Michigan vs. Wisconsin: The History

Submitted by SpikeFan2016 on September 27th, 2016 at 2:34 AM

Michigan vs. Wisconsin: The History


I did this last week for Penn State and the reception was very positive, so here we are again for the Badgers! Below is a detailed description of the football series between the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin. Please feel free to share any memories of games against Wisconsin and/or your feelings about the upcoming Top Ten showdown this Saturday! Go Blue!


Overall Record: 49-14-1


Big Ten vs. The Badgers:

·      Michigan holds the highest all-time winning percentage against Wisconsin at 0.773.

·      Ohio State is just behind us at 0.744.

·      Michigan State sits in 3rd at 0.566.

·      Minnesota still clings to a 1 game edge in that rivalry with a .504 winning percentage (I’d imagine it’ll be 50-50 come November 26th in Madison).

·      Wisconsin has winning records against all other Big Ten teams.


Side Note: In terms of all-time records, Wisconsin has to be the most fascinating school in the Big Ten due to how close so many of their all-time series are/how many could change hands in the near future. They are behind Minnesota by 1 game, ahead of Iowa by 1 game, ahead of Penn State by 1 game, and ahead of Illinois by 2 games. They are also only a modest 7 games behind the Spartans.



Series Trends:

*NOTE: We have had a lot of long gaps between play with Wisconsin, so normally I’d do this by decade, but some decades will be combined.


·      The earliest years (1892-1905): 7 games played, Michigan went 5-2. The two schools had a neutral site, two game series in Chicago in 1899 and 1902; we split those Windy City match ups.

·      1920s: 8 games played, Michigan went 6-1-1. The tie was in Madison in 1921 (the only tie in the entire series) and the Badgers’ one win was in Ann Arbor in 1928, the first time the Badgers ever played in Michigan Stadium. This first win in The Big House snapped an 11 game losing streak (including the tie) to Michigan.

·      1931-1950: 8 games played, Michigan went 7-1. The loss was in A2 in ‘34.

·      1951-1958: Michigan and Wisconsin did not play. So apparently this most recent gap since 2010 hasn’t even been the longest in the series!

·      1959/1960s: 8 games played, Michigan went 5-3. The Badgers’ longest winning streak in series history was three games between 1959 and 1962. The 1960 win was UW’s first win over Michigan in Madison in series history.

·      1970s: 8 games played, Michigan went 8-0. Woof.

·      1980s: 10 games played, Michigan went 9-1. (Badgers won in Madison in 1981, Bo’s only loss to them…see below for details…).

·      1990s: 6 games played, Michigan went 4-2. UW beat Gary Moeller’s Wolverines twice in a row in ’93 and ’94. The Badgers’ 1994 win in Ann Arbor was their first in The Big House in 32 years.

·      2000s (plus 2010): 9 games played, Michigan goes 5-4 (did not play in Michigan’s 2003 and 2004 Big Ten Championship years). Although Michigan’s longest winning streak was 14 games from 1965-1980, I believe the 6 game winning streak from 1997-2002 is the most impressive in this series. The Badgers were at their peak during that time frame with by far their best coach of all time (Alvarez). After the two year hiatus in ’03 and ’04, the Badgers and Wolverines each defended their home turf for half a decade from 2005-2009: the Badgers won in Madison in the odd numbered years, the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in the even ones. Then, UW won easily in The Big House in 2010 to snap the home-field advantage streak (just their second A2 win since 1962) in what remains the most recently played game.


(Modern) Michigan Coaches vs. Wisconsin

·      Bo Schembechler: 18-1

·      Gary Moeller: 1-2

·      Lloyd Carr: 7-2

·      Rich Rodriguez: 1-2

·      Brady Hoke: did not face Wisconsin

·      Jim Harbaugh: TBD!


Note: Barry Alvarez, undoubtedly the most celebrated Badger coach in history, only managed a 3-7 record against the Wolverines. This was his worst record against any Big Ten school (he was 5-7-1 against the Buckeyes). His 6 game losing streak to U of M was also a worst during his time as Head Coach.



Home Field Advantage:

·      The early part of the series actually saw a home field disadvantage for the Badgers. Remember, Wisconsin only has 14 total wins in this series over the course of 64 games. Half of their wins (7) came in 1962 or earlier; 6 of these 7 wins were away from home for the Badgers, including their first 5 wins over us.

·      Since 1962, however, there has been home-field advantage. 5 of the Badgers’ 7 wins since then have come in the friendly confines of Camp Randall.

·      Wisconsin won their most recent game in Ann Arbor (2010); however, they have lost 5 of their last 6 and 17 of their last 19 games in The Big House.

·      Michigan has lost 3 in a row in Madison (2009, 2007, 2005); however, we won three in a row in Camp Randall immediately prior to that (2001, 1999, 1997).


Noteworthy Michigan Wins:

·      1998: This mid-November game in Ann Arbor was one of the earliest marquee matchups in this series. #8 Wisconsin entered The Big House undefeated at 9-0 to face #15 Michigan. U of M started its 1998 season with a hangover from the national championship; we began 0-2 after losing on the road to #22 Notre Dame and at home against #19 Syracuse. However, UM won 7 games in a row leading up to the Wisconsin game, including a 27-0 blowout of #9 Penn State the week before, so there was momentum on the side of the lower ranked team. Wisconsin took an early 7-0 lead, but then 111,000+ watched Michigan dominate their top ten opponent by the tune of 27-3 throughout the rest of the game, for a final score of 27-10. Sadly, Michigan would fall in Columbus the following week, allowing Wisconsin to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl (UM, UW and OSU shared the Big Ten title, but the latter two did not play each other that year). Michigan would go on to beat #11 Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl. Wisconsin would defeat #6 UCLA in Pasadena to finish their season 11-1, at the time their best record ever. Yet, their loss in Ann Arbor stung the Badgers as the one blemish on their otherwise perfect season.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKY9rbFfTS8


·      1999: The Big Ten season opener for both teams saw #4 Michigan come into Madison to take on #20 Wisconsin. Wisconsin started the season in the top ten, but was coming off an embarrassing non-conference loss at Cincinnati the week prior to this matchup. The Badgers wanted revenge for 1998; despite winning the Rose Bowl and posting their best record ever (11-1), a lot of Michigan fans claimed Wisconsin was very overrated and not actually good the year before (remember, we blew them out and they didn’t play Ohio State). The Badger faithful wanted to silence this talk. They would not be able to do so. Michigan got off to a fast start and a 14-0 lead. Wisconsin responded with 9 unanswered points (they missed an extra point), to go into halftime down 14-9. Most of the 3rd quarter was a defensive battle, but Tom Brady had a beautiful 27 yard TD pass on 3rd and long to give Michigan a 21-9 lead with just a minute left in the 3rd. The Badgers held UM scoreless in the 4th, but could only muster a single touchdown, not the two they needed. Michigan edged Wisconsin 21-16 to take their third victory in a row and second in a row in Madison. Wisconsin would go on to win the Big Ten outright with a 7-1 conference record and defeat #22 Stanford in the Rose Bowl. This marked the second year in a row that Wisconsin won the Rose Bowl/Big Ten, yet failed to defeat the Wolverines (Michigan finished one game back in the B1G at 6-2 with losses to MSU and Illinois). Wisconsin would finish the season ranked #4, one spot ahead of #5 Michigan after our Orange Bowl win over Alabama. This was ridiculous in the eyes of UM fans due to the fact that we defeated a top five opponent in our bowl while they beat a team that wasn’t even in the top 20. Not to mention, we beat them ourselves on their home turf. The Wolverines wouldn’t forget this slight and would win an additional three games in a row against UW from 2000-2002. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE2KjXGjXKg


·      2006: Like 1999, this was another victory over the Badgers in the Big Ten Season Opener that looked significantly better on our resume at the end of the season than we thought it would at the time. Michigan entered the matchup ranked #6 after slaughtering #2 Notre Dame in South Bend the week prior; the Badgers entered unranked in Bret Bielema’s first season as head coach. Wisconsin jumped out to an early 10-0 lead in Ann Arbor, but Michigan was able to tie the game by halftime. The second half saw Wolverine domination, with UM outscoring UW 17-3 to secure a comfortable 27-13 win. Once again, this would be a season where the only Wisconsin loss all year came against the Wolverines. The Badgers would finish the regular season 11-1 (they did not play Ohio State in 2006). Due to the Buckeyes’ appearance in the BCS Championship Game, Michigan got the nod over Wisconsin for the Rose Bowl given our head-to-head September victory. Wisconsin would go on to beat #12 Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl (ALL OF THE IRONY), while Michigan fell to #8 USC in Pasadena. Wisconsin would finish the season ranked #7, one spot above Michigan at #8, which surely drew some ire from Wolverine fans given our lopsided win against the Badgers themselves. This 12-1 season remains the best season, in terms of record alone, in the entire history of Wisconsin football. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ywv2Ioh2Xz8


Noteworthy Wisconsin Wins:

·      1981: Without a doubt, a top 5 win in the entire history of Badger football. Michigan finished the prior 1980 season with three straight top 20 wins over #16 Purdue, at #5 Ohio State, and over #16 Washington in the Rose Bowl by a combined margin of 58-9 (and the two games before that were 35-0 and 24-0 on-the-road shutouts over Indiana and Wisconsin, meaning Michigan had given up only 9 points in five games). Therefore, Michigan had the voters’ confidence going into 1981 and started the season ranked #1 in the United States. Their season opener was at Camp Randall in Madison. What happened next would shake college football to its core. The unranked Badgers pulled an absolute stunner of an upset in a game they never trailed in; Michigan would lose by a touchdown, 21-14. This was Bo’s first loss in a season opener and his first and only loss to the University of Wisconsin. Has to be one of the most disheartening losses of the entire Schembechler era; Wisconsin had been a Big Ten bottom dweller for years and, while they were slightly better in 1981 than usual, UW still only finished 1981 with a mediocre 7-5 record. With their huge upset, the Badgers snapped a 14 game losing streak to Michigan; it was their first win over the Wolverines in 19 years. This was also only their second victory all time against Michigan in front of their home crowd. From 1965 to 1993, the poor Badgers went 1-23 against Michigan. However, the 1 was a pretty damn big one.


·      1994: This late October matchup saw the unranked 3-3-1 Badgers come to Ann Arbor to face the #10 Wolverines (we held a 5-2 record, with a competitive loss to #3 PSU and of course the Hail Mary catastrophe against #7 Colorado; oddly enough the Badgers also lost to the Buffaloes that year, but they were blown out in Boulder 55-17). In his first appearance in The Big House, Head Coach Alvarez would see his Badgers coast to a relatively comfortable 31-19 victory in what was their first win in Ann Arbor in 32 years. It also was the first time in 34 years the Badgers beat the Wolverines in back to back years. This would be Barry Alvarez’s only win in Ann Arbor in his career (he would lose the next three times he visited). Wisconsin would finish the season 7-4-1 and unranked; Michigan finished #12 at 8-4.


·      2005: #14 Michigan came to Madison in September for its Big Ten opener against the (at the time) unranked Badgers. We would leave heartbroken, much like 1981. A very competitive game ended when the Badgers scored a touchdown on a 4 yard QB run with only 24 seconds remaining in the game to take a 23-20 final lead. This snapped Michigan’s 23 game Big Ten opener winning streak; the last time we had lost a Big Ten opener had been in 1981, also in Madison. The Badgers snapped a 6 game losing streak to Michigan with their first win in 11 years over the Wolverines. This was Lloyd Carr’s first loss to the Badgers in 7 tries; on the other side of the field, Barry Alvarez went out with a win in this series during his final season as head coach. Michigan wound up finishing the season unranked and 7-5, while the Badgers finished ranked #15 with a 10-3 record and a Citrus Bowl upset victory over #7 Auburn. 


Let’s get our 50th win over those Badgers this weekend!





September 27th, 2016 at 7:37 AM ^

I was at the 2005 game. Michigan really missed Mike Hart in that game, as fumbles cost us dearly. We missed Hart (and Henne) again in 2007. We missed having any sort of defense in 2009 and 2010. 


September 27th, 2016 at 11:02 AM ^

I think we would've beaten them in 2012. They got blown out at home by an unranked PSU team that year and we were slotted higher than them in the rankings. 


The rest of the years probably would've been difficult. Maybe we could've gotten them if the game was in Ann Arbor in 2011, but Hoke never would've won in Madison regardless of year. 


September 27th, 2016 at 9:43 AM ^

Wow,  Crazy to think the last time we played wisconsin was 2010. 


I'm excited to see how we do.  I look at MSU and Wisconsin as pretty evenly matched.  So how we do against them this weekend will directly affect my outlook on the MSU game. 


September 27th, 2016 at 10:52 AM ^

It's the longest gap between any two Big Ten conference teams. It's also the longest current gap between any two conference teams in the country.


Nationally, it will be second place in terms of non-conference foes not playing each other in modern times.

The longest will be Auburn and Florida in the SEC. Due to the fact the SEC only has two crossover games and each of those schools has a protected crossover (LSU for Florida, Georgia for Auburn) they barely meet. They last met in 2011, a year earlier than us and Wisconsin (however also was a gap from 2007 to 2011), but they won't meet again until 2019, making their gap two years longer than ours. 


September 28th, 2016 at 1:12 PM ^

Totally agreed. 


Another example: Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska is a cool trip to take. Unfortunately, we've only played once there (2012) and we are not scheduled to return (games have been scheduled through 2019). That's another pretty long gap. 


Wisconsin has that same scenario (or close to it) with Penn State, I believe. 

Ecky Pting

September 28th, 2016 at 11:24 PM ^

I agree.

The scheme the SEC uses is totally F-ed up. They play only 8 conference games for starters, so that leaves only 2 interdivisional games. What's more, one of those is to the same team every year! (e.g. Alabama vs. Tennessee, LSU vs. Florida, etc.). There is only 1 game that floats among the remaining 6 teams in the other division. As such, LSU will play in Knoxville, and the Vols play in Baton Rouge only once every 12 years!


September 27th, 2016 at 3:56 PM ^

I was at the game and crowd noise was hardly a factor. Dayne said after the gme that he coud not hear because he was suffering from an ear infection, which he suffered from since childhood and plagued him throughout his career as a NY Giant.  



September 27th, 2016 at 6:57 PM ^

With Wiscy friends at the game. As was the Wisconsin way--Everyone drinking and partying and not all that suprised that the Badgers were ahead because: "Michigan will come back and destroy us, they always do."

As the clock ran down however, it began to dawn on some of the more sober ones that they might actually, possibly beat Michigan!  This threw them into complete confusion because they didn't know what to do. No one had anticipated this happening and thus had no plan in case of victory.  

After the game was over,  it was replayed again on local tv--I went outside and played football with the neighborhood kids.

Blue in Fishers

September 28th, 2016 at 9:43 PM ^

I don't comment much but logged in just to say how great these series history posts are. Both the PSU post and this one are really well done and bring back so many memories. I lived in Denver during the 1997 season and I remember the PSU game very well but I was probably more nervous about the game in Madison that was sandwiched between PSU and OSU. After all of the PSU hype, I had to work hard to find a way to watch the UW game in Denver. It wasn't even a national broadcast and I ended up sitting by myself in a very small neighborhood bar, watching the very cold game from Madison with no sound on the TV. For all,of the impressive wins in '97 (including the dismantling of PSU), I thought UM 's performance on the road against a very good Badger team, in a perfect letdown situation, was as impressive as any.

Ecky Pting

September 28th, 2016 at 11:16 PM ^

I remember listening to the 1981 loss on the radio while playing touch football with other friends from our neighborhood on a gorgeous late summer afternoon. It was Frank Beckman's first broadcast after taking over for Bob Ufer, which sounded strange and alien at the time. It endures as one of the scars of my childhood that branded me a Michigan fan for life, right alongside the 1973 tie with OSU and the 16-0 shutout loss at Minnesota in 1977, also when UM was ranked #1.


September 29th, 2016 at 10:06 AM ^

Since I was so young back then, I didn't start watching Michigan games until the Rich Rod years. So one of the first U-M games I watched was the '08 game.

I still remember Threet reading the read option to perfection on that 60-yard run. It was so intriguing to me.

Here's to another great game!