here’s why.

People in Ohio and Michigan are used to the hype. This year, everyone else gets a taste as well.

Ohio State-Michigan games are almost always high on the list of annual college football rivalries that garner interest beyond the schools, states and fans. That part is nothing new. To someone outside that circle, the game is worth checking on because it usually has implications in the Big Ten and nationally.

But the hype for this year’s game outside the Midwest is off the charts, which means the rest of the country gets to experience it as well. Some of you might be wondering why this is such a big freaking deal, besides the obvious No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup with a trip to the national title game on the line.

Uncle Crappy is here to help. I offer you an Ohio State-Michigan primer:

  • The teams first met in 1897, and the game has been played annually since 1918.
  • Michigan leads the series 57-39-6, largely because Ohio State didn’t win until the 16th game in 1919. Look at what we’ll call the modern era — perhaps not the best name, since I’m choosing to start it with Woody Hayes’ first season in Columbus, and Woody’s game plans were anything but modern — the series is incredibly even at 27-26-2, with Ohio State enjoying the one-game advantage.
  • The football tradition shared by the two schools is both ridiculous and unmatched. They have nine Heisman Trophies between them (OSU with six, UM with 3). Combined they have won or shared the Big Ten championship 72 times (UM with 42, OSU with 30). They have won a combined 16 national championships, although it should be noted that 8 of Michigan’s 11 titles were claimed before the advent of the Associated Press writer’s poll in 1936, prior to which a hodgepodge of polls were used to often “select” several champions every year.
  • This is the stat I love the most. Unlike most rivalries, the Ohio State-Michigan has consistently been meaningful. If you look at the games played in my 40-year lifetime, The Game has had an impact on the Big Ten championship 29 times, with Michigan winning 15 of those games to Ohio State’s total of 13 (that pesky 10-10 tie in 1973 rounds out the total, but don’t ask Bo Schembechler what he thinks about that one).

That’s a fair amount of background. Add to that the fact we’re talking about border states and a 10-year period where Woody and Bo whipped the rivalry to heights that haven’t really abated since Woody Jr. beat Woody Sr. in 1969, and you’ve got what has consistently been identified as the best rivalry in college sports — and in my mind, the best sports rivalry period.

That opinion, by the way, has been confirmed by several ESPN polls naming Ohio State-Michigan as the best rivalry in sports. See, it’s not just us.

There been a handful of games where both teams came into The Game undefeated, but this is the first No. 1 vs. No. 2, the first where the stakes have been so clear. So from now until 3:30 p.m. Saturday, you’re going to see relentless promotion on all the ESPNs and ABC. Michael Rosenberg, a columnist at the Detroit Free Press, wrote on Sunday that this year’s edition of The Game “can conservatively be called the biggest sporting event in the history of the world.”

Mike was probably kidding. Or maybe not.

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