20. history.

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.

19. news flash.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Officials with the athletics department at the University of Michigan are reportedly concerned that Michigan’s annual football game against Ohio State, scheduled for noon Saturday in Columbus, might have to be canceled.

A source in the UM athletics department said on Wednesday officials in Ann Arbor were worried about travel — specifically about the football team’s inability to get past Toledo.

(Thanks, Kristi…)

17. AUC: college football edition II.

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A year ago, I put up the first-ever edition of Ask Uncle Crappy. Because it was Michigan Week, I thought a college football-specific question-and-answer session would be a fun thing to do.

For whatever reason, that post has become the most-viewed post in Uncle Crappy’s history, and it continues to get hits every day.

I don’t know if we can top that, but we’re going to try: Welcome to the second edition of Ask Uncle Crappy: College football edition.

I have a couple questions for you to answer in the comments, and then you can ask me anything — rich1anything — related to college football: trivia, opinion, history. I’ll see what I can do to respond.

Your questions:

1) What was your first football game (we’ll include college or pro here)? Tell me what who was playing, how old you were, where you were, what you remember, how many bratwursts you ate in the parking lot, etc.

2) Which would be better for Rich Rodriguez: A lifetime supply of Pepcid? Or should he go straight to something more potent, like Xanax?

Get your questions and answers in, boys and girls. And thanks for playing.

16. best week of the year.

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If you grew up in Columbus, you understand the title of this post. And even if you’re not a native, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that things in my hometown kind of come to a halt for the next few days.

It’s Michigan Week.

During the 1990s — when the guy who led Ohio State’s football program wasn’t really sure what to make of this phenomenon — we kind of dreaded Michigan Week. There were too many times when we should have won the game. And there were too many of those when we appeared to be a step or two away from a national title, but gagged away that opportunity because we couldn’t beat Michigan.

Things are different now.

The new guy — who just coached his 100th game as the leader of the Buckeyes — does understand this week. He knows the history. He knows how important it is to the program, to Columbus, and to the rest of the state.

He gets it.

Unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t shy away from the challenge. He doesn’t try to downplay the importance. He never says “Well, it’s just another game.”

I’m betting he even knows about the parallel between this year’s game and what might be the biggest upset in the series’ history. And if he knows, the team will hear about it too.

I’ll tell you about that later this week. For now? Let’s start to get ready. Start thinking about being in the parking lot — early. Start thinking about the walk to the stadium. Start thinking about the special roar for Ramp Entrance, and the Tunnel of Pride, and Senior Day.

Start thinking about those ugly winged helmets on our field. Maize and blue on OUR FIELD. And start thinking about sending them back north. After a loss. Again.

2. no stinkin’ badgers.

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When I really took a look at the home schedule for this season, this was the game.

Many of the preseason magazine guys had picked Wisconsin to finish atop the Big Ten. If we were able to squeak past Penn State, this was to have been the next big test.

And then the season began, and nearly every one of those “experts” looked sillier and sillier with each passing week. The Badgers did their part, struggling against nobody non-conference teams and then collapsing, in a tough game at Illinois and in a laugher at Penn State.

This season, that kind of weirdness isn’t unusual. It’s caught just about everyone.

Except us. And that’s what’s bothering me.

I watched parts of Wisconsin’s games against Illinois and Penn State. I can see the potential, especially of their offense. The Badgers’ defense, however, was supposed to be the fearsome unit, especially based on their performance late last season, and they’ve looked awfully average, at least when I’ve been watching them struggle against the Illini and the Happy Valley Kitties.

And still. I’ve felt this before. We didn’t have a great team in 2004, but we were good enough that we should have had little trouble with Wisconsin when they came to Columbus. But the Badgers held us to 10 points — a kick return and a field goal; no TDs by the offense — in the first half and shut us down the rest of the way.

And that’s how it was in 2001 in Columbus … and in 1999 in Columbus. It’s a little misleading to point this out, because the teams don’t play every year, thanks to the Big Ten’s rotating schedule … BUT THE LAST TIME OHIO STATE BEAT WISCONSIN IN COLUMBUS WAS IN NINETEENNINETYFREAKINGSIX.

And that’s why I’m concerned about tomorrow’s game. History doesn’t have to repeat itself — but stranger things have already happened this fall.