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You’re Nuts: Which 21st century edition of ‘The Game’ was the best?

Your (almost) daily dose of good-natured, Ohio State banter.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Michigan at Ohio State Photo by Lon Horwedel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

Today’s Question: Which 21st century edition of ‘The Game’ was the best?

Context: Earlier this week, we surpassed 3,500 days since TTUN beat the Buckeyes in football.


Jami’s Take: 2002

Ohio State just passed 3,500 days since they last lost to Michigan (a game which I had the great misfortune of attending as a Lantern reporter during my senior year at OSU).

It’s easy to hype up the greatest rivalry in sports, but the truth is, certain games are more memorable than others. Sometimes, “The Game” is “A Pretty Boring Game.” Other years, the results are burned in our brains, whether because of the heartbreak or the unmatched exhilaration of a last-minute victory with everything on the line.

So how to choose The Best?

There have been some real nail-biters to choose from in the years since Jim Tressel took over as coach at the top of the 21st Century. 2006 jumps out (for those who need a refresher, that’s the year Ohio State was No. 1 and Michigan was No. 2, both were 11-0, and whoever won was guaranteed a spot in the National Championship. OSU won, 42-39). But it’s widely known as The Game of the Century, and that feels too easy. 2016 similarly feels like a cop-out. Also Jim Harbaugh invokes rage in me, so I won’t go there.

I woke up today looking for a challenge, so I am here to plead my case for the 2002 Ohio State-Michigan game.

Wait? 2002? Did you say 2002? Is that a typo?

No, dear readers, it is not a typo.

In 2001, Jim Tressel took over as head coach and made good on his promise to defeat TTUN. It was the Buckeyes’ first victory over Michigan in 14 years. But in 2002, he did it again. And that’s the game we’re going to talk about today.

Going into the game, the No. 2-ranked OSU team was 12-0, and they were poised for a National Championship berth … if they could get through Michigan. And the Wolverines weren’t going to make it easy for the Buckeyes.

The game itself was a nail-biter. Michigan controlled play for most of the game, and they led 9-7 going into the 4th quarter. But the 2002 Ohio State team was scrappy — that season, they won six games by seven points or fewer and they were no stranger to clawing their way to victory.

With 4:55 left in the game, Maurice Hall gave the Buckeyes a 14-9 lead on a 3-yard run. But Michigan wasn’t giving up either — OSU had to stave off not one but two late drives. The game ended when Buckeye safety Will Allen intercepted a pass from Michigan quarterback John Navarre just short of the end zone as the clock ran out.

This game wasn’t particularly high-scoring, but it was intense from start to finish. Though I know it was not the first OSU game I watched, it is the first I remember. Michigan was out for revenge after their 2001 loss to Tressel, hoping to avoid repeat losses.

And the undefeated Ohio State had everything to lose. In 1995 and 1996, they had undefeated seasons and national title dreams ruined by Michigan. They had not claimed the National Championship in more than 30 years. It was not just the game play itself that makes the 2002 matchup the best of the 21st Century — it’s everything that the Buckeyes had riding on the game.

We all know the story of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, when OSU defeated the heavily favored Miami Hurricanes in overtime. There was a controversial call (it was the correct call, don’t start with me). There was drama. It was a great football game.

But That Game never would have happened if not for the 2002 victory against Michigan. Think of all the drama we would have been robbed of had the Wolverines won! For both its immediate nail-biting moments and the lasting debates that were born out of the resulting title game for the Buckeyes, the 2002 Ohio State-Michigan game is undoubtedly the best of the 21st Century.


Matt’s Take: 2016

First off, Jami knew I was going to go with 2016, which is why she made the snide “cop-out” comment, but it is also difficult for me to argue with the selection of the 2002 game. I was there, it was my senior year, I rushed the field, I took some grass from the 50-yard line and planted it in a styrofoam cup. It was all amazing.

But here’s the thing: As important and monumental as that game was, nearly two decades later, it’s tough to recall the specifics, the names, the moments, even for someone for whom that game was so important, like me.

However, you know what contest I believe that Buckeye fans will never forget? The 2016 edition of The Game. Ohio State was ranked No. 2 at the time and the Weasels came into The Horseshoe ranked third. It was an absolute barnburner; after a scoreless first quarter, the Corn and Blue led at half 10-7, and then 17-14 going into the fourth quarter.

The final period ended up being completely scoreless until the very last second as Tyler Durbin atoned for two misses earlier in the game to tie it up with a single tick remaining in regulation.

Now, that’s all well and good, but this game is all about the second overtime. The teams exchanged touchdowns in the first, and after the OSU defense forced the Mitten Men to settle for a field goal in their double-OT possession, J.T. Barrett lined up behind center for Ohio State on a 4th and 1.

What happened next is perhaps the most iconic moment in recent rivalry memory. Barrett takes the snap, fakes the handoff to Curtis Samuel, and then rushes forward and clearly makes the line to gain.

There is absolutely no doubt that — to quote LGHL’s legendary Matt Brown — “Actually, the spot was good.”

Michigan v Ohio State
COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26: J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes rushes for a first down during overtime of the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

It’s clear as day that Barrett got the first down, despite what Screech Powers’ cousin and his jacked up pinkies tried to demonstrate in the postgame press conference.

But lest you forget, this was not the end of the game. Ohio State still needed points to either extend or win the contest and solidify their berth in the College Football Playoff.

Well, Buckeye Nation didn’t have to wait very long, as the Meerkats — still whining over the clearly correct decision by the referees — allowed Samuel to race into the end zone completely untouched.

As the future NFL star crossed the goal line in the second OT, he was unable to contain his joy as he leapt into the air and extended his arms outwards in what amounted to an embrace of the entire Buckeye Nation.

The visuals of this game, the rankings, the stakes, Barrett lying on top of the pile having undisputedly achieved the first down, Jimmy Harbz doing the only thing he does well — complaining, Samuel gliding over the goal line, this is a game that will never be forgotten by OSU fans, and with good reason.

And yes, I admit, the postseason that it provided was not nearly as satisfying as that of the 2002 season, but if we are talking solely about The Game itself, it is hard to imagine one surpassing the excitement, nerves, moments, and memories of “The Spot Game.”


Poll

Who has the right answer to today’s question?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Jami: 2002
    (28 votes)
  • 58%
    Matt: 2016
    (39 votes)
67 votes total Vote Now