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Ted Ginn Jr.: 2006 OSU-Michigan game much bigger than Saturday's clash

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The hype machine is in full force for Saturday’s college football showdown between Ohio State and Michigan.

No. 2 vs. No. 3.

The biggest game of the season in arguably the biggest rivalry in college football.

National championship implications.

It’s not the biggest game in the storied history between these powerhouses, though. Not according to Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., whose career is defined by this rivalry.

Ginn says there’s no question the 2006 game that was billed the “Game of the Century’’ between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan was bigger.

“Back when we were playing, whoever won went to the national championship [game],’’ said Ginn, a junior wide receiver for the Buckeyes that season. “Done deal. Here, whoever wins has got a shot, but they’re not all the way in.

“It’s big, but it ain’t as big as that first one.’’

The 2006 game was an instant ESPN Classic. Ohio State won 42-39 in the battle of 11-0 teams, not clinching it until Ginn recovered the onside kick in the final moments.

Ginn also caught a 39-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

Here’s how he summed up the emotion of that game: “It’s like playing against your big brother. You’ve never been able to beat him, and then the time that you beat him he ain’t got no choice but to let you have your moment. That’s what that moment was all about.’’

Although he grew up in Cleveland, Ginn had early aspirations of playing for Michigan. Wolverines legend Charles Woodson, the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner, was his favorite player.

Ginn ultimately went to Ohio State, where he made an immediate impact on the rivalry against Michigan with an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown as a true freshman.

The next year he caught a team-high nine passes for 89 yards as the Buckeyes rallied from a 21-12 deficit with less than eight minutes remaining for a 25-21 victory.

Then came the 2006 game that a decade later still makes him smile.

He doesn’t let second-year Carolina wide receiver Devin Funchess, who played at Michigan, forget it.

“You’ve got to be real, real special in this game,’’ Ginn said. “I don’t think they’ve got nobody over there that’s real special.

“In my time, you had guys that took over the game. I don’t see nobody over there like that.’’

Ginn won’t even waste his time making a friendly wager on the game with Funchess.

“I don’t need no bet,’’ he said. “I need to be able to say, ‘Hey, I started the 10-year run and it’s still going.'"

Ginn’s punt return in the 2004 game helped Ohio State start a streak of seven straight wins against Michigan. The Buckeyes have won 11 of the past 12 in the series since then.

“That’s what made me who I am, me coming in as a freshman, doing my deal, running that 82-yard punt return back and sealing that win, and coming back my next two years and doing what we did,’’ Ginn said. “The Michigan game was one of the games that made me who I am.’’