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MnB B1G Preview 2013: Michigan vs. Wisconsin - The Classics

Michigan and Wisconsin aren't considered bitter rivals. Throughout the series, Michigan has dominated Wisconsin, but the Badgers have taken control of the Big Ten in recent years by winning three straight titles. They may not play every year, but let's look back on some of the best games between the Wolverines and the Badgers.

Gregory Shamus

Since their fist meeting in 1892, Michigan and Wisconsin have only played 64 games, with the Wolverines dominating the series with a 49-14-1 record. However, the series has been owned by the Wisconsin Badgers in recent years as Wisconsin has taken four of the last six meetings and holds a two-game winning streak against the Wolverines. On top of besting Michigan, Wisconsin has won the Big Ten title three years in a row, including victories in the first two Big Ten Championship games. However, Wisconsin has failed to find success in the Rose Bowl - losing the last three years - and looks to rebound from a semi-disappointing 2012 campaign (They may have won the Big Ten title, but they went 4-4 in B1G play and were only in the championship game because Ohio and Penn State were banned from going. Also, Bielema jumped ship to Arkansas.) Michigan, on the other hand, hopes to join Wisconsin at the top of the Big Ten. And the Wolverines may have to if they want to play Wisconsin any time soon. The Badgers aren't on Michigan's schedule through 2015, and it isn't until 2016 that the new, expanded Big Ten schedule goes into effect, where we'll be guaranteed to play Wisconsin at least once every four years. For now, the only way both teams play each other will be in the Big Ten Championship game.

September 12th, 1981, Michigan 14 - Wisconsin 21

Nobody expected Wisconsin to win this one. It was the season opener (which Michigan hadn't lost on the road since 1881 against Harvard), Michigan was ranked #1 in the nation, and Bo Schembechler had never lost against Wisconsin as Michigan's head coach. Coming into Madison, WI, the Wolverines hadn't given up a touchdown in their last five games and were on a nine-game winning streak from the previous season. Against the Badgers, Michigan had won fourteen straight meetings (dating back to '62) as well as shutting out Wisconsin in the last four, beating them by a combined 176-0. In 1980, the Wolverines won the Big Ten and finished #4 overall after winning the Rose Bowl, while Wisconsin averaged seven points per game, finished near the bottom of the Big Ten at 4-7, and hadn't been to a bowl game since they won the Big Ten in 1962. In fact, the Badgers had only three winning seasons since 1962. So, again, nobody expected Wisconsin to win this one.

In the first quarter, Wisconsin stuffed Michigan's offense, forcing the Wolverines into multiple three-and-outs. However, neither team scored before heading in the second frame. Michigan would strike first after recovering a Wisconsin fumble early in the quarter, taking a 7-0 lead. But the lead wouldn't last, as the Badgers took control of the game and scored 14 unanswered points to head into the locker room up 14-7. After halftime, Michigan would bounce back to tie the game on a 89-yard touchdown run by star running back Butch Woolfolk. However, the long run would prove to be Michigan's last offensive success of the day, as Wisconsin's defense shut the door on the Wolverines. Michigan would end up with only 39 yards passing and 229 yards of total offense, while the Badgers gained 439 yards against a normally stingy Wolverines defense. The Badgers would regain the lead in the third quarter and never look back, securing the victory with an interception in the final seconds. In Sports Illustrated, Bo sums up the game in fewer words:

"We were lucky we lost by only seven points. Our offense wasn't good, our defense wasn't good, our kicking game wasn't good and our coaching was poor."

After the loss, Michigan would go on to crush #1 ranked Notre Dame in the following week and finish ranked #10 at 9-3 the season. They would dominate UCLA in the Bluebonnet Bowl in what was the first bowl meeting of Big Ten and Pac-10 teams outside of the Rose Bowl. The game was nicknamed the "mini-Rose Bowl" due to this reason as well as the fact that both teams should have made the actual Rose Bowl, but lost in the final week of the season (Michigan to Ohio and UCLA to USC). Wisconsin would finish 7-5 and lose in the Garden State Bowl to Tennessee.

September 27th, 2008, Michigan 27 - Wisconsin 25

Coming into the 500th game at the Big House, the Wolverines didn't expect it to be a high-point, if not the highest point, of their season. 2008 would end up seeing Michigan post an embarrassing 3-9 record and fail to make a bowl game for the first time since 1967. But prior to the Wisconsin game, nobody knew what lay ahead and Michigan entered with a mediocre 1-2 record, after disappointing losses to Utah and Notre Dame, with hopes of turning the season around against the Badgers. On the other sideline, Wisconsin sat undefeated at 3-0 and ranked #8 in the nation, looking to solidify their top ten ranking with a victory against the Wolverines.

If you're a Michigan fan and you watched the first two quarters of this game, there's a good chance you stopped watching at halftime. The Wolverines were booed into the locker room after turning the ball over five times - three fumbles and two interceptions - and gaining only one first down on 21 yards of total offense. This allowed the Badgers to jump out to a strong 19-0 lead on four field goals and a touchdown. The game looked hopeless and the season already seemed lost in just the fourth game.

However, a different Michigan team took the field in the second half and the Wolverines would go on a 27-0 run. The third quarter would be all Wolverines, as the defense held off the Badgers, and the offense went on a 14-play, 80-yard drive, finished off by a 26-yard toss from quarterback Steven Threet to tight end Kevin Koger. Going into the fourth losing 19-7, the Wolverines would score two touchdowns in the first five minutes: the first on a 10-play, 85-yard drive, capped by a 34-yard run by running back Brandon Minor, and the second only seconds later on a 26-yard interception return by linebacker John Thompson. The Wolverines went for two but failed, giving them a 20-19 lead with 10:24 remaining.

On the ensuing drive, Michigan would stuff the Badgers on three plays, forcing them to punt. With the ball at their own 23, Threet would bust loose for a 58-yard run before being caught. Four plays later, running back Sam McGuffie would punch the ball in on a 3-yard run, increasing Michigan's lead to 27-19. Receiving the following kickoff with just over five minutes remaining, Wisconsin would storm back, driving 66-yards to the Michigan 3-yard line with just under two minutes to play. Ready to put the Badgers within a two-point conversion from tying the game, Wisconsin quarterback Allan Evridge would get sacked on the next play and fumble the ball away to Michigan. However, the turnover didn't spell the end for the Badgers, as Michigan would go three-and-out on a drive lasting only 23 seconds and punt the ball back to Wisconsin with 1:19 remaining. The Badgers would make quick work of the Wolverines defense and score a touchdown with 0:13 left in the game. They would convert the two-point conversion, but get flagged for an ineligible receiver downfield. On their second attempt, Evridge sailed the ball out of the back of the endzone, sealing Michigan's victory and the biggest comeback in the history of Michigan stadium. See the game highlights here.

After getting a win in the 500th game at the Big House, Michigan - as mentioned before - would go on to lose five in a row before beating Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug (the only other positive in 2008) and finish 3-9 on the year, in what was a catastrophic first season in the Rich Rod saga. On the other side, the loss against Michigan knocked the Badgers off-course as they would lose the next three games. After their four-game losing streak, Wisconsin would close out the season 4-2, finishing in the middle of the Big Ten at 7-6 overall. The season had to be seen as a disappointment, considering the Badgers finished tied for fourth in '07 and in the top three of the Big Ten from 2004 to 2006.