Over the one hundred-plus years of Ohio State playing Michigan, the Buckeyes have won in any number of ways.
There have been close wins, come-from-behind wins, blowouts, comfortable-but-still-kind-of-close wins like in 2007, and even a win in the Game of the Century in 2006.
Over the last three years, however, the Buckeyes have won in ways that they never have before.
In 2016, it was a 30-27 victory in double overtime, and then last Saturday it was a 62-point outburst the likes of which Michigan had never before seen in regulation. The loss ended the Wolverines’ playoff hopes, which was a nice little bonus for the Buckeyes.
Both games stand out for obvious reasons.
Going back to the 2016 game, starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan even ranked it above the 2014 playoff games.
“This is probably my favorite win of all time that I’ve ever played in,” he said at the time. “Winning the national championship, the Sugar Bowl, beating Penn State on the road when I was a freshman, all those, I think this is the best game I’ve ever played in.”
Why did he feel that way?
“This is The Rivalry,” he said. “This is the game that everybody who is an Ohio State fan or That Team Up North Fan will remember for the rest of their lives. We went to double-overtime, in The Shoe, number two vs. number three, it was one of those games that people will look back on and say it was a great game.”
McMillan was absolutely correct. That game will live on forever.
There also has to be a special place for a 62-39 blowout that saw record performances all over the field.
For two rare outcomes, it begs the question of which was better, and the only people who can properly answer that question are the ones who played in both games.
“What’s better?” junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper asked? “I couldn’t explain the double overtime win. That was a different type of feeling. That one, that one was special. But blowing them out was also good. A win’s a win. A dub’s a dub.”
Pressed to rank the two wins, however, and he finally acquiesced.
“I would say double overtime probably takes that one.”
For others, like junior safety Jordan Fuller, the number of snaps he played in each respective game clouds his judgment a bit.
“A win is a win, I would say. A win is a win,” he said before adding, “I had more of a role in this one, so this one probably felt better. I can’t really say.”
It’s a bit like asking a parent to choose their favorite child.
Do they have more love for the one who had some rough moments while growing up and gave them ulcers but ultimately turned out just fine, or do they keep that special place in their heart for the kid who was never a problem and never caused them any stress?”
For fourth-year junior receiver KJ Hill, he doesn’t have a favorite — unless you ask him a second time.
“I think both because you get the win and another pair of gold pants,” he said.
Hill was clearly having a good time on Saturday, including this touchdown catch where he pointed to Michigan safety Josh Metellus to let him know that the play was coming his way.
Here's KJ Hill telling Josh Metellus that the play was headed his way. pic.twitter.com/OJkALVg9h8
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) November 29, 2018
Seeing that play, it probably isn’t a surprise which game is Hill’s favorite when pushed just a tiny bit.
“I’d say blowing them out,” he said smiling.
Would he be pointing at his defender and giving him a heads-up during the stress of a double-overtime game?
“Yeah, I still am,” he said with a laugh.
For most Buckeyes, however, the answer is likely to be the same — every win over Michigan is at the top, and senior right tackle Isaiah Prince explains why perfectly.
“A win over our rivals is always satisfying,” he said. “I’m always satisfied. It doesn’t matter. It’s a win over our rivals. They can’t have any bragging rights. They can’t say that they beat us. I’m fine with however we win.”
Anything to keep Michigan from experiencing the joy of victory in this rivalry is all each player is asking. As long as that happens, it doesn’t matter if that win is by one point or 70 points.
“We just don’t like those guys,” Prince said. “We spend all year preparing for them. To me, it doesn’t really matter how we win. It matters that we won, period.”