It's just after national signing day, right at the beginning of spring football, and one thing appears evident: Both Ohio State and Michigan look poised for big things in the yearly quest for college football glory.
That's superb news for fans of an old-fashioned rivalry. As the cyclical world of college football continues to revolve, The Game (as it is referred to by many followers) between Ohio State and Michigan continues to capture the interest and imagination of the nation, regardless of each team’s standing.
In recent years, however—2001 to 2010, to be exact—that interest has waned because the Scarlet and Gray have gotten more than the best of its Darth Vader by winning seven in a row and eight of the last 10.
It was truly a decade of dominance each and every time the sweater vest was taken out of the wardrobe and pulled over the Buckeye Nation’s collective head.
In the decade before that, the winged helmets took flight over the gloom and doom emanating along the banks of the Olentangy, forever implanting John Cooper in his rightful place as one of the punchlines of the rivalry.
Year after year, it seemed, more talented Ohio State teams got ambushed by a Wolverine team lying in the weeds of spoil and despair.
Aside from the “10-year war” between Woody Hayes and protege Bo Schembechler, the palette that this rivalry has been painted on has truly been one in which one team gets the upper hand of the other for an extended period of time.
From leather-helmet dominance by Michigan to the annual beatdown by OSU during the '60s and early '70s, there is little example of extended periods in which it has been an even affair.
Perhaps until now.
The sweater vest became unraveled by tattoo needles, unsent e-mails and memorabilia sales. The program, usually a consistent model of winning is in transition, and just finished a disappointing regular season and anemic bowl game performance that hasn't been seen since 1999. The Buckeye ship in 2011—for all intents and purposes—ran aground.
However, we all know about the silver bullet lining, and it is in the form of one of the most revered and winningest coaches over the last decade: Urban Meyer. The former Florida coach, and two-time national champion, has left the beaches and sunshine of Florida for the gray skies and chilly weather of the Midwest, where he has deep roots.
The scarlet carpet has been rolled out, and the Buckeye leaves are now rustling with anticipation of a dynamic offense, more talented recruiting classes like 2012 and, of course, more championships.
On the other sideline, Michigan, now completing its transition, was able evict its stow-away, gimmicky coach Rich Rodriguez after a miserable lab experiment that set off a chain reaction of combustible events within the Michigan program.
From losing ugly,to the fracturing of relations and family environment, it was time for a change from what can widely be considered one of the darkest three-year runs in Michigan history. Losses mounted, especially to its rivals in embarrassing fashion.
Let a new day dawn.
Michigan man Brady Hoke entered stage left and brought the curtains down on a truly remarkable one-year turnaround campaign.
Hoke has re-instilled the confidence and swagger of the Wolverine program and family. Riding alongside him on his white horse is defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. The combination of the two have been like a cheese and wine tasting that the taste buds of Ann Arbor have been longing for.
The seven-year losing streak to Ohio State is over, a BCS bowl championship attained and the future is brighter than those newly refurbished Notre Dame helmets. However, more than anything, Hoke has embraced the rivalry just like Lloyd and Bo. If there’s anything his team will know each and every year, it’s that beating Ohio will be priority No. 1.
So far, so good.
So here we sit on the doorstep of what could be one of the most thrilling rides in the rivalry of The Game—Urban Meyer and all of his proven worth on one sideline, with Brady Hoke and all of his potential gazing across the field on the other sideline.
One purely Michigan (aside from being born in Ohio), one purely Ohio (despite the snowbird portion of his coaching career). Both likely to be successful, both enduring legacies likely to be defined by each other—just like Woody and Bo.
Welcome to the “10-year war II”—it should be a fun ride for fans of both teams, and fans of college football in general.