State of the Rivalry: Ohio State

Previously: Notre Dame, Michigan State

Let's just look back at last year's meeting for a sec. Michigan came into The Game at 7-4 – with losses to Penn State, Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa. They had been eliminated from Big Ten title contention weeks ago. The offense was nonexistent by this point – the line couldn't block, the backs couldn't run, Devin could barely see straight from the beating he'd been taking all year, and the offensive coordinator was coaching for his job.

Ohio State was on a slightly different tac. 11-0. A date with MSU in Indy already set. A shot at Pasadena to play for a BCS national title. A roster full of elite talent. An unbeaten rock star head coach. An annoying amount of overconfidence. Everything to lose.

Yet, with 32 seconds left down by 7, on 2nd and goal from the 2 yard line, an injured Devin Gardner connected with Devin Funchess in the end zone to cut the OSU lead to just 1 point. With nothing left to lose and everything to gain, Hoke and Borges rolled the dice and went for 2…they went for the throat.

You know the rest.

But the bigger story, in my clouded opinion, is that Michigan was in that position at all. A position they found themselves in 1995 and 1996…but with less success. Realistically, Michigan should've had no business being in this game. Ohio State was a 3-score favorite the week leading up. The Big House was painted in red, much like it was in 2009. Yet, they came within inches of dethroning the mighty Buckeyes and their savior Urban Meyer.

Last year showed us that in any great rivalry, even a heavy underdog has a shot. This rivalry echoes that sentiment.

Ohio State is elite. Despite not winning a league title since 2009, they are the top of the heap in the Big Ten. You need not go any further than one single stat line to know where Michigan stands against the best the Big Ten has to offer.
Damn you perfectly representative running stat. 2013 almost proved you wrong.

Any scenario that has Michigan back among the elite programs in the country will require beating Ohio State on a relatively consistent basis. Or, at the very least, more than just twice in a 13-year span. Playing Ohio State, while still a great rivalry and good for the game blah blah blah...has been absolutely grueling to endure for the Wolverine fan base.

Brady Hoke wants nothing more than to beat Ohio. From day one, beating Ohio was job one for Michigan. And when they did so in 2011 against an admittedly bad OSU squad sans Tressel, it helped his image substantially among the Michigan faithful. Hey, a win against any Ohio State squad is a win worth getting, especially in year one. But two losses to Ohio State since the hire of Urban Meyer have had an all too familiar feeling to them. Albeit, the games have been nice and close and competitive.

The state of the rivalry has suffered thanks to Michigan's relative ineptitude in recent years despite close games. We all remember the buildup and hype for the 2006 game. That's how it probably felt back in the days of Woody and Bo and the Ten Year War. This rivalry, hands down, is the greatest rivalry in all of sports. It just needs to start living up to it again…and that all comes down to Michigan owning up to its end of the bargain.

Michigan is close. But it close won't save coaches their jobs.

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