The Resurgence Of 'The Game'
There was once a time when the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry was the de facto Big Ten Championship Game. The 'Ten Year War' (1969-1978) between the Buckeyes' Woody Hayes and Wolverines' Bo Schembechler engraved itself into the college football books as arguably the fiercest rivalry in all of sports. Big Ten Championships, as well as national championship ambitions, were put on the line.
Since then, runs between Ohio State and Michigan have made the rivalry one-sided. From 1985-2000, the Wolverines waxed the Buckeyes winning 12 times. In that span, the scarlet and gray faithful watched Desmond Howard pull the Heisman pose, Charles Woodson sprint down the sideline and Tim Biakabutuka blaze 313 yards past a vaunted OSU defense in 1995.
From 2001-2014, the tides turned. Ohio State has won 12 of 14, including the 'Game of the Century' in 2006, when Ohio State entered 'The Game' No. 1 and Michigan entered No. 2. The victory cemented quarterback Troy Smith's Heisman Trophy destiny.
With the Jim Harbaugh-Urban Meyer rivalry beginning, expect it to be like the way it was when Bo and Woody roamed the sidelines.
November 28 will mark the first time since 2006 that both teams face off as Top 10 combatants. No. 8 Ohio State and No. 10 Michigan are still in the hunt for the Big Ten Championship and a playoff spot, and this game could have major conference implications.
It's the way the football Gods intended. Finally, the rivalry is back.
Since 1985, only on four occasions (1986, 1997, 2003 and 2006) have the Buckeyes and Wolverines faced in Top 10 matchups – during the Ten Year War, they had seven.
This Saturday's match would make it the fifth time since the '85 season in which both squads cracked the Top 10. Expect the trend to continue.
Meyer had one of the best 50-game starts at any school, going 47-3. In the process, Ohio State went three years undefeated in conference play, including a national championship in 2014.
Harbaugh has surpassed many pundit's expectations of what the Wolverines were going to be this year. If not for a last second botch punt, Michigan is a one-loss team right now, and conceivably would've been in the driver seat of the Big Ten East.
In a weird way, this year's game does have Big Ten Championship aspirations tied to it. If Penn State pulls off the upset at Michigan State, then the winner of OSU-Mich will be going to Indianapolis next week to face Iowa for the conference crown.
College (as well as coaching) careers are made from this game. For Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott, this will be his last game against 'The Team Up North'. Elliott has a chance this week to solidify himself as one of the all-time great running backs in Buckeye history. A big game against Michigan would do that.
John Cooper's inability to beat the arch rival ultimately cost him his job. Yes, Cooper is in the College Football Hall of Fame, but he will be remembered by this set of numbers: 2-10-1, his record against Michigan.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jim Tressel has entered 'hero' level status in Buckeye fans' hearts. Under Tressel, the maize and blue suffered seven straight defeats against the men of Columbus. In a way, the sweater vest was kryptonite to the Wolverines.
Now, could khakis be what haunts the Buckeyes? Time will only tell.
Meyer said that this rivalry is "the greatest in all of sport. Not college football, all of sport." On Saturday, we will finally witness a Harbaugh-Meyer showdown in 'The Game'.
Finally, the rivalry is back.