conference — an opponent that Ohio State had never beat before — Michigan.
Now, the calendar turned to 1919. The war was over and the American people returned to normal life. For OSU, 1919 would be Harley’s senior season. In his previous two years of eligibility, the Buckeyes had two conference championships. Harley and Wilce had their eyes on a third, but to claim it they would have to navigate a tricky schedule. And they would need to do something that no OSU team had ever done: finally beat Michigan.