We Simulated A Series Between The Best Possible Ohio State And Michigan Rosters

We all know the best rivalry in college football is Ohio State vs. Michigan. It’s simply an undisputed fact. Alabama may try to push the Iron Bowl, but no two teams – even two states – hate each other more than Ohio State and Michigan. The “M” is literally a forbidden letter throughout Ohio in the weeks leading up to the game – Michigan residents are born hating the Buckeyes, and the same is true on the flip side. Now who has been better throughout the years? Michigan leads the all-time series, but the Buckeyes have completely dominated the Wolverines in the past decade. But what if – hypothetically – the best to ever put on the maize and blue faced off against the best their archrivals have produced? Let’s find out.

Our All-Star Rosters will cover from 1996 to the present day for two reasons. First off, if you’re going back more than 25 years to try and prove your program’s superiority, it’s annoying – nobody cares what happened in the 60s, 70s, or 80s. To quote podcast personality Cal Christoforo: “It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of league” so that’s what this rivalry simulation will emulate. The other reason is much more practical – The WhatIfSports simulator we are using only allows ‘dream team’ rosters using players from 1996 and onwards, due to the evolution of the game.
A second disclaimer – the all-star rosters use the best season from a given player, and roster spots are not allowed to be taken up by a certain player. For example, even though Michigan’s best three seasons at quarterback came from Denard Robinson, only Robinson’s best individual campaign will be factored into his virtual rivalry series self. 

Roster Comparison

Quarterback Room
Ohio State
2014 J.T. Barrett
2013 Braxton Miller
2018 Dwayne Haskins
2005 Troy Smith

Michigan
2010 Denard Robinson
2013 Devin Gardner
2003 John Navarre
2019 Shea Patterson

Analysis
Michigan has the advantage at starter here, but if Robinson goes down, I’d take any of Ohio State’s four quarterbacks over their alternative option. A true dual-threat quarterback who ran for over 1600 yards, Robinson has been Michigan’s best signal-caller of the past 25 years by far. Meanwhile, Barrett beats out Miller for the Ohio State starting job, on the premise that he’s a better thrower, but he’s still capable of doing damage with his legs. Ohio State has reeled in quality QB after quality QB, and they’ll be in good hands with any one of these four guys. 

Running Backs
Ohio State
2019 J.K. Dobbins
2013 Carlos Hyde
2016 Ezekiel Elliot
1996 Pepe Pearson
1998 Michael Wiley

Michigan
2000 Anthony Thomas
2003 Chris Perry
2007 Mike Hart
2018 Karan Higdon
2011 Fitzgerald Touissant

Analysis
Not even close. Huge advantage to the Buckeyes in this department. I mean, a fourth overall pick is their third-string running back?? I firmly believe Dobbins to be the best running back in Ohio State history, at least in the past couple of decades, and Hyde, Pearson, and Wiley round out an intimidating backfield. Not too many names out of the Michigan running back room scare me much at all. 

Wide Receivers
Ohio State
1998 David Boston
2014 Devin Smith
2018 Parris Campbell
1998 Dee Miller
2001 Chris Vance
2005 Santonio Holmes

Michigan
2004 Braylon Edwards
2001 Marquise Walker
2013 Jeremy Gallon
2005 Jason Avant
2007 Mario Manningham
2008 Michael Shaw

Analysis
Ohio State may sound like a more traditional wide receiver school, but although some of their alums may reach higher prominence in the NFL, the Wolverines boast the better collegiate careers, and I’ll take their wide receiver room over Ohio State without hesitation.

Tight Ends
Ohio State
2016 Marcus Baugh
2012 Jake Stoneburner
1998 John Lumpkin

Michigan
2018 Zach Gentry
2001 Bill Seymour
2005 Tyler Ecker

Analysis
Give this one to Michigan again. Tight End has not been one of Ohio State’s calling cards, and I’d draft any of Michigan’s three tight ends on this roster before dipping into the Buckeyes’ stash. 

Other

Defenses
1998 Ohio State
1997 Michigan
Advantage: Ohio State

Special Teams (Kick and Punt returns)
2004 Ohio State
2015 Michigan
Advantage: Michigan
Kicker
OSU: 2013 Drew Basil
Michigan: 2018 Jake Moody
Advantage: Michigan

Punter
OSU: 2016 Cameron Johnston
Michigan: 2018 Will Hart

Advantage: Michigan

Michigan has a lot of advantages on their roster, but Ohio State has a lot of quarterback depth, and they absolutely dominate the running back conversation. Can their ground game and defense be enough to take down Michigan’s superiority in other areas? As Michigan leads the overall series, they will host Game 1 – Ohio State will host Game 2, and Game 3 will be played on a neutral field if necessary. 

The Series
Game 1 (@ the Big House)

Ohio State 20 Michigan 6

Defense was the name of the game. In a game reminiscent of the recent history between these two teams, Michigan simply could not do anything against the Buckeyes, whose 1998 defense recorded three sacks and picked Denard Robinson (2010) twice. Robinson ran for 93 yards, but only 119 passing yards doomed the Wolverines. J.T. Barrett (2014) ran for 54 yards, and he was 21-26 for an efficient 188 yards and two touchdowns. J.K. Dobbins (2019) ran for 58 yards, as Ohio State built a 17-0 and claimed a huge victory to start the rivalry series.

Game 2 (@ The Horseshoe)

Ohio State 42 Michigan 17

What a beatdown. Ohio State cruises to victory in this rivalry series with an absolute throttling of their archrivals. Michigan didn’t get on the board until they notched two touchdowns in the final five minutes, as Robinson was once again picked twice and sacked three times. Braylon Edwards (2004) caught 4 passes for 133 yards, and Anthony Thomas (2000) ran for 63 yards and two touchdowns, but that was it for Michigan highlights. It was J.T.  Barrett’s world in this series, as he threw for 341 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 87-yard TD toss to Jake Stoneburner (2012) early in the fourth quarter made it 28-3, virtually icing the result. Dobbins ran for two first-half touchdowns and 62 yards, sparking Ohio State to a two-game sweep in this All-Time Rivalry Classic.

Predicting the Next Five College Football National Champions

Who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of old-fashioned  predictions for the distant future. With the recruiting Class of 2021 – the seniors of the 2025 season – taking shape, we will use this time to predict the next five national champions of college football, and the team which they victimize in that contest. Granted, the fact that the potential best team of all time, the 2019-2020 LSU Tigers, weren’t even considered a favorite for their conference title at the beginning of this season, attempting such a futuristic prediction is probably futile, but if I get even one of these right, I’ll also buying lottery tickets every day for the rest of my life. Here goes nothing. 

2021: Ohio State over Auburn
Next year is Ohio State’s year. Clemson is really good, but the Buckeyes were arguably the better team in their semifinal, and Ohio State returns Justin Fields, who I believe is the best quarterback in the country. Ohio State making the national championship, however, is not the bold pick. Rather, the surprise is Auburn, who I’m taking to make it over Clemson. I think Auburn is a sneaky great pick to win the SEC, as they return a solid defense, they have Bo Nix returning under center, and in a conference that seems as wide open as its ever been, I think the Tigers pull a little surprise and sneak into the Playoff. They’ll stun Clemson in the semifinals, while Ohio State handles Oklahoma, as the Sooners make their annual appearance for a Playoff beatdown. However, the Buckeyes are simply too talented, and I doubt any team has the ability to take down Clemson and Ohio State in back-to-back contests. Clemson could easily win this, but give me the Buckeyes, if only to quit the insufferable whining from their fans. 

2022: Ohio State over Georgia
Roll Buckeyes, baby. Ohio State has been struggling to break through on the big stage, but I saw a lot of things I liked from Ryan Day, and even with Justin Fields graduating, I anticipate Day to work with the talent he has – which will always be plentiful at Ohio State. The Buckeyes defeat Georgia, who wins the SEC, but the Bulldogs once again falter short of the ultimate prize. I think Clemson will be back in the Playoff due to the same old weak ACC, but without their core of Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and Justyn Ross, the Tigers will stumble in the semifinals. I’ll also take a sleeper pick in USC, who will be enjoying the final year of Kedon Slovis’s services; I’m very high on Slovis, and I think he will be one of the best signal-callers in the nation at this point. The Trojans’ biggest hindrance is Clay Helton, but the talent is there for them to make a little run. 

2023: Alabama over Clemson
Oh yea, we are back with Bama vs. Clemson, part five. If you go by last season, and my first two projections here, Alabama will break a three-year Playoff drought with this natty, and they’ll defeat Clemson in the process, who continues to be among the best teams in the nation, but they’ll fail to give Dabo Swinney another title this year. The Tide will have their final year of star quarterback Bryce Young, and they’ll always have the defense and running game worthy of a championship contender. Saban grabs another title in 2023. As for other Playoff teams, I see Oklahoma and Ohio State making it this far, but Oklahoma, as per usually, will be walloped in the Semifinal, and the Buckeyes continue to falter against Clemson, dropping a tight one to end their three-peat chances. 

2024: Alabama over Texas
Longhorn nation…We’re baaaaack”. Sam Ehlinger will be long gone by 2024, but Texas is still bringing in top notch recruiting classes, and eventually that talent manifests itself in on-field success. Meanwhile, Nick Saban defends his title, fending off Georgia and LSU in the SEC before dispatching Notre Dame and Texas en route to the title. Texas upsets Clemson in the Semifinal to reach this point.

2025: Clemson over Ohio State
Dabo Swinney finally returns to the top of the college football world, as the Tigers once again defeat the Buckeyes with the lights shining bright. Clemson and Ohio State are killing the recruiting game year-in and year-out, and they’ve been rewarded with consistent success in these projections. They’ll handle a pair of SEC teams in the semis, with LSU and Georgia both escaping the conference after meeting with undefeated records in the conference championship game. 

Thomas: Michigan State, opponent of many, rival of none

Rivalry weekend is an amazing weekend to be a college football fan. Across the country, college football teams line up against their biggest rivals. Some of these contests are more lopsided recently, with the Georgia-Georgia Tech or Clemson-South Carolina games coming to mind, but the hate is still strong between the two teams. And in most of these regular season finale contests, the records simply don’t matter. Minnesota-Wisconsin, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Alabama-Auburn, the rivalries are fierce, the games are classics, and the college football fan is content to sit on their couch and watch some of the most intensely contested games of the season.

Of course, there’s the greatest rivalry of them all as well. Often the site of College Gameday that weekend, Michigan and Ohio State do battle at the end of each regular season. The hate between these two teams is unmatched, so much that Ohio State, and indeed much of the state of Ohio, replaces the letter “M” with a giant ‘X’ in all signs and tweets leading up to the game. But then what about the hate between Michigan and Michigan State? Well, as much as the Spartans would like you to believe this is a true rivalry, it quite simply has not been, and it likely never will be. Michigan States’ rivalry-weekend match-up? It varies; last year it was Maryland, the two years prior it was Rutgers – a couple of cellar-dwelling Big 10 teams for Michigan State to beat up on while their hated rivals goes and plays their biggest game of the year with someone else. 

Michigan States’ inability to get a true rivalry-weekend match-up, or even a rivalry with anybody, goes well beyond the Michigan saga. If you look up Michigan State rivals, you get a list of just four teams: Michigan, Notre Dame, Indiana, and Penn State. Not an inspiring list, especially considering every single one of these teams has bigger rivals.
The Spartans’ biggest hope comes in Penn State, another team who may lack a true rival. But the Nittany Lions don’t care, often proclaiming themselves as their biggest rivals, competing against the premier Penn State teams of previous decades. Plus, Penn State has big games closer to home in Pitt and Maryland, a more historic rivalry in Nebraska, and a budding rivalry with Ohio State. They don’t need Michigan State. 

How about Notre Dame? There’s been some big games, and there is no doubt about that, but Michigan State has tried to fuel this rivalry far more than Notre Dame, and it’s hard to do that when you have a .373 winning percentage against them. The Spartans’ planted their flag at Notre Dame’s home stadium after a 2005 win, and they won in 2010 on the infamous “Little Giant” fake field goal. But, Notre Dame has their rivalries with USC and Michigan, their uninterrupted series with Navy, and the Holy War with BC. In a recent survey of their student body, Notre Dame didn’t even vote for the Spartans as one of their top-6 rivals. Ouch. They clearly don’t need Michigan State. 

Indiana? To be honest, even if Michigan State could consider Indiana a rival, it wouldn’t be saying much. The Hoosiers are far more known for their basketball prowess, and they have not ever really been particularly relevant in football. They have never eclipsed nine wins in a season, and they haven’t even reached that mark since 1967. Plus, Indiana has their own in-state rivalry with Purdue, so even they’ve got bigger fish to fry than the Spartans. If that’s Michigan State’s best rival, it’s a pretty sad one for a big-name program with six national championships. 

And that brings the list full circle to Michigan. The Wolverines will call Michigan State “Little Brother” and for good reason. Despite some recent success in the series, the Spartans are just 36-71 against Michigan, good for a .344 winning percentage. It’s embarrassing, and it’s more embarrassing because they’re not even Michigan’s biggest game of the year. They sometimes aren’t even second, as you can debate whether the Notre Dame versus Michigan rivalry is a bigger one too. 

Michigan State has had success on the field, and under current coach Mark Dantonio, they’ve been in the Top 5 in four different seasons. But seemingly no success will make Michigan State relevant unless something drastic changes. 

They can plant a flag at Notre Dame Stadium. They can fuel their hatred for Michigan. They can claim that Penn State hates them, or maybe, if they’re desperate, fall back on their ‘rivalry’ with Indiana. But come rivalry weekend, Michigan State will be in Maryland, or hosting Rutgers, or playing some other low-level Big 10 team, desperately searching for a team that will hate them back. 

NCAA FOOTBALL TOP MOMENTS – #2: Controversy, Double-Overtime, and A Legendary Goal-line Stand

Coming up with a list of the top 7 moments to feature this week in college football was brutally difficult. Some of these are a series of games, others a specific national championship, and others are an unlikely or inspirational run to a national title. For the most part, I refined this list to postseason moments, or games that decided a national championship, simply because with such an overwhelming list of possible options to feature, I decided that the ones with the biggest impact would be the ones that had championship implications. 

If you only recently became a college football fan, then Ohio State being near the top of the football world isn’t anything groundbreaking. Miami being a 6-9 win team wouldn’t make front page headlines either. However, neither of these truths used to be in the land of college football, as Miami once boasted a proud dynasty, and Ohio State was, at least relatively, the upstart newcomer hoping to challenge the beast. This 2003 National Championship was not only a thriller, but it represented a dramatic changing of the guard that quite simply threw the power structure into upheaval and ended a dynasty that had been in existence for 20 years, and particularly lethal for the previous two.

The 2002 Miami team had a tough act to follow, as they succeeded the ‘01 Hurricanes that went down as one of the best teams of all time. In the prior two seasons, Miami was 23-1 with a national championship and Sugar Bowl win to their name. Their dynasty had experienced a major resurgence after a lull in their dominance. Miami won the national title in 1983, and then they finished in the Top 10 in every season from 1985-1992, collecting titles in ‘87, ‘89’, and ‘91. However, the 2002 Hurricanes were up to the challenge of following their dominant predecessors, getting off to a 5-0 start, with their closest game a 23-point victory. They beat #6 Florida in Gainesville by 25 points. They survived #9 Florida State, 28-27, and then rolled through the rest of their schedule for a 12-0 record and #1 record. They were ranked #1 in the AP Poll for all but one week of the season. Only FSU and #17 Pittsburgh (28-21) came within a possession of the Hurricanes. 

The Buckeyes hardly had as much pedigree to live up to as the Hurricanes, having not finished in the Top 25 since 1998; they were also nearly 35 years removed from their last national title in 1968. Despite their 7-5 season the year before, there was a sense of optimism heading into Ohio State’s season, and they were gifted a #13 preseason ranking. Their statement win came in Week 3, as the Buckeyes hosted #10 Washington State with College GameDay and a 104,000 fans in attendance. Ohio State thumped the Huskies 25-7, letting the college football world know they were there. Although the Buckeyes didn’t cruise through their schedule with the same level of dominance as Miami, largely due to their somewhat average offense, Ohio State steadily climbed the rankings.

They survived #17 Penn State, 13-7, and throttled #23 Minnesota, 34-3. Against Purdue and Illinois, in back-to-back road games, the Buckeyes struggled but managed to eke out victories both times, beating the Boilermakers 10-6, and escaping the Illini in an overtime thriller, 23-16. That brought them into “The Game”. The Buckeyes welcomed College GameDay back to Columbus, along with 105,539 fans, and they defeated the #12 Michigan Wolverines, 14-9, clinching their spot in the Fiesta Bowl and BCS National Championship game against Miami. 

The 2003 BCS Championship and Fiesta Bowl to determine the national title matched strength against strength, as Miami’s offense was an unstoppable force, posting eight games of at least 40 points, while Ohio State had given up over twenty points just once, all the way back in their season opener. Due to Ohio State’s inconsistent offense, and Miami’s pedigree, the Hurricanes entered the game as 11 ½ point favorites. Miami struck first in the first quarter on their second drive, having held the Buckeyes without a first down on their first two offensive possessions. The Hurricanes got the ball on their 48-yard line, and quarterback Ken Dorsey went to work, delivering a 28-yard pass to Kellen Winslow Jr. and then, three plays later, a 25-yard touchdown strike to Roscoe Parrish for the 7-0 lead. 

Ohio State’s offense continued to struggle, picking up just one first down in the opening quarter, but their dominant defense stifled Miami, keeping the game within reach. Ohio State got an interception that put them in golden field position at the Miami 37, but they stalled after one first down and tried a fake field goal attempt, getting stuffed for no gain. However, the Buckeyes picked off Ken Dorsey yet again, as safety Mike Doss collected a deflection and returned it 35 yards to the Miami 17. It wasn’t pretty, but Ohio State finally capitalized on their defensive prowess, grinding out seventeen yards of offense and punching it in from two yards out on a 4th and 1. The game appeared destined for a 7-7 tie, but the Buckeyes forced yet another turnover out of the Hurricanes’ potent offense, as Dorsey was sacked and fumbled the ball, letting Ohio State’s Darrion Scott recover it at the Miami 14. Maurice Clarett took advantage of the short field, running it in from seven yards out and a 14-7 Ohio State lead. 

The second half got off to a wild start, as the Buckeyes forced a punt and then faced a 3rd and 15 at their own 37-yard line. Ohio State’s Craig Krenzel unleashed a 57-yard bomb to Chris Gamble, putting Ohio State on the Miami 6, but Krenzel followed that up by tossing an interception. Sean Taylor picked off Krenzel and was in the midst of a big return, but Clarett caught up to him and stripped the ball, recovering it and keeping the Ohio State offense on the field. They didn’t move the ball much further, but they got close enough for Mike Nugent to knock a field goal through the uprights for a 17-7 advantage. 

After a few punts, Miami got their offense rolling once more, with the Dorsey to Winsolow connection on full display. The duo worked together for two receptions for 30 yards, and Willis McGahee rolled in from nine yards out, cutting the deficit to 17-14 at the end of the third quarter. After an Ohio State punt, the two squads exchanged missed field goals, bringing the game into its final seven minutes. The Buckeyes recovered a Miami fumble, and they successfully drained the game clock to close to 2 minutes left, but then Parrish returned a punt 50 yards, giving Miami the ball at the Ohio State 26 with 2:02 left. The Hurricanes ran three plays and gained just three yards, but Todd Sievers banged a 40-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime at 17-17. 

Miami got the ball to start overtime, and their offense went to work, punctuated by the trusty Dorsey-Winslow connection, as the pair linked up for a 7-yard touchdown pass. A penalty, sack, and incompletion forced Ohio State into an ugly do-or-die 4th and 14. The Buckeyes came through, but not without controversy. Krenzel found Michael Jenkins for 17 yards, but replays appeared to show offensive pass interference by Jenkins, which would have forced the Buckeyes into a 4th and 24. However, it was not called, and the Ohio State drive continued. Ohio State was forced into another fourth down however, this one a more manageable 4th & 3 from the five yard line. Krenzel threw incomplete, and Miami began to storm the field, only to have their elation quashed by the field judge, who tossed a late flag for defensive pass interference. It was a controversial call to say the least, but it gave Ohio State a fresh set of downs, and three plays later, the Buckeyes punched it in. 

The second overtime was just as thrilling, as Ohio State scored a touchdown to start, this time unaided by controversial penalty calls. They pounded the Miami defense with their run game, and Clarett finished it off with a 5-yard touchdown sprint, putting Ohio State ahead once more, 31-24. Miami converted a 4th and 3 on a pass from Dorsey to Wilson, and they got down to the Ohio State 2 with a first down. However, the Buckeyes stopped three straight runs, giving Miami 4th and 1 from the 1-yard line. Dorsey was hit as he threw, and his pass fell incomplete, giving the Buckeyes the national championship in overtime, punctuating an epic contest with a legendary goal-line stand. 

The Aftermath

To this day, the controversial pass interference call that kept Ohio State alive in the first overtime remains a heated debate among sports fans. Some consider it one of the worst calls ever made on a football field, while others believe it was absolutely the correct call. Either way, the game ended in favor of Ohio State, which in turn sent the two programs in different directions. The Hurricanes had a solid 2003 campaign, going 11-2, but they have not won 11 games since then, and only once have they picked up 10 victories. They’ve finished the year ranked just five times since 2004, and they have not finished in the Top 10. Meanwhile, Ohio State has been ranked at the end of all but one season since 2003, and they’ve ended in the Top 5 in 12 different seasons. Big games are often hyped as a ‘changing of the guard’, but this may have been one of the most dramatic shifts in power in sports history, and it took a double-overtime classic decided by a gutsy goal-line stand to do it. 

The NFL talent on the field was absolutely ridiculous, as 18 of the starters became first-round picks, while 58 of the 100 players who touched the field would go on to play in the NFL, 50 as draft selections.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #5: Steve Arlin’s rubber arm and 20 strikeouts

Much like our last two moments on our Top-7 NCAA Baseball moments countdown, this one is all about pitching. After reliving Ron Darling and Frank Viola’s epic 12-inning duel, and the ridiculous accomplishments of the 2006 Oregon State’s pitching staff during their title run, we turn our attention to another superhuman feat on the mound – bringing us back to 1965. 

Steve Arlin was a sophomore and the ace of the Ohio State pitching staff in 1965. The Buckeyes were relevant in the college baseball world for the first time in a long time, and Arlin was their ace up their sleeve. He posted a 13-2 record and had 165 strikeouts that season, which is still a program record, but it was one particular postseason performance that made Steve Arlin a household name. 

After a 3-0 run through their regional, Ohio State advanced to their second ever College World Series, winning their first two games in Omaha, with Arlin pitching both and giving up just two runs combined. However, Arlin needed a breather, and without him on the mound, the Buckeyes did not fare well, dropping a 9-4 decision to Arizona State.

Facing elimination, Ohio State manager Marty Karow called on Arlin for his third start in four days. The sophomore took the ball and spun an absolute dandy. Arlin took on Washington State, who had finished the year 31-6. He had held the Huskies to a single run two days earlier, when the Buckeyes triumphed 14-1, but this game was an entirely different tale. Arlin was even more dominant, but Ohio State could not scratch together even one run to back up their ace. 

Arlin racked up a bevy of strikeouts, but the game would go to extra innings at 0-0. Washington State’s bullpen continued to match zeroes with Arlin, and the game rattled on into the fifteenth inning. Arlin notched his nineteenth and twentieth strikeouts in the fifteenth, setting the stage for a Buckeyes’ walk-off in the bottom half of the inning. When it was all said and done, Arlin had pitched a 15-inning complete game victory, with his 20 strikeouts still setting an individual College World Series game victory, pushing Ohio State into the championship.

The Aftermath
Ohio State beat Arizona State without Arlin in the first game, forcing a winners-take-all contest. Having pitched over 30 innings in four days, Arlin was not able to start, but he did pitch the final two innings. It wasn’t enough as the Buckeyes fell 2-1 to the Sun Devils, settling for a 2nd-place finish. 

The following year, Arlin went 11-1 and pitched in five of six college world series games, leading the Buckeyes to their first and, to this date, only national championship. He’s the best pitcher to ever wear an Ohio State jersey, and his #22 was the first number to be retired by the Buckeyes. He had a six-year career in the MLB after being the thirteenth overall pick. He pitched five years for the Padres and a year for the Indians, retiring with 34 career wins and a 4.33 ERA.