In the end, the rivalry was all that mattered.
Ohio State's season was ending no matter the outcome and Michigan lost its opportunity to play for a Big Ten title on Friday, when Nebraska beat Iowa.
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes, though, managed to complete the sixth perfect season in school history with a 26-21 victory over the 20th-ranked Wolverines at the Horseshoe.
Drew Basil kicked a pair of second-half field goals for Ohio State and the Buckeyes' defense did not allow Michigan to cross midfield in a dominant second half.
The Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) finished without a loss for the first time since their 2002 national championship season, but Saturday marked the unfortunate conclusion of Urban Meyer's first year as head coach. Ohio State is ineligible for postseason play, part of sanctions stemming from NCAA penalties under former coach Jim Tressel's tenure. The Buckeyes can still be voted No. 1 by members of the media.
"To be 12 0, it really hasn't sunk in yet. It's more the fact that we're going to lose it it's almost like you're losing some of your children when they go away to college," Meyer said. "Our house is going to be empty. When we go to a meeting after our team meeting on Tuesday, we start a new journey. And however the journey the foundation's really, really strong. Couldn't be stronger because of our senior class. That's all I can think about."
Tressel was on hand for the 10-year celebration of Ohio State's last national championship team and was roundly cheered despite his transgressions that may have cost this year's Buckeyes team an opportunity to play for another title. The NCAA gave Ohio State the one-year postseason ban after an investigation determined that Tressel did not report potential violations during the 2010 season.
Michigan (8-4, 6-2) committed four turnovers and had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Wolverines lost their annual grudge match with Ohio State for the eighth time in the last nine years.
The Buckeyes trailed 21-20 after an exciting opening 30 minutes and stopped Michigan's Denard Robinson on a fourth-down run near midfield on the first series of the second half, then took advantage of the short field to move in front on Basil's 28-yard field goal.
Robinson, who split time at quarterback with Devin Gardner, fumbled just two plays after the ensuing kickoff to give Ohio State the ball at the Michigan 37. The Buckeyes drove inside the five, but Braxton Miller was sacked and a bad snap on third down forced a 39-yard field goal try that Basil missed.
Miller's 42-yard run on the final play of the third quarter gave the Buckeyes a first down at the Michigan 29, but he fumbled while being sacked to turn the ball over and thwart another potential scoring opportunity.
But the Ohio State defense was more than up to the task and provided one more golden chance with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, when Travis Howard recovered a Gardner fumble at the Michigan 10. The Wolverines, though, stiffened again and forced a 25-yard field goal from Basil to make it 26-21 with 6:26 remaining.
"We had too many turnovers. That's why we lost," Robinson said. "In order to win this game, you have to have control of the ball. Unfortunately, we did not have much success running the ball in the second half."
There was still plenty of time for Michigan to steal it, but a holding penalty wiped out the Wolverines' first venture to midfield in the second half and Gardner was soon after picked off by C.J. Barnett with 4:50 to play.
Ohio State, which held Michigan to a mere 61 yards of offense in the second half, ran out the remaining time and avenged last year's 40-34 loss at the Big House.
Miller completed 14-of-18 passes for 189 yards with a touchdown and ran for 57 yards on 20 carries in the victory. Carlos Hyde ran for 146 yards on 26 attempts to power an Ohio State ground game that finished with 207 yards.
Robinson's 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter helped account for most of his 122 yards on the ground, while Gardner threw for 171 yards with a score on 11-of-20 efficiency in defeat.
Big plays helped both teams score touchdowns in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the contest.
A 52-yard pass from Miller to Devin Smith set up Hyde's 3-yard TD run on the first possession of the game. Gardner fumbled deep inside Ohio State territory to end Michigan's first series, then found Roy Roundtree with a short pass and the receiver did the rest -- with the help of one blocker -- for a 75-yard score.
Basil's 41-yard field goal gave Ohio State a 10-7 lead in the final minute of the first quarter, but the Wolverines went in front early in the second on Gardner's 2-yard run. Michigan had an offensive pass interference penalty wipe out a 36-yard gain, then punted the ball away before getting it right back at the Ohio State 25 when OSU's Corey Brown fumbled on the return. A roughing the passer penalty on a third-down incompletion then set up Gardner's score.
Brown atoned for his miscue with a 14-yard TD catch with 90 seconds left in the half to give the Buckeyes a 17-14 edge, but Robinson went under center on the next Michigan series and scored on a 67-yard run just 50 seconds later. He squeezed through a pair of would-be Ohio State tacklers before outracing the rest of the defense to the end zone.
Basil connected on a 52-yard field goal as time expired to pull Ohio State within 21-20 at the break.
In addition to this season and 2002, Ohio State also finished unbeaten and untied in 1916, 1944, 1954 and 1968 ... Michigan had previously spoiled Ohio State unbeaten seasons in 1969, 1973, 1995 and 1996 ... The Buckeyes became the first team ineligible for postseason play to finish unbeaten since Auburn was 11-0 under Terry Bowden in 1993 ... The Wolverines still lead the all-time series, 58-44-6 ... Gardner had won each of his three starts as Michigan's quarterback after replacing an injured Robinson ... Tressel currently works in the administration department at the University of Akron ... The crowd of 105,899 was the largest for a Michigan-Ohio State game in Columbus.