Ohio State and Michigan

Separated by about 200 miles, the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University wait all year for sixty minutes of football.

 

Regardless of record or rank, every college football fan should care about this game. On a personal level, everything stops for me when they dot the “I” in Columbus or the Wolverines touch the “M Club” sign in Ann Arbor. I’ve never spent a day in either Ohio or Michigan, rarely anticipate a Big Ten college football game or have any friends who have graduated from Ohio State or Michigan.

 

It doesn’t matter.

 

Think of the history behind the Michigan/Ohio State game as a heavy sorbet that gets a fan ready for the contest. Thanks to domination early in the series, Michigan holds a sizeable lead against Ohio State. Winning 57 of the 104 games against the Buckeyes, the Wolverines can proudly claim a series lead for another decade or so, even if they lose the next 15 games against Ohio State.  

 

Judging by their performance under first year head coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines may visit the loss column with frequency in the next couple of years. Winning only two games in the Big 10 and three games overall, the Wolverines limp into the rivalry game with pride on the line. They won’t make a bowl game and could still finish in last place in the conference.

 

With only two losses overall, Ohio State feels like it’s a wasted season for them as well. The Buckeyes fell out of the BCS Championship Game race in the middle of September with a loss against USC. The best case scenario for Ohio State is a trip to Rose Bowl in January, and they need some help from Michigan State on Saturday.

 

So, why should anyone watch this game?

 

It’s Bo and Woody. Two college football coaches who still go by one name to sports fans. Two coaches who spent a decade wanting to tear the head off each other, and then spend the rest of their lives as close friends. I’m sure both are up in football’s Valhalla anticipating the noon kickoff on Saturday.

 

It’s Bob Ufer, the voice of Michigan football, proclaiming victory for the Wolverines against Indiana in the most incredible radio call you will ever hear in your life. Treat yourself to five minutes of Anthony Carter’s game-winning touchdown call in 1979. (http://www.ufer.org/sounds.html – it’s on the right side of the page)

 

It’s “Hello Heisman.” Desmond Howard returned a punt for Michigan and won the Heisman trophy with this 92-yard punt return against Ohio State. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2E_cOgyCKY) Keith Jackson’s spot on perfect call (notice how Jackson says his famous phrase at the exact second where Howard starts his pose) adds another layer of intrigue to the series.

 

It’s “Script Ohio.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-TQcqRWbDA)   Spelling out the word “Ohio” before the game at Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes turn a mundane occurrence into an awesome sight. On a simple level, the band spells out a word in the middle of a football field. For a four-year sousaphone player, it’s a chance to shine in front of a national audience as they tip their cap to “dot the I” and create a memory for the rest of their life. In Ohio, if you get a chance to “dot the I” in the Michigan game, you become an instant celebrity in Columbus. 

 

It’s walking up to anyone in the state of Ohio, saying “O-H”, and waiting for an “I-O” in return.

 

It’s scarlet and gray against maize and blue.

 

It’s a shot for the Buckeyes to win five straight games against the Wolverines – something that hasn’t happened in the history of the series.

 

It’s a shot for the Wolverines to overcome a 20 point spread with their new spread offense that hasn’t taken flight in Ann Arbor.

 

It’s believing that one team really plays like the “Champions of the West.”

 

It’s not giving a damn about the whole state of Michigan.

 

It’s Bob Ufer honking his horn in the press box.

 

It’s Ohio State.

 

It’s Michigan.

 

It’s time.

 

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