There’s no game more important this week in the Big Ten – and maybe the nation – than Ohio State vs. Michigan. Livin’ B1G delves into what makes the rivalry so special, and why the hate is so real.
The Ohio State campus is devoid of the letter M leading up to what many refer to simply as “The Game.” A red X covers as many Ms as possible, and the practice is taken to an extreme even on the team’s official Twitter account:
The Buckeyes don’t even refer to their rivals as Michigan or the Wolverines. It’s just, “That Team Up North,” or “TTUN.” Yes, it’s ridiculous. But it’s also a fun troll job capturing the true hate in a rivalry that dates back to 1897.
Michigan throws in its jabs, too. Referring to Ohio State as simply “Ohio” really eats at the Buckeyes. And there’s no shortage of jokes poking fun at the light entrance requirements to attend Ohio State compared to Michigan’s stricter guidelines. My favorite joke I’ve heard:
Q: How do you get an Ohio State graduate off your front porch?
A: Pay him for the pizza.
All of the barbs are reasons why Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer calls this the greatest rivalry in all of sports. Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh said facing Meyer is “unique in that it’s at the highest level.”
In this edition of Livin’ B1G, we’ll look back on some of the more recent moments in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. It’s not to say we’re forgetting about the fact that the Big Ten has three teams ranked in the AP top five for the first time in 56 years – No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan, No. 5 Wisconsin – or that Wisconsin, Nebraska and Penn State are all fighting to reach Indianapolis for the conference title game.
But, let’s be honest – all eyes will be on Columbus this weekend.
Harbaugh’s Guarantee – 1986
According to Harbaugh, this weekend will be the first time in 30 years he’s stepped foot in Ohio Stadium. The last time was when, as Michigan’s quarterback, he guaranteed the Wolverines would win and play in the Rose Bowl. Both happened, as Harbaugh threw for 261 yards in a 26-24 victory.
There are Ohio State fans who remember Harbaugh’s guarantee and become irked. But then-Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was not. He wrote in his autobiography three years later: “Quarterbacks are a special breed. They need to be cocky, and the cockiest I ever had was probably Jim Harbaugh.”
Some things never change, Bo.
Desmond Howard’s Pose – 1991
Michigan beat Ohio State, 31-3, but the 1991 game is not remembered for the result. Desmond Howard was a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy even before kickoff, and he secured many more votes that day with catches of 50 and 42 yards. Howard sealed the award with a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown, punctuating the moment by doing a Heisman pose shortly after crossing the goal line.
Dark Day For No. 1 vs. No. 2 – 2006
The only No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the long rivalry was a classic, and unfortunately, Schembechler wasn’t able to see it. The legendary Michigan coach passed away on the eve of the game, and there were tributes from both sides, as Schembechler served as an assistant at Ohio State under Woody Hayes for five years.
The top-ranked Buckeyes won, 42-39, behind four touchdown passes from eventual Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. They would go on to play in the BCS national championship game, where they would lose to a Florida team coached by Urban Meyer.
Michigan’s Last Victory – 2011
Ohio State has won four straight meetings. It has pretty much dominated the rivalry since 2004, winning 11 of the last 12 matchups, with the exception of this one. Denard Robinson threw three touchdown passes and rushed for 170 yards and two more scores in Michigan’s 40-34 victory.
Robinson out-dueled Braxton Miller, who tossed two TD pass and ran for 100 yards and another touchdown. Meyer would take over the Buckeyes following this matchup, and the Wolverines haven’t won since.
… I’d like to take time in my final thought to thank the ESPN family of networks for scheduling a huge rivalry game featuring two of the nation’s top three teams that have College Football Playoff aspirations at Noon ET so everyone can watch while hungover from Black Friday partying. Why wouldn’t this game be in prime time? That would make too much sense, I guess.
If the issue is competing for ratings against Auburn vs. Alabama in the afternoon or Florida vs. Florida State at night, then that’s a huge slap in the face to the Big Ten. Ohio State-Michigan will draw viewers given the importance of this game, yet ESPN is chickening out.
Unfortunately, that means this classic matchup isn’t getting the prime-time audience it deserves.