The 2006 edition of the Ohio State-Michigan football game had plenty of hype and plenty of subplots.
Legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler passed away on the eve of the game, and there was also the fact that the winner would earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Not to mention OSU quarterback Troy Smith's Heisman hopes hung in the balance, as did the outright Big Ten title. And the fact that it was, well – Ohio State vs. Michigan, and what more needed to be said?
The Buckeyes earned a trip to Arizona for the title game with a 42-39 win over their long-time rivals in front of 105,708 fans at Ohio Stadium in a game that lived up to the hype.
"I'll probably be wearing this smile for the rest of the week," said Smith, who all but clinched the Heisman Trophy with a four-touchdown performance. "You've got to fight through, preserve, and the 2006 Ohio State Buckeyes did just that. Outright Big Ten champs, baby."
Smith had yet another big game against the Wolverines. He completed 29 of his 41 passes for 316 yards and the four aforementioned scores. The senior also kept the Michigan defense on its heels by spreading the ball around. Five different Buckeyes had at least 20 yards receiving, led by Ted Ginn Jr. The Cleveland Glenville product caught eight passes for 104 yards.
"I think it's just the idea that we're going to take what the defense gives us," said Brian Hartline, who caught three passes for 21 yards. "And if they want to double up on Gonzo (Anthony Gonzalez) and Teddy (Ginn Jr.) and everyone else, then we're going to hit Robo (Brian Robiskie) and myself and we're going to move down the field on you. I think it's pretty hard to find enough DBs to cover us all."
Ohio State had 503 yards of total offense and the Buckeyes needed them all to win a shootout. U-M scored the game's first points when Mike Hart capped an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. The Buckeyes answered quickly with a touchdown on their first offensive possession. Smith threw 12 passes during the 14-play drive and completed nine – to six different receivers – for 69 yards. A Roy Hall 1-yard touchdown reception capped the drive and set the tone.
The Buckeyes built a 28-14 halftime lead thanks in part to some big plays. Chris "Beanie" Wells broke into the clear for a 52-yard touchdown run to help give OSU a 14-7 lead, and a picture-perfect play-action 39-yard pass from Smith to Ginn Jr. went for another score. Gonzalez also had an 8-yard catch for a touchdown prior to the half.
Hart helped keep Michigan in the game in the second half. He scored a pair of short-yardage touchdowns, but a pair of touchdowns by the Buckeyes helped keep the Wolverines at bay. Junior rusher Antonio Pittman matched Wells with a long touchdown run of 56 yards in the third quarter, and Robiskie caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Michigan attempted to rally in the game's final minutes when Tyler Ecker caught a 16-yard Chad Henne touchdown pass. Henne cut the OSU lead to three with a two-point conversion throw to Steve Breaston. The Wolverines attempted an onside kick following the score, but Ginn Jr. came up with the loose ball for the Buckeyes. Three plays and a first down later, Ohio State was on its way to the title game and a big-time celebration had begun.
"Without a doubt it was the most amazing game I've ever seen and been a part of," senior Jay Richardson said. "Being able to play my last game here at Ohio Stadium and leaving beating Michigan is something I'll never forget in my whole life. It's the biggest win I've ever been a part of."
Hart finished with 142 yards on 23 carries to lead the Michigan offense. Henne completed 21 of 35 passes for 267 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Pittman rushed for 139 yards on 18 carries. Wells had 56 on five carries.