It’s easy to look at Saturday’s game and come to one conclusion — Ohio State should win. And win big.
But if you’re familiar with the rivalry — especially if you’re looking at it from the Ohio side of the border — it’s almost as easy to come up with a few instances when sure things did 180-degree turns right after kickoff.
A couple of quick examples:
1993: A win in Ann Arbor would have meant Ohio State earned a trip to the Rose Bowl. Michigan waxed us 28-0 instead, and we got to beat Brigham Young in the Holiday Bowl instead.
1996: The Future Wife and I had awesome seats at the game in Columbus — we were sitting right in front of where Shawn Springs fell down and allowed Tai Streets to score Michigan’s only touchdown on the way to a 13-6 win.
There’s another game a little bit further in the past that reminds me an awful lot of this year’s situation.
1969: Ohio State was coming off a national championship season, and had gone through the year undefeated. Michigan had a new head coach, hired in part because the Buckeyes buried the Wolverines 50-14. The new guy brought change to a stagnant Michigan program, and a bunch of players left before the season began, because the new guy was too tough.
The new guy was Bo Schembechler. And, famously, he told his players in the preseason, “Those who stay will be champions.”
As it turned out, Bo was right. By beating a heavily favored Ohio State team in Ann Arbor 24-12, they tied the Buckeyes for the Big Ten title, and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl.
New guy? A fundamental shift in the culture of Michigan football? Does this sound familiar to anyone else?
I’d be willing to bet RichRod has told his players the story of 1969. And while Michigan’s 2008 team clearly isn’t as good as the one that upset Ohio State 39 years ago, I’d think Rodriguez has sold his players on the notion that Saturday’s game is their best chance to redeem themselves after a tough season.
Ohio State should win. And win big. But if Ohio State isn’t ready to take Michigan’s best shot, we could see 1969 all over again.