"The Game" Is More than a Game for Rich Rod and the Wolverines

Russ HartleyContributor INovember 18, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 24:  Head Coach Rich Rodriguez of the Michigan Wolverines looks on while playing the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 24, 2009 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Penn State won the game 35-10.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

You could not have enough rulers to measure the implications of this week's Michigan-Ohio State game. No matter what anyone says, "The Game" is one of the most profound rivalries in college sports. The meeting between these two teams is always filled with aggression, hard hits, and until recently, the Big Ten Championship.

Technically this game is meaningless to the Buckeyes, but Jim Tressel won't admit that. OSU clinched a Rose Bowl appearance with their win over Iowa last weekend. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor will be heading into hostile Ann Arbor, looking for his first win at "The Big House."

The importance of this game leans towards the maize and blue. Talk has stirred this season of the firing of coach Rich Rodriguez. I feel this is ridiculous, but that argument is meant for another article. Rodriguez is 1-5 against his rivals (OSU, MSU, and ND). No one realizes the importance of this game more then the head coach of Michigan. If Tate Forcier can lead this team to a win, Michigan fans will decrease the temperature for Rich Rod's hot seat.

A win for the Wolverines doesn't only mean a win over their arch-rival, but a bowl appearance. Before the "Rich-Rod era," Michigan went to 34 straight bowl games, and had been a dominant powerhouse in college football. The Michigan tour bus has encountered some bumps in the road recently, and trust me, two years without a bowl game would be too much torture for the program and its fans.

If the Wolverines can pull out an upset, a 5-7 record will turn into 6-6 and a bowl game. If the Wolverines fail again at beating the Buckeyes, Rich Rod will continue to hear chants of his termination from the program. And with a new coach and a new offensive system, this program may have to start over from scratch, again.

Remember when Michigan went 4-0, Rich Rod had a safe job, and Wolverine fans thought the program was "back?" Well, now they have fallen from the rankings, lost six of their last seven, and the sure bowl game isn't so sure anymore.

The will to win may not be enough for Michigan to get a win on Saturday. The defense will need to slow down Pryor, especially on third down. They must stay consistent throughout the game and dominate in the trenches.

Michigan has had a trend this year to play great for one half, and completely collapse in the other. The offense can not fall behind by much, since OSU has been firing on all cylinders lately. Michigan will not be favored to win, that's a given, they will need to out-perform Ohio State, because they may be fighting for their coach's job.

Ohio State has dominated the rivalry in recent years, and fans have began to think this game as not much of a rivalry. Just to make this clear, Michigan is still winning in the head to head record, so before this rivalry is forgotten, OSU must take the record. Michigan is slipping in the rivalry lately, but if they bounce back they could remind people that this cross-state battle still is one of the best rivalries in college sports.


*Russ Hartley is the founder & host of Yung Gunz Sports and can be reached at YGSpodcast@Gmail.com  or www.twitter.com/yunggunzsports

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