When it come to Michigan, one thing amongst Buckeye nation is certain. We hate them, we hate everything about them. We refuse to wear blue during football season, the letter “m” is removed from all words during Michigan week and known friendships and relationships have been ended due to their ties to the maize and blue. There is one subject on our rivalry that has split the fan base for decades. You are on either one side of the argument or the other. Neither side is right, neither side is wrong, but where do you stand?
Who are you rooting for when Michigan plays anyone except Ohio State? There are two basic schools of thought. You want Michigan to lose and be embarrassed any chance that they get or you want Michigan to be undefeated and on top of the world every time that they face us in that season’s final game.
For many years, I rooted for the Big Ten in all out of conference play. I found this exhausting as the Big Ten has not fared too well when they went out of the conference in recent past. I learned that as a Buckeye fan, I can’t base the success of my season on the other teams play. During the end of the Tressel era, Ohio State elevated itself to almost being “above” the rest of the conference. As a result of winning at least a share of six straight Big Ten titles, it was almost expected for Ohio State to stand at the top of the conference at the end of the regular season.
Our teams were being built to compete on a national level, instead of just winning a power conference. This objective was achieved when in Coach Tressel’s final two seasons Ohio State took out Oregon and Arkansas in back-to-back bowl games. According to the NCAA and Arkansas, the Arkansas win never happened, but we all saw with our own two eyes the Buckeyes tame an SEC power.
While Ohio State was building a national power, there were great battles within the Big Ten that led us to believe it was a strong conference. Then we would hit bowl season and Big Ten teams that we thought were national powers were routinely getting beat. Thus it became exhausting, to root for the Big Ten. When OSU was taking care of business, trying to build up the reputation of the Big Ten, the other top teams were falling flat on their face. I virtually gave up rooting for the Big Ten. I became more concerned with the Buckeyes just playing the schedule they were dealt, handling their business and let those other teams embarrass themselves.
This brings me to Michigan. As a central Ohio kid growing up in the 90’s, I saw many great and promising seasons ruined by that team from the state up north. I envied the ability to be in their position. Walk in to Ann Arbor to face an undefeated Michigan team, only to wax them and ruin all hopes of a national championship. As great Cooper team after great Cooper team was trounced by Michigan, my hatred grew.
It got to the point where I WANTED them to be undefeated every year, to have that shot at ruining their season. I would never ever actively “root” for Michigan, but I would prefer their win over a loss. Then Jim Tressel was hired and he made beating Michigan a primary goal every year; which he did almost every single season. During Jim Tressel’s run, Michigan itself had built into a National power, culminating in an amazing #1 vs #2 match-up in Columbus in 2006. An OSU win would put immense pressure on to Lloyd Carr to retire. The graduation of two of his greatest players; Mike Hart and Chad Henne (a combined 0-8 against OSU), as well as an historic upset at the hands of Appalachian State to open the following season eventually pushed him into retirement.
To keep pace, Michigan hired one of the hottest coaches in the country in Rich Rodriguez. Unfortunately, they didn’t realize the recruiting overhaul that had to happen for Rich Rod to be successful. They also failed to over look that Rich Rod never put a premium on defense. He chose to just outscore opponents rather than contain them. Without having a focus on defense, it would be almost impossible to compete for Big Ten titles.
The winningest program in the history of college football became a laughing stock. Any big game they were in they would lose. One year the only conference game they won was against Indiana. And if you recall that game, Michigan did all it could to throw that game away, Indiana just didn’t take it.
Buckeye nation was ecstatic, the Bucks were in the National Title hunt every year and Michigan was busy embarrassing itself on a weekly basis. Our games against our hated rivals became unwatchable. We had out-of-conference games with teams from inferior conferences that were more interesting than “The Game.”
Buckeye nation no longer had to concern themselves with Michigan winning out, only to ruin their season at the end. Michigan was doing it to themselves and we were loving it. It was nice rubbing their faces in their failure with a routine end of the season ass-whopping.
Then something started to happen. Michigan was no long “Michigan”. The rivalry was losing its luster; no longer did we hate them, we just looked down on them. We never pitied them, but we no longer respected them. The rivalry was on the verge of completely falling apart. Michigan made its move to fire Rich Rod and brought in Brady Hoke. Immediately, he took the Jim Tressel route and put the season focus on beating Ohio State. He refueled the rivalry. He also found offensive success running Rich Rod’s offense with Rich Rod’s players (a must until he can recruit the right players to fit his system).
Following a 10-2 season, Michigan has found its way back into the top 25. I am happy to see that the rivalry is returning to its days of old. It’s now time for Michigan to return to the nation’s elite, only so that we can begin knocking them off their pedestal again.
I am not saying that we need to start outwardly cheering for Michigan, but if they win most of their games prior to our end of season showdown, it’s better for us at the end. It makes victory that much sweeter.
As much as I enjoyed watching Alabama have their way with Michigan, deep down it told me that Michigan is nowhere near the team that many thought they were. I personally want Michigan to win every single game they play except of course against the Bucks. I want them undefeated and on the cusp on a national title every time we play. It makes a victory mean that much more.
I know no one in Buckeye nation will ever pull for Michigan. And I am not asking anyone to do that. All I am saying is I would rather they win than lose. I will always enjoy watching them get completely embarrassed on national television. But every time it happens, I know that we are only farther away from restoring the greatest rivalry in all of college football.
I feel that we have gotten our revenge from the 90’s. And it’s now time for Michigan to return to power to make this rivalry mean something again. In order to do that, they need to win.
Are you with me? Are you against me? Do you want Michigan to lose every game they ever play? Or is it time for this rivalry to mean something again? Find me on twitter @kylecedwards713 and let me know what you think.