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Three-straight wins over Ohio State has meant great things for past Michigan teams

A quick history lesson sets the bar quite high for 2023.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Michigan at Ohio State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines have a chance to do something they have not accomplished in 26 years. No, not win a national championship… Well yes, that, and the other thing: Beat Ohio State for the third straight season. And historically speaking, if Michigan beats Ohio State for the third year in a row, the Wolverines have a 50/50 shot of winning it all.

In 2021, Michigan broke a decade-long losing streak to the Buckeyes in one of the most important games in the Wolverines’ history. Last year, Michigan broke another streak by defeating Ohio State in Columbus, something the Wolverines had not done since 2000. Now, they have an opportunity to officially cement this run as historic and join rarified air in Michigan history.

Since the boys came back home in 1945, the Wolverines have had four separate winning streaks of three-plus games over the Buckeyes: 1945-1948, 1976-1978, 1988-1991, and 1995-1997. Two of these streaks resulted in a national championship in the third year of the run (1947, 1997) and the 40s actually saw Michigan go back-to-back in 1947 and 1948.

Statistically speaking, Michigan’s current streak most closely resembles that streak in the 1940s. The current iteration of the maize and blue have dominated the second half of the past two games against the Buckeyes by a combined score of 56-17, pushing Michigan’s winning average to 18.5 points per game, a number that is closest to the leather helmet days when the Wolverines beat Ohio State by an average of 21.75 points.

This current winning margin is still better than the 1976-1978 teams who won by an average of 13.67 points against Ohio State, which is better than the early 90s teams who averaged an 11-point margin of victory. This is also better than the Charles Woodson era, which was defined by close games against the Buckeyes and a six-point average margin of victory.

Of these streaks, the two national championship teams from 1947 and 1997 also share the fact that the third game was played in Ann Arbor — just like it will be played in Ann Arbor on November 25.

So, what does any of this mean? For the True Detective fans it might justify that time really is a flat circle.

But sticking to realism, it shows that sustained success over the Buckeyes is conducive to national success. Even in the third years that Michigan didn’t win a national title (1978, 1990), both teams were among the best in the country and Big Ten Champions.

In 1978, the Wolverines finished 10-2 and outscored opponents 372 to 105. In 1990, Michigan suffered three heart-breaking defeats by a combined six points, and in the fourth year of the streak in 1991, the Wolverines finished 10-2.

While nothing but the sport’s top prize will satisfy Team 144, the floor this season is historically set at Big Ten Champions as long as Michigan can once again topple Ohio State.

However, this year Michigan has its best opportunity to do something it hasn’t done in a long time: Beat Ohio State for the third consecutive time, and yes, the other thing, win a national championship.