Michigan vs. Ohio State: Can Brady Hoke Save the Rivalry?

Phil CallihanContributor INovember 24, 2013

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 16: Head Coach Brady Hoke of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during play against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on November 16, 2013 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Long considered one the best rivalries in sports, the Michigan vs. Ohio State game is in danger of becoming irrelevant. The Game, as it is known, has been a highlight of the college football season due its impact on the Big Ten conference race and national rankings, helping fuel the popularity of college football.

College football fans remember the annual clashes between Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, the domination of Lloyd Carr over John Cooper and the resurgence of Ohio State under Jim Tressel. The games between the teams have provided numerous highlights, from Heisman Trophy winners Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson (who both hail from Ohio but starred at Michigan) to Maurice Clarrett and Craig Krenzel (who was raised in Michigan but starred for Ohio State).

Rivalries dominated by one team have the potential to lose their luster, though, and too often Michigan has been on the wrong end of the score, losing 10 of the last 12 meetings.

Are the hammer and nail rivals? (Last 12 meetings)
YearWinner, Score
2012Ohio State, 26 -21
2011Michigan, 40-34
2010Ohio State 37-7
2009Ohio State, 21-10
2008Ohio State, 42-7
2007Ohio State, 14-3
2006Ohio State, 42-39
2005Ohio State, 25-21
2004Ohio State, 37-21
2003Michigan, 35-21
2002Ohio State, 14-9
2001Ohio State, 26-20

Many Ohio State fans even discount Michigan’s last win in the series, a 40-34 victory in 2011, as it occurred during a season of disarray after the resignation of Jim Tressel.

For rivalries to be important, the teams need to be more than just competitive; there need to be upsets—the games need to matter.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke talked about the importance of this rivalry during his first press conference. Now Michigan has an opportunity to torch Ohio State’s undefeated season and spoil their hopes for a national title.

Hoke and the Wolverines have been here before.

Michigan had a golden opportunity to reignite the rivalry last year in Columbus.

Ohio State entered the game unbeaten but ineligible for a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions. A Michigan victory would have spoiled their perfect (if tarnished) season. The Wolverines led 21-20 at halftime but were shutout in the second half, falling 26-21.

Brady Hoke knows that coaches at both schools are judged by the results of this game.

Michigan heads in this year’s edition of The Game reeling, having lost four out of their last six games, while Ohio State is cruising. Michigan is a double-digit underdog at home versus Ohio State and has an opportunity for an epic upset victory over their great rival.

A victory would provide Hoke with a signature win and knock the Buckeyes out of the national title picture. It would also provide a needed jolt to a rivalry that is relying way too much on history to promote itself.