A New War

By Kyle Rowland on November 20, 2012 at 10:00a

Six years ago, Ohio State and Michigan entered the final week of the season ranked No. 1 and No. 2. On the eve of the game, as if any more storylines or emotion needed injected into the game, legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler died. 

They get it. 

The next day the Buckeyes and Wolverines battled for 60 minutes in one of the rivalry’s greatest games. Ohio State prevailed, 42-39, and there were murmurs of a rematch in the national championship game. That vision never came to fruition, but both schools certainly wish it would have, because they each suffered humiliating losses in their bowl games.

January 2007 signaled the beginning of a decline in the Big Ten. For the better part of four months in the fall of 2006, the conference enjoyed arguably its finest stretch. Entering the postseason, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin were 34-2 and ranked in the top five. But those two loses by the league’s premier programs sent the Big Ten reeling.

It is still in the process of recovering. And if it does, Ohio State and Michigan will have played the biggest role in its rehabilitation.

The Ohio State-Michigan game has taken the same hit. The Maize and Blue languished through three years of irrelevancy with Rich Rodriguez, which sent the titanic late-November clash down a notch or two.

Coaching Ohio State and Michigan on that November day in 2006 were two men who “got it.” Jim Tressel was an Ohio native and assistant at Ohio State under Earle Bruce in the 80s, while Lloyd Carr had been on the staff at Michigan since 1980.

The two have been replaced by near clones when it comes to The Game.

For Urban Meyer, Michigan is That Team Up North.

“I know it, I’m just not going to say it,” Meyer said when asked if he knew the name of Ohio State’s rival. “If the players say it, you have to do pushups.”

Brady Hoke has used similar jabs. In two seasons at Michigan he is yet to refer to the Buckeyes as Ohio State. Instead, it’s just plain Ohio.

The two grew up in opposite corners of the state rooting for opposing teams. Meyer idolized Archie Griffin and Woody Hayes, while Hoke chose to be the kid that strayed from the norm.

Brady Hoke restored the glory at Michigan in Year 1. 

“I had a lot of respect for Coach Hayes and love Coach Hayes,” Hoke said. “But I was not a fan of that university in Ohio, because my buddies were. So I had to be different, and I can tell you I became a Michigan fan and fanatical about the University of Michigan.”

When Meyer was hired by Ohio State, he put a sign up in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center mocking the majors chosen by Michigan’s football players. He didn’t stop there, though. All the football schedules throughout the complex were edited to say “That Team Up North” for the Nov. 24th game.

"You hate them, but you respect them,” said senior linebacker Zach Boren, whose dad was a linebacker at Michigan. Boren’s brother, Justin, played two seasons in Ann Arbor before transferring to Ohio State after Rich Rodriguez was hired.

“You hit so much harder in that game,” Boren said. “Afterwards, you’re so much more sore than after a normal game because you put your heart and soul on the line.”

Meyer was introduced as head coach just days after Michigan broke Ohio State’s stranglehold on the rivalry. For seven straight years, the Buckeyes came away from The Game victorious.

The John Cooper era was the low point for Buckeye Nation as they suffered through a 2-10-1 malaise. But it took Tressel just 10 years to cancel out that eight-game difference with a 9-1 record.

Michigan went through its thin years during Rodriguez’s three-year tenure. The Wolverines were 15-22 during that stretch and lost to Ohio State all three years by a combined score of 100-24.

Cooper and Rodriguez were both outsiders to their respective programs and were never fully accepted by the fanbases. Each dose of success came with skeptics pointing out the flaws. And the same chorus erupted the week of The Game. They were a combined 2-13-1 against their arch rival, leading many to say they just didn’t understand the magnitude of the rivalry.

But when Tressel and Meyer were hired at Ohio State and Hoke at Michigan, legions of fans embraced the decision for the simple fact that they were Ohio guys and a Michigan Man.

It’s even trickled down to the players.

“Coach Hoke is building that program to be as good as Ohio State,” Boren said. “We’re happy for them. We want that rivalry to be back. We want those games to be great games.”

That’s what the forecast for Saturday is calling for, another fine installment of a timeless rivalry.

Simple and to the point.

Hoke got his first taste of The Game as a head coach last season and came away with a win. It’s something Meyer would like to duplicate in 2012. Throughout his career “rivalry games” have been when Meyer’s teams perform their best. He is 21-3 in games defined by bad blood.

In 1986 and ’87, Meyer was part of two classic Ohio State-Michigan games. The ’86 contest was a winner-take-all affair for the Rose Bowl. In the week leading up to the game, Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh guaranteed victory. A few days later he backed his talk up by leading the Wolverines into Ohio Stadium and coming out with a 26-24 win.

The following year included more drama in the buildup to The Game, but this time it was due to Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce getting fired. He still coached that Saturday, and when the team came out on the field, they were wearing “Earle” headbands in support of their ousted coach.

The Buckeyes went on to win, 23-20.

“I happened to be the guy standing at the door (before the team went on the field),” Meyer said. “I was a GA. I opened the tunnel door and (Michigan’s) locker room was right across from me. There stood Bo Schembechler with a bunch of big players behind him. Here I am, a guy who grew up with the rivalry, 21 years old, and I’m six feet away from him. I just froze.”

Saturday is the 109th renewal of The Game. But none were bigger than Games 66 through 75. That decade-long stretch is known as the Ten-Year War. It started in 1969, when Schembechler, a Hayes protégé, beat an Ohio State team that was thought to be unbeatable. During that span, Ohio State or Michigan represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl all 10 years. Schembechler and the Wolverines held a 5-4-1 advantage over Hayes and the Buckeyes.

Due to the current head coaches’ intimate history with the rivalry, many are pointing at another prolonged conflict. Some say nothing could ever compare to the halcyon days of Hayes and Schembechler, but history is known to repeat itself.

“It is the most important game on that schedule,” Hoke said. “It’s almost personal. That last Saturday in November, at 12 o’clock, that ball being kicked off.

“There’s nothing like it.”


Comments Show All Comments

Evansvillebuckeye's picture

I think I'll pull a Hairbaugh and guarantee an OSU victory right now!  Go Bucks!!

Doc's picture

The look on Urban's face in the top picture is priceless.  He has to be thinking, "Get your man boobs out of my face."

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Alhan's picture

I pictured him thinking "I wish to Christ I couldn't smell this guy's breath right now..."

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

buckz4evr's picture

I can't stop laughing.  Doc, you made my day!  Thanks!

Doc's picture

You are entirely welcome.  I'm here all week, please tip your wait staff.

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nickma71's picture

He might have strayed from the norm, but not the chow line.


MUCK fichigan,,,, lets go Bucks!!

toad1204's picture

"I wish he'd stop spitting when he talks" UFM
Great piece Kyle.

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

LouGroza's picture

An Ohio State man is a guy born and raised in Ohio, grew up a fan of and loyal to the home state team. Going on to be a GA there and ultimately coaching OSU, a dream come true.
And a ttun man is a guy from Ohio that liked ttun to piss off his buddies that were OSU fans that basically fell into the job when others in front of him for the position turned it down and he was the default hire. That sounds fairly strange.

RBuck's picture

I thought it sounded fairly typical.

Long live the southend.

Boxley's picture

A renewal of the greatest rivalry in college football,    Nawww, I just want a continuation of beating them every year.
I hated the Cooper years, Disliked Bruce's tenure due to failing to go all the way.
Loved Woody, probably because as a child that was what I grew up with. Remember waiting up until 11 pm every Saturday night so I could watch the game on TV on the local channel (only three major and one local back then, no cable), as it was never on during the day most games, or if it had been, then got to see it twice.
A new era? I would rather we just keep beating the crap out of them every year.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

BrewstersMillions's picture

I've always believed that each team is defined by their success against the other. We saw that in the Cooper years where JC marched out teams that were, by and large, more talented top to bottom than Michigan and had gaudy regular season stats and records to back it up only to find themselves on the receiving end of a season ruining loss. Meanwhile, Tressel beat up some pretty talented Michigan teams in his own right in 2001 and 2003. Both teams hit the apex in 2006 when the best JT coached OSU team legitimized itself by beating the best Michigan team I remember watching (97 was good too but I think 2006 was better).
When OSU took the Rich Rod teams to the wood shed, I really didn't enjoy it. I know I'm in the minority here but I never liked thinking there was no way a Michigan team could defeat OSU. I like the uncertainty of it. I love when both teams are good-or at least good enough to swing the upset when one is having the better season. After 2004, I never thought OSU would los to Michigan, even when Carr was there still. When Tressel and OSU beat that team in the Shoe with Troy before he was really Troy, I never worried about a Michigan game again until last year. Saturday has me a little concerned and I like it. When Michigan and OSU are both good, college football is better for it. When one is just so much better than the other, even when its my team thats superior, it loses something. Personally, I find myself pulling for Brady Hoke to keep Michigan relevant. I want a good Michigan team on the schedule. It was more satisfying as a fan to beat the undefeated #2 by 3 then it ever was to beat a bad team by multiple scores.
Just my .02 on the rivalry as I see it.

hodge's picture

Cheers, mate.  I'll drink to that sentiment any day.

Doc's picture

I get ya.  I really do.  A rivalry isn't a rivalry unless there is a possibility of defeat.  I just can not stand losing to those arrogant knuckle draggers.  Living in NW Ohio we have tons of "Hoke's" up hear.  Never venturing the 45 minutes north to visit that bung hole of a town, but rooting for them like their alumni.  I need a victory on Saturday as much as I need oxygen.  12 and 0 is my only scenario.  Come on boys beat blue!

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Baroclinicity's picture

Brewster, I hear you, but not in full agreement with 2 points. 
First, I think the '97 Michigan team was better than '06.
Second, I understand what you are saying about wanting UM to be good, and I agree it makes the rivalry that much better.  But I went to Ohio State during quite possibly the 4 worst years in recent history to be there.  We were 1-3.  My freshman year was the 28-0 debacle.  We won in '94 when both teams were a little down, and then '95 and '96 were both very painful losses as well.
Get over it, I know, but I still find myself wanting some payback.  The more dirt on top of them, the better.  I want it in the wood shed.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

ElGato69's picture

I share your pain @Baroclinicity.  My freshman year was '87, which saw Bruce go out with a bang.  Then there was the drought of the Cooper years.  At least 3 of those years ('93, '95 & '96), OSU had no business losing to the skunkbears, but lose they did.  Prior to that final game of the year, those three teams had no losses and one tie.  Then the Buckeyes' collective sphincter tightened and we fell on our faces each time.  And these 3 don't even take into account the '91 season you mentioned, where Desmond "Heisman pose" Howard adds insult to a 31-3 injury.
So far during our great run against TTUN, we have not really taken anything away from them.  We came close in '04, but they backed into the Rose Bowl anyway, I believe due to a Wisconsin loss later that day.  I want Michigan fans to truly feel the pain of denial: have your most hated rival turn your championship dreams to ashes and laugh at your misery.  I want Michigan fans to forever weep about what might have been, if not for that last game of the year.  Maybe, just maybe, after tasting these sweet tears of sorrow, my ravenous appetite for UM's destruction will be sated.  But then again, maybe not...

BrewstersMillions's picture

You know that could be part of it. I was there from 2001-2005 so I saw some of the best years the rivalry had to offer. I sort of got to run the entire spectrum of emotion. In 2001 it was JT's first, rocky year and it salvaged a season in which expectations weren't great to begin with with the blowout-turned-nail-biter up in AA. Then of course the pure jubilation is the 2002 game (which by the way was inches from going to other direction. It was an insane scene after Will Allen caught the ball, but a second later and Braylon is dancing in the endzone on our hearts as a loss would have knocked OSU all the way down to third in the B1G that year). 2003 I experienced the first loss but that didn't hurt as bad because Michigan had a tough squad that year, and then finally the 2004 game that I remember so fondly as it was my last in the shoe (sadly until the 2006 opener which was actually the last time I've been 'home'). So my feelings on the rivalry were bred differently since I 'grew up as a fan' in a different time. That's not to say I'm new to the party as an OSU fan, as I put the date of my fandom on the shoulders of one Eddie George against Notre Dame, but in terms of witnessing it all first hand-I saw great success on the part of OSU (que Borat Picture).
I certainly get your point, that's for sure.

chitown buckeye's picture

I agree with those sentiments. I want the game to be played when each team is good enough to beat the other. When Rich Rod was there it wasnt a matter if we would win it was a matter of by how many. I want the lead up to the game to give me anxiety, make me a nervous wreck because you have no idea who might win this game. When each team is capable of winning this game, those to me are when the rivalry is at its highest. I know many have made it a forgone conclusion that this game is OSU's but I have seen to many talented teams lose to Michigan. Michigan can beat this OSU team. We need to play our best game and be prepared. Honetsly, I am nervous as hell right now and I wouldnt have it any other way.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

Larryp713's picture

Honestly, as incredible as that game in 2006 was, I truly cherish every Buckeye win over AACC equally. I loved the beatdown two years later, where Beanie's run broke it open. The Gholstein destruction of Jake Long and Chad Henne. The huge catch by Maurice Clarett that sealed the deal in 2002. I love the beatdowns and tight wins equally.



Ahh Saturday's picture

I understand those who say you want a close game, that you want michigan to be competitive because it's good for the rivalry.  I've even heard people say that rivalry "sucked" during the days of JT vs RR, to which I responded, yes, it sucked for them. For me, OSU could win every game 100-0 for the rest of my life, and it would never diminish the joy I would take from each win.

BrewstersMillions's picture

See, that's where you may have me wrong. I don't neccessarily want a close game. Going into it, I want to know Michigan can beat Ohio State. If Ohio State whacked Michigan by 40 points in 2006, I would have been just fine. I didn't explain it well with the last line about a more satisfying win, what I should have said was "I enjoy any win over good Michigan teams more than any win over bad Michigan teams".
This year's M team is pretty solid, and they can beat this OSU team. So if OSU wins by 3 I'll be really happy. If they beat them by 40, I'll be fine too.

BUCKtuckian's picture

I'd like a competitive game, but we could miss out on gems like this,,, 
"I'm ticked," Rodriguez said. "What, do you want me to go jump out there and hold hands with all the Buckeyes fans and sing Kumbaya? I mean, I wish we'd played better. Our guys played hard, and that's to be expected. But I wish we'd executed better. As coaches, we've got to try to put them in a position so they can make some plays. I'm gonna be mad for a while."

People are saying that I'm an alcoholic, and that's not true, because I only drink when I work, and I'm a workaholic.
Ron White

bslatco's picture

I cant wait to see Denard line up at RB and just get hammered by the Shaidozer.  SCUM has improved but I still think the Buckeyes win big on Saturday as they take their frustrations out for not being able to be in a bowl game this year.

Oyster's picture

After listening to comments from Coach Meyer, current/former players and Coach Bruce on 610, I think they are over the bowl thing and this is more about doing it for each other.  It's about the seniors who stayed when they could have left, etc, etc.  Coach Meyer said it during the MSU game: This team has come together as one and you don't get that special cohesion often, but when you do, great things happen.  I kinda botched the exact words, but you get my drift.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

KSparkle's picture

dude, I'm kinda sick of these conversations. 
It boils down to this. They're our biggest rival and we HATE them. So we wish them the absolute freaking worst and WANT to beat the hell out of them.
But in order for this to continue as college football's biggest rivalry and for the intensity of the hatred to continue they have to have success, be good/great, and be nationally relevent. 

KSparkle's picture

The job of fans in this rivalry is to wish their rival the absolute worst.
It's a great rivalry because the other team has normally been persistently good against the wishes of opposing fans. 
summary: I wish them the worst. but it will only be a great rivalry if, despite all my wishes, they continue to be good. 

Boxley's picture

I hope I did not mislead in my earlier post. I will try to state my feelings better.
I want to beat them when they are at their best.
I want to beat them when they are at their worst.
I want to beat them in every single sporting event we meet up with them in. I do not care if it is ping pong, I want to beat them.
I want to always ruin their season as the last regular football,basketball game of the year.
I want to see their faces, in slow motion replay over and over as Evan Turner drains a trey at the buzzer in the B1G championship game
I, I, I, want to beat them.......................straight up, their best, against our best, every time..............  

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Doc's picture

We will beat you in a box, We will beat you with a fox.
We will beat you in a car we will beat you near or far.
We will beat you here or there, we will beat you everywhere.
We do not like you Scum-U-Am.  For your state we give no damn.
Boxley, your post read like Dr. Seuss to me.  Thanks.

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Boxley's picture

It probably reads that way as that is likely my writing expertise level. i am in no way in Ramzy's league.
However, your response could lead to many interesting take offs along that vien;
I hate you from afar,
I hate you while in my car.
I hate you when you are here,
I hate you more when drinking beer.
I hate you all when the sun is beamiing
I hate you the most, because your team is a pile of steaming........!
Since I am attemptig to be Seussarian, I cannot use profanity to end my little contribution

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

buckz4evr's picture

I totally agree with Boxley.  I know that having two good teams in The Game is good for the national respect and exposure and also for the hype element of the fans, but I can't help myself.  I don't care if ttup is loaded with talent or has a bare cupboard.  I want to beat them and hopefully beat them bad every single game, every year even at ping pong.  I can't even watch them on TV if they are playing a different team and winning, knowing full well it will help us in the standings.  If they are losing I will watch them and savor each moment.  Thankfully the last several years that has been quite often and I hope it continues.   The blood that flows through me is scarlet, not blue, until this heart stops beating. Then I will be at peace

buckz4evr's picture

After reading my own post, I think I need to sign up for some anger management classes.


Coach Meyer has locked horns with the likes of saban, Spurrier, miles, Bowden, tuberville, richt and fullmer and pwned them. You cannot tell me that Fred Flintstone is going to come in and pwn Meyer. Im sorry, but thats about as laughable as a squirrel piloting the space shuttle. Im thinking Hoke eats the squirrel before that notion even gets off the ground.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

bucknut24's picture

From the pic above Urban is thinking as soon as this camera turns off, I'm kicking your ass!!!

MediBuck's picture

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever" -- George Orwell in 1984
That's how I feel about the rivalry and my sentiment towards scUM.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

dtanmango's picture

Get pumped -- this was a pretty good article on The Game and how the loss of OSU and Michigan in their bowl games in 07 was the decline of the B1G. OSU, Michigan, and Wisconsin were a combined 34-2 in that season and all in the top 5. In the rebuilding process I called it a few years ago -- OSU and Michigan are the ones to bring recovery back. It starts with the rivalry.


osubuckeye4life's picture

Sick! (Sick) Of!
(Of) Sun and Blue
I'm so sick, so sick of Sun and Blue!
Sick! (Sick) Of!
(Of) Sun and Blue
I'm so sick, so sick of the Sun and Blue!