As the Song Goes, the Buckeyes Don't Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan

By Kyle Rowland on July 31, 2014 at 1:05p
34 Comments

CHICAGO – Some things never change. Even as college football traditions and rivalries have come under fire in recent years, many of the sport’s grandest rituals have remained the same.

For Ohio State, that means a November date with a school the Buckeyes refer to as “That Team Up North.” This season, north extends another hour. Circled on calendars throughout the state of Ohio is Nov. 8, the date of Ohio State’s primetime showdown at Michigan State.

The Buckeyes are seeking revenge after the Spartans ruined yet another undefeated season last year.

“The whole state of Michigan is starting to really get on our nerves,” senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said at Big Ten Media Days. “Used to be Michigan State was a fun little rivalry and they were a good team to play. But they’re starting to push their luck.”

The Michigan State game hasn’t superseded the game played three weeks later, but it’s evolved into a national storyline. Mark Dantonio’s engineered a resurgence in East Lansing, and the latest victim happens to be one of the nation’s top coaches – Urban Meyer – and most successful programs – Ohio State.

After 24 consecutive Ohio State wins, the balance of power in the Big Ten has tilted toward Michigan State. The Spartans finished 13-1 and ranked third in the country, champions of the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl. Both schools have raised the Big Ten’s profile, to the point that it might be the marquee game nationally on the same day – and time – as LSU-Alabama.

In Chicago, Dantonio spoke of a rivalry with three teams – Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. When pressed on the subject, Meyer didn’t hesitate. The Buckeyes have one rivalry game, and the opponent isn’t wearing Green and White. 

“That will never change,” Meyer said.

It doesn’t mean that animosity isn’t ratcheted up when the Buckeyes and Spartans play. The wound from the Big Ten Championship Game is still fresh. Jeff Heuerman and Braxton Miller believe all the pent up anger mirrors the feelings associated with Michigan. Both players have lost twice to Michigan State during their careers.

The freshman season loss to the Spartans remains one of Miller’s worst games. Ohio State had 178 yards of offense, and Miller finished 5-of-10 passing for 56 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception. He had minus-27 rushing yards after being sacked a handful of times.

“Ever since my freshman year, it’s like, ‘Wow, we have two rivalry games,’” Miller said. “But this season is a night game, and night games are my deal. It’s going to be show time, go time.”

Miller isn’t the only quarterback that recognizes the budding rancor between the schools, whether it’s football, basketball or the fanbases. Connor Cook, the hero of the Spartans’ 2013 campaign, is from Ohio. Growing up in the Buckeye State, Cook saw Ohio State dominate the rivalry.

But since he arrived up north, the tables have turned. Michigan State is 2-1, with the lone loss coming by one point. In those three years, there were cries of recruiting impropriety and national championship hopes dashed, stoking the rivalry flame into a full simmer.  

For Cook, there’s a personal aspect to it. He was lightly recruited by the Buckeyes and even after defeating Miller and Co. last season, he enters 2014 with little respect. Miller is still the pre-season first-team all-conference quarterback and the guy who’s garnering all the Heisman attention.

But the Walsh Jesuit grad admits he likes the underdog role. After all, it’s a position he’s starred in dating to high school.

“I don’t read articles,” Cook said. “I don’t care what people say. Last year, we got no respect and still continued to win each and every week. We could win the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten championship and a national championship, and we still wouldn’t get the respect we deserve. But it’s out of my control.

“Personally, I like being an underdog. I think we handled that well last year. I like being in that situation, and I think the guys on the team like being in that spot, too.”

Not everyone thinks Michigan State is the underdog. Sure, Ohio State is the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten, according to a media poll conducted by Cleveland.com. But the clear No. 2 is Michigan State. And the Spartans are attracting considerable national attention.

In the Grand Ballroom at the Chicago Hilton, it was Dantonio, not Dr. Richard Kimble, who believed he was in a precarious position. That thought came from visions of being the hunted instead of the hunter. It will be most perilous in Spartan Stadium the second Saturday of November when the Buckeyes come to town.

Cook, while discussing the atmosphere, used the words “electric,” hyped” and “intense.”

Heuerman, a Floridian Buckeye tight end, may be from the south, but he was a junior hockey star in Michigan and his dad played basketball for the Wolverines. So he’s well versed in Spartan hatred.  

“Last year they kept us from winning [the Big Ten championship],” Heuerman said. “Anytime you lose a championship game it heightens the rivalry.”

Both teams still believe Michigan is their biggest rival, but as the Wolverines fade into obscurity and mediocrity, the Buckeyes and Spartans are seizing the spotlight together, keeping alive Ohio and Michigan acrimony.

Said Cook, on the Ohio State-Michigan State conflict: “The games have always been so close, but we respect them. I think they respect us and we respect them.”

34 Comments

Comments

buckeyepastor's picture

Presently, Michigan State is the team to beat in the conference.  We may be ranked higher than them, but they hold the crown.   When I was in school, playing the Spartans was an assumed win.   Up to even a few years ago, that was still sort of the case.   But those days are gone.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

+4 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

But those days are gone.

I don't completely buy that. The last time Michigan State was expected to do anything, they went 7-6.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

+2 HS
Scarlet Veins's picture

This all comes down to coaching in my opinion...Michican't is down the last several years because of bad coaching (they still pull great recruits).  Sparty is up the last few years from good coaching/good recruiting.  Wisky and Penn State will both come around with Gary Anderson and James Franklin.  Let's be happy about great competition in the BIG...Ohio State will always draw great coaches/players.  It's time for the BIG to step up...Sparty is good, so be it.  Personally, I'm salivating for Nov. 8th, PAYBACK TIME!

“I don't know how fast he is, but I've never seen anyone catch him.”

Jim Tressel

osu07asu10's picture

As long as Dino is their coach I'll never have that "hate" that I have for TTUN. I agree with Meyer's assessment, we only have 1 rival.

I don't like losing to anyone, MSU included. So I'm not sure there is a hate/rivalry with them but I can tell you I get really amped up to play them.

They are a quality opponent. Dino has made them a quality program. I actually probably cheer for MSU more than any other team other than the buckeyes. Much like we're "supposed" to hope for an undefeated TTUN as it is good for the conference and good for the rivalry, I feel that way about MSU however I don't feel like a dirty whore (ann arbor) for wanting it.

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

+10 HS
Clinger76's picture

Were gonna see this year who has the best team! Winner takes all!! B1G Ten and playoff championship! IMO 

"If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats, But if you take no risks, you will earn no victories."

Jeremypreemo81's picture

MSU is the new Wisconsin.  We need to squash them and put them back in their place.....which is below tOSU

+10 HS
PasadenaBuckeye626's picture

I feel like the term "rivalry" has taken over for "big game".  "Rivalry" is overused.  Not every big game needs to be called a rivalry

Go Bucks!

+10 HS
Hovenaut's picture

I still have hate for '98, and remember my elders being salty for years over a bitterly "lost" '74 game.

But Sparty hasn't had the consistency to really be that rival contender, until now. I probably had them behind M...igan, PSU and Wisconsin for much of the last decade.

They're getting top billing on my B1G calendar this season.

+5 HS
Mookie331's picture

'98 still breaks my heart 

+2 HS
2002osubuck's picture

I left the game after Moore's int for a TD, assuming we won, and went to my apartment on 16th to pass out. I woke hours later to a campus on fire.

Go1Bucks's picture

'98 was an NCAA farce.  The B1G wasn't in their coalition and we amazingly gave away a big lead in the 4th with alot of officiating help.  If we had won, we would have ruined their new title as being the best but not a part. 

Go Bucks!

ChimdiCheckyaselfbeforeyawreckyaself's picture

Man, November 8th is going to be a fun one!  A long season and a lot of business to take care of before we get to that point, but hard not to be excited about it now!

A little is better than nada, sometimes you want the whole enchilada

JoeAndSo's picture

In Brady Hoke logic we should start calling them "Michigan"

"¯\_(ツ)_/¯"  - Joey Bosa

+14 HS
Rudy's picture

Yes! "other Mishican"

JOhio1560's picture

Great read!

It's 2:03 and the whole state of michigan still sucks!

"You Win With People" - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
Bucksfan's picture

This kind of "rivalry" comes and goes every 5 years depending on who is the flavor of the week in the Big Ten.  The only thing that doesn't seem to change much is that Ohio State is always good.

+10 HS
Crumb's picture

Well said Bucksfan, it seems like just a year or two ago we were having this kind of 'rivalry' with Wisky and Bert.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+3 HS
Killer nuts's picture

night games are my deal. It’s going to be show time, go time

I love this

+6 HS
hit_the_couch's picture

If tOSU would have knocked off the ridiculous play calling and game plan, they would have likely been ok in the B1G ccg. Viewers at home couldn't have been the only ones that noticed it wasn't working and was different from what we saw all year. It seemed like on a number of times that the same play was ran that had been failing all night.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

THEOSUfan's picture

Mark Dantonio has done the impossible: caused Sparty to stop being Sparty.

Here's the difference between the programs.  Urban Meyer is going to go do something else at some point, and Ohio State will hire some great coach, and the Buckeyes will continue to compete for B1G and national championships.  Dantonio will eventually leave Michigan State and they will hire John L Smith or the like, and they will be Sparty being Sparty again.

The pool of kids who have lived their entire life to wear the green and white has to be really, really small.  Not so for the other school in MSU's state, nor for their neighbors to the south.

+3 HS
wilkins0802's picture

Honestly the reason Cook is so much of an underdog is because he has not shown much. Yea he played great when it counted, but the first half of the season? Winning a few good games does not make you elite. The reason Miller is the is obvious..he's proven he is great, Cook has only shown he can win big sometimes. IMO Cook is a good kid, and a not so shabby quarterback, but he isn't great..not yet..and thats enough ass kissing...Fuck Michigan, and Sparty.

+2 HS
DaveStephens's picture

Cook has won two games Brax hasn't: Conference Championship and a bowl game. Those are wins that make quarterbacks great. I think we'll finally have a great quarterback this year. 

The Dude abides.

+2 HS
buckeye1976's picture

Michigan State is not the team to beat because they won the title last year. It's a new year and everyone has a clean slate. MSU replaces 6 players from their defense and even on their 2 deep is lacking quality talent. Their offense replaces 4 starters. Lets see how they handle pressure and replacing starters before we even view them as favorites

Don't be shocked that they lose 3 games this year.

 

+1 HS
fear_the_nut70's picture

Yeah, I agree with this and was just having this argument with people who insist FSU should be preseason # 1 because they won it all last year (I do think they are #1, but that is because of my evaluation of talent and their relatively easy path through the ACC).  This isn't the NFL where there is presumed continuity every year--kids graduate, some leave early, and this happens disproportionately for teams depending on where they are in their graduation cycle.  Two years ago, Sparty was like 7-6 or something like that.  Didn't stop them from going 13-1 last year.  And I am sorry, there are some teams that are consitently good that you can almost pencil them in most years for a 9 or 10 win seasons (like us)--Sparty just isn't one of those teams.  So, looking at their talent, it may be our toughest game.  But last year is last year, and this pretend champion status is but a fiction.

Jabba the Hoke's picture

Sparty just isn't one of those teams..... yet. I think Dantonio could be building something special.

northcampus's picture

I find myself rooting for MSU whenever they are not playing OSU.  I love their style of play, I like Dino, and they hate UM just as much as OSU does.  Even better, they play on real grass like it should be.

+1 HS
BuckeyeBBD's picture

I have no love for MSU I love watching Dino's brand of Tressel ball

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." - Wayne Woodrow Hayes

IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

Buckeyes have the chip on their shoulder and owe Sparty some payback.

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

PAWEST1202's picture

A school with multiple rivals is a school with no rivals

Zaphod Beeblebrox's picture

Not sure about that. When I lived in Las Vegas & was a UNLV season ticket holder their main rival is Nevada-Reeeeeno, the Runnin' Rebels even refer to the Wolf Pack as that Team Up North. Although before BYU tucked their tails between their legs & ran away from the MWC & joined the WCC those two schools hated one another.

Bourbon Meyer's picture

Last year Connor Cook could look off a defender and throw a completion (see the '04 Rose Bowl), Braxton Miller could not (see the '04 Orange Bowl). Hopefully that's changed. Also, as long as Dino is the coach at Michigan State they will have a chance to beat us. They days of big scores as and high comedy "the coaches are screwin' it up" are gone.

buckeye85's picture

Lets not get carried away.  Cook was OK, but his game against us was more a result of out terrible defense than anything and while he performed well in the Rose Bowl, he made a couple absolutely atrocious plays.  The play where he threw the pick to avoid a sack was god awful and there were at least two more instances when he literally hit the Stanford defenders in their hands and they just dropped the INT.  He was bailed out a couple times in that game. 

+1 HS
buckeye85's picture

People have been clamoring for a better B1G and with MSU becoming a solid opponent and PSU recruiting the way they are we are looking at a tough division year in and year out.  scUM has recruited well also, and they have a lot of offensive weapons that could cause a matchup problems for lots of people of they get that running game going,  After all that, we would still be looking at Bucky Badger or Nebraska in the B1G title game, two teams that return a lot.  I think we are about to re-enter the pre-2006 B1G where there are a lot of solid teams.  This will serve the Buckeyes well as they will get more respect and be better prepared in the playoff, but they are going to have a considerably tougher road to that playoff then before.  Night road games at Happy Valley and E. Lansing will be no joke and coming out of the East with 0-1 losses and winning a B1G CG will be more then enough to get into the playoff. 

OregonBuckeye's picture

The Big Ten could use more rivalry games.  I'd like to see Dino & the Spartans come out west and roll over Oregon.  It will give the Buckeye win much more significance.