For All That You Love

By Ramzy Nasrallah on November 27, 2013 at 11:15a

Woody pulled it off seven times.

Tress did it four times. Earle did it three times. Poor Coop never could.

Winning in Ann Arbor doesn't always happen on account of better players or schemes. Those things certainly help, but if that's all it took then 1969 would have ended differently. Same goes for 1987, 1995 and 2001.

If this rivalry gave a single, solitary damn about point spreads, common opponents, statistics or destiny then it has a cruel way of showing it.

Ohio State is expected if not required to win the Michigan game every year. What makes this week so agonizing and exhilarating is that Michigan has identical obligations for its Ohio State game.

Losing in Ann Arbor is not okay.

But delivering at home? Mandatory. Essentially holding serve is how this rivalry has gone ever since Buckeye football went varsity: Michigan leads 44-42 since Ohio Stadium was dedicated.

Always win the ones at home. Steal the ones that aren't.

This kind of larceny is a challenge: Michigan has stolen from Columbus just 11 times since the Snow Bowl of 1950, while Ohio State has looted 14 games from Ann Arbor.

Both teams fail at theft more than they succeed, but that still doesn't mean returning to Columbus as the loser is okay. Losing in Ann Arbor is not okay. It's hideous. It's awful. No coach is immune to it.

Hell, Woody lost there six times. So did Coop. Earle did it twice. Even Tress did it once.


You were young once. It might have been yesterday, 50 years ago or still in progress - but you got your one shot at youth.

That was when you were at your idyllic best. Youth was when you were great. You owned nothing, yet you had everything.

Maybe you were a student at Ohio State. Even if college wasn't in the cards, you still had youth going for you.

College is corrupted by elders, not students. It's students who give college years its idyllic superiority, not administrators. These elders have great difficulty seeing young people enjoy what they no longer can have.

Elders see a frozen, mildly hazardous lake filled with duck urine and history - so they hastily surround it with fences, call police and issue bracelets. Students see that frigid lake in late November and they demand to bathe in it.

That lake is theirs, though they don't own it. They own nothing, so attempting to steal from them is futile.

The Game is a one-week vacation from time. We all get to be great again.

So students will always jump in the lake on their terms. Students will bathe in their fleeting youth. Students will play Michigan. Students will make history.

Elders can only watch, and that's hard for them. They meddle with traditions that are no longer theirs. They struggle to accept their place. They forget who they once were. 

Elders were young once. It might have been yesterday or 50 years ago, but they had their shot. Ohio State-Michigan takes them back to those idyllic days when it was their lake.

It's an annual reminder of their departed youth; that their generation once played Michigan. They once made history.

The Game is a one-week vacation from time. We all get to be great again. We all get to be young. 

Ohio State-Michigan belongs to everyone. That lake belongs to students.

ah, shit.

Two years ago yesterday Ohio State lost a regular season football game. It was in Michigan Stadium.

Losing in Ann Arbor is not okay. Losing anywhere is hideous. It's awful. It hasn't happened since.

And you didn't give a single, solitary damn about the point spread (the Buckeyes covered the +8.5, not that you remember or care) or how bad that Ohio State team was, or the degree of difficulty in stealing from Ann Arbor.

It's not the months spent recruiting, preparing, coaching or executing that matter during those hours when Ohio State is playing Michigan.

beating Michigan never cedes importance to anything else.

Only the outcome matters. That is when epitaphs are written. All their work is rendered down to two numbers they can't ever escape.

Heists go down in all of the odd-numbered years, when the biggest stadium in the country hosts the biggest victory and biggest defeat for both Ohio State and Michigan. The distribution of fates is determined on the field over a few hours.

They define each team's entire year. Those hours define each coach's entire legacy. Those hours dictate two entire states' moods for 12 months, often longer.

So beating Michigan never cedes importance to anything else. The rest of the world can laugh, but this game isn't about the rest of the world. It's never been for them.

Beating Michigan is the most important thing at Ohio State. Nothing else matters as much. No winning streak compares. No winning streak is safe.

There is no destiny. There are only epitaphs.


Ohio State's 2013 edition is one of the most likable ones in school history. It is a team full of survivors.

The 2013ers are led by guys who stuck around despite everyone and everything telling them not to. You appreciate that. You like them.

More importantly, they like each other. They seem selfless. They understand they are stewards for something much bigger than they are. They get it.

Ohio State teams are not always like this. The 2011 team was battered. The 2000 team was divided. The 1999 team was entitled and the culture was viscerally beginning to rot. The 1988 team was simply untalented.

the worst kind of Michigan team is the one you can't forget.

Though you love all of them equally, you only like most of them. You really like this 2013 team. You don't want its season to end. They're already unforgettable.

That's the very best kind of Buckeye team, but it's not over yet: The 2001 and 2004 editions were entirely forgettable until their meeting with Michigan.

You only loved them prior to the Michigan game. Once that game ended, you liked them. You'll always like them.

It took a precious few hours to alter the legacies for those two mediocre seasons. Fortunately, this likable Ohio State team is not in that position. But this Michigan team is.

Saturday is Michigan's chance to alter its legacy. Beating Ohio State is Team 134's last shot at being unforgettable. 

And that's the absolute worst kind of Michigan team: The one you can't forget.

tressel forever

When Tressel arrived the idea of Ohio State stealing a game in Michigan was a dark, twisted fantasy.

Ann Arbor was where Buckeyes helped Wolverines win Heisman Trophies. It's where they squandered undefeated seasons. It was a giant bowl of nightmares.

In 1993 the Buckeyes got off the bus already looking shell-shocked. In 1995 they simply got run over. In 1997 they forced 11 punts, held Michigan to 42 yards on 42 carries and lost.

No matter how they played there, it seemed they could not win. Those three Ohio State teams entered Ann Arbor with one loss between them and exited with four.

They stole nothing. It was hideous. It was awful.

Then Tressel arrived and made the biggest promise any coach has ever made. He made five trips to Michigan and stole The Game four times.

In 2001 he conceded the second half. In 2005 they rallied as the game expired. In 2007 he took the air out of the ball. In 2009 he started running out the clock in the first half.

Michigan fans were catatonic. He ravaged them for ten years. No matter how the Buckeyes played there, it seemed they could not lose.

Tressel was a villain who stole without deception. He used the front door and left the same way. He looted good and bad Michigan teams without discrimination. Last year his 2002 players paraded him around Ohio Stadium as Michigan fans feigned outrage.

We were celebrating our master thief. Michigan simply needed to see him one more time. Urban Meyer has inherited the highest bar for the greatest challenge he will ever have.

Tressel will always be loved, for those few hours against Michigan and for the countless other hours you didn't watch. You loved him ever since that first Ann Arbor trip in 2001.

Ever since he beat Michigan in his own agonizing way.

Ever since he routinely stole games in the cruelest way possible.

Ever since making the great state of Ohio the biggest promise he ever kept.


Four years ago the Buckeyes left Ann Arbor as victors. Afterwards they went to Pasadena. 

Four years later they have to visit Indianapolis before learning where they will be in January, but that's not important yet. Next week doesn't exist this week.

This Michigan team is possibly wounded, definitely disappointing and probably fragmenting. It tries to win games in the same agonizing fashion that Tressel's teams did, but they have not yet delivered his level of cruel efficacy.

They have one proficient offensive lineman, Taylor Lewan, whom they run behind with understandable predictability. If he's lined up on the right, Michigan runs right. If he's on the left, they run left.

This is Manball, Brady Hoke's strategic intent. Like Tressel, he also prefers to enter through the front door. Michigan's opponents have intelligibly loitered there all season.

The Game hAs no respect for "destiny."

Unfortunately none of Michigan's tells or trends matter Saturday and neither does Ohio State's relatively antithetical trajectory. The Game holds no respect for destiny.

We are only permitted to watch, and that's hard for us. Students jump in Mirror Lake. Students bathe in fleeting youth. Students play Michigan. Students make history. 

Winning in Ann Arbor is the most challenging and rewarding task at Ohio State: Woody pulled it off seven times. Tress did it four times. Earle did it three times.

Urban gets his first heist on Saturday. His Buckeyes will try to finish his second season like his first one. His second seasons always end well, but no destiny is safe in Ann Arbor. Just ask Woody. Ask Earle. Ask Coop. Ask Tress. Ask Luke.

Ask any of the 56 Ohio State teams who played there and the majority of them who have lost. Ask the Buckeye fans who made that miserable drive home.

They'll tell the students charged with playing Michigan and making history the same thing: Go take over Ann Arbor.

Go steal The Game for Ohio.

Go rip their hearts out.

View 60 Comments