It's been 3,651 days since Michigan beat Ohio State.
I've never quite grasped why so many Ohio State fans take pleasure in that running clock, a daily reminder of last time the only game that truly matters went poorly for the Buckeyes.
That count includes the 365ish days of aftertaste the losers got to savor. Those days were bad!
But it has been awhile since the Wolverines won the grand finale. Remember those villains from 3,651 days ago? Denard Robinson? Junior Hemingway? Roy Roundtree? Men in their 30s, these days. We've reached the 10-year anniversary of the last time Michigan's fight song lyrics weren't lying as the sun set on the season's final Saturday.
On Saturday it will be 728 days since Michigan played Ohio State, the worst drought in rivalry history.
Michigan's trombones have been sad since 2011, and a whole-ass decade separating a win from the next opportunity is a first for either side, albeit with an asterisk - ironically, a symbol that holds a similar shape to the novel coronavirus.
But the thing about those losses is that they never stop stinging. You just have to live long enough to learn that lesson. I've been around for awhile and can remember those villains. John Kolesar? Leroy Hoard? Desmond Howard? Men in their 50s, these days. You can't measure in time how losses in this game make you feel.
So I've never cared about or counted the days up from the last time Michigan beat Ohio State. If that brings you joy - by all means, here's to you counting up forever. But on Saturday it will have been 728 days since Michigan played Ohio State. That's the only drought that needs to end this weekend.
Welcome back, thirsty comrades! Let's get Situational.
OPENING: RUDE INTRODUCTION
Chris Olave's sixth collegiate catch was a short crossing route in the 1st quarter of the 2018 Michigan game. You don't remember the previous five.
Olave caught the ball at the Michigan 21 yard line and took it to the endzone, untouched. Brandon Watson, a 5th year senior who had started exactly one game in his Michigan career chased after him helplessly.
The following quarter, Olave caught his seventh pass - another touchdown - this time a 24-yard post route where he snared the ball at its high point with Watson chasing him, again. He later blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown. Watson trailed Olave on that scoring play as well, although as a career special teamer this wasn't nearly as exploitative.
Michigan fans had been officially introduced to Olave. And admit it, so were Ohio State fans.
Watson changed his name to Rusnak for reasons unrelated to that afternoon. His head coach these days was Olave's back on that Saturday. No. 17 on Ohio State's roster from that afternoon is now No.2 in the current roster. Olave is now No.1 in all-time touchdown receptions at OSU.
Defensive backs are still helplessly chasing after him. Some things change, others do not.
The 2018 Michigan game marked the final time Olave had - sorry, Brandon - a scrub assigned to covering him. That was 162 receptions and 33 touchdowns ago. But his Michigan resumé is somewhat modest in part due to the Wolverines' spirited forfeit last season.
Olave has just four receptions for 116 yards and three scores entering his final shot. And on Saturday, he still won't be Michigan's focal point for containing the Ohio State offense. Or at least he shouldn't be. He can't be - it would be a losing strategy and the home team knows it.
Ohio State's all-time scoring receiver is the third dedicated pass-catcher the Wolverines have to contain. Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Garrett Wilson both get more looks and balls than Olave does, which is a marked improvement for him over his freshman season when he ranked 10th on the team in receptions. He is as much of a distraction as he is a weapon.
Ohio State and Michigan will bring matching strategies into Saturday: Disrupt what the opponent likes to do and frustrate them. Meanwhile, execute the preferred strategy and identity at full velocity. It's how all top-5 teams scheme for top-5 opponents. They get rattled. We hum.
Olave's stats never capture the impact his presence has on a defense, as the OSU offense can hum with or without him breaking school records. It's just unlikely Michigan will decide to mark him with a special teamer this time.
INTERMISSION: THE SOLO
Last month I named the back half of The Joshua Tree the Greatest Side B of 1987. No one in the commercial rock business post-1970s has maximized recurring revenue like U2, and so the entirety of Rattle & Hum - which dropped just a year later - could be considered Side C.
Half the album is live cuts promoting its predecessor; songs we already knew repackaged and resold. New tracks that tracked were When Love Comes to Town with B.B. King, the syrupy classic All I Want is You, the Billie Holiday homage Angel of Harlem and Desire.
That last song will always remind me of my father, who heard it for the first time in 1990 while I was driving us around in my Chevy Cavalier station wagon. He said, "this Pizza Hut commercial is going on forever." I told him it was a song on the radio, not an ad. He said, "but they keep saying Pizza Hut."
I accepted his view without further questions. Desire is a Pizza Hut commercial. It concludes with a harmonica coda. Let's answer our two questions.
Is the soloist in this video actually playing the harmonica?
Bono is on jaw harp duties for this song and for two others on The Joshua Tree. His fleeting harmonica phase spanned exactly three songs. During the late 1980s U2's frontman wanted everyone to know he could absolutely crush four chords. To put that in perspective, you know how to play two (inhale - one, exhale - two). Congrats! VERDICT: Yes, conclusive.
Does this harmonica solo slap?
Harmonica might be the most divisive instrument in contemporary American music. You can divide Blues Traveler fans from Blues Traveler haters by People Who Don't Mind Harmonicas and People Who Won't Tolerate Harmonicas.
I tolerate harmonicas. I can still play For He's a Jolly Good Fellow on the harmonica and blues it up like an old pro. But the key to proper harmonica consumption is the serving size - it's best as a garnish, possibly a side dish and rarely a main course.
Either Bono or producer Jimmy Iovine correctly measured this, and that precision upgrades Desire as a result. Good song. Worthy coda. Great pizza commercial. VERDICT: Slaps, like parsley
There is a bourbon for every situation. Sometimes the spirits and the events overlap, which means that where bourbon is concerned there can be more than one worthy choice.
Ohio State is aiming for its 11th win of the season on Saturday. If the Buckeyes win they'll extend their unbeaten streak in the rivalry to 11 years.
Tyreke Smith and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are serious playmakers on both sides of the ball, both wearing No.11. Ohio State finished last season No.11 in Dabo Swinney's ballot. *Spinal Tap voice* this web site you're enjoying goes to Eleven. It's one of our core values.
Eleven Jones is a blend that I would describe as a foundational value whiskey, which means you can buy a bottle and some respectable bitters with a $20 bill and enjoy an evening of sturdy Old Fashioneds on the cheap without feeling like a peasant forced to drink watered-down turpentine.
Drinking it straight doesn't come with a penalty flag, either. Eleven's finish reminds me of a very average gingersnap cookie, individually wrapped in cellophane and displayed in a little basket by the cash register at a convenient store where the clerk is vaping between customers.
The flavor is a little dull and the texture is off, but this cookie set you back one dollar. You can tell it wanted to be better - and that's why you'll buy it again next time. And again. And again.
CLOSING: THE MOMENT
Every Ohio State-Michigan game has it. The Moment when everyone in attendance and watching from elsewhere arrives at the realization that they know who is going to win.
My first lucid memory of The Moment was Demetrius Brown's Hail Mary attempt hitting the turf in 1987. The cues were Ohio State's players jumping around like crazy while Ohio State's coach was in tears.
And, you know, zeroes on the game clock. Sometimes The Moment requires all 60 minutes.
My second lucid memory of The Moment was in 1990, when John Cooper in his desperation for a win and not trusting his defense (which had held the Wolverines to something like 12 1st downs all day?) went for it on 4th and 1 from his own 30 late in a tie game.
The Buckeyes ran an option keeper with Greg Frey (Robert Smith had only eight carries?) and shockingly, it didn't go well. The first cue was the Horseshoe, where I was sitting - everyone had a lump in their throat and I felt it in mine. That lump had been building all afternoon.
Michigan took over in field goal range. That was the second cue. It was 1990; Michigan didn't miss. Coop wasn't interested in a tie in 1990. He was happy to settle for one two years later.
In 1994 Ohio State locked Michigan in a trunk for most of the afternoon but still puckered its way to a 22-6 "blowout" that felt imperiled from the jump. But late in the 4th quarter the crowd collectively realized Lucy would not be pulling the football away from Charlie Brown this time.
The cues were the slow build of happy crowd noise, and if you happened to notice Ohio State's coaches openly celebrating on the sideline that they would not be fired before Monday. No loss, no tie - an actual win. Against Michigan!
You could feel 100,000 people exhaling at the same time. Breaths became euphoric screams. Chaos would descend onto the field as time expired. That Moment had been absent for seven years.
Ten years ago The Moment revealed itself when Braxton Miller's game-winner sailed just past DeVier Posey. That was the last bad version of it. It's been nothing but the good kind since.
We have been treated to Carlos Hyde's game-clinching 1st down, Tyvis Powell's goal line interception, Ezekiel Elliott's 4th and 1 touchdown scamper, Joey Bosa sacking Jake Rudock, the Brooklyn Dagger from Curtis Samuel, Jordan Fuller's back-breaking interception, Parris Campbell's ludicrous speed touchdown and Justin Fields channeling Willis Reed.
When those happened, we all knew. They did too. Powell's and Samuel's took longer than 60 minutes to materialize. All of the others arrived fashionably early. You know when The Moment has arrived when one side exhales and the other finds it hard to breathe. You also know which side you're on, immediately.
Ohio State has won the turnover battle in this game in every one of Jim Harbaugh's seasons in Ann Arbor. Anyone who subscribes to junk science (still the most popular football science, even in the age of advanced analytics) might believe Michigan is due to win that crucial battle this time.
Every change of possession recalibrates The Moment, whether it's coming off a touchdown or a turnover. But all of that builds to those few seconds where everyone in attendance and watching from elsewhere arrives at the realization that they know who is going to win.
Thanks for getting Situational today. Go Bucks. Beat Michigan. Take care of each other.