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.

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