The numbers are eerily similar...Michigan is a 19 point underdog heading into the Ohio State game in Columbus. The Buckeyes are in the midst of a dominate stretch over the "school up North." Michigan is featuring a new head coach who will get his first taste of the rivalry this coming Saturday.
Ohio State is littered with a roster full of stars with tons of hardware, and up and coming stars who will undoubtedly follow their predecessors success (Laurinaitis, Jenkins, Wells, Boone, Pryor, Gibson, Brewster). And is seeking out a fourth straight Big Ten title with a victory.
Michigan, on the other hand, is meiered in a historically poor season. 3-8 on the year, 2-5 overall in Big Ten play, and is still trying to claim an identity under first year coach Rich Rodriguez, and find a stable of talent in Ann Arbor.
Why are these numbers and statistics so eerie? Because if you know your Ohio State history kiddies, you know that not since 1969, has this rivalry seemed so lopsided headed into THE GAME...a game where Ohio State walked into Ann Arbor as 17 point favorites, and limped out with a 24-12 defeat in what has been called by some as one of the greatest upsets in college football history.
1969...it haunted Woody Hayes until his death. The 1969 edition of Ohio State football was supposed to be the greatest team Woody Hayes ever assembled. This was a team coming off a National Championship in 1968, a team that was on a 22 game winning streak.
A team littered with superstars all over the field, the likes of Jack Tatum, Jim Stillwagon, Rex Kern, John Brockington, and Jim Otis. Almost an identical team that absolutely annihilated Michigan team in Columbus a year previous 50-14. This was supposed to be a slam dunk, and the game that set up Ohio State for back to back National Championships.
Sure, newly hired Bo Schembechler was a good young coach and a prodigy of Woody Hayes himself at Miami of Ohio and then at Ohio State. He was building Michigan in the right direction, but surely the program was at LEAST a year or two of really challenging Ohio State again.
ABC play by play guy Bill Flemming exalted it "There it is! What has to be the upset of the century!" Schembechler was carried off on the victorious shoulders of his players, and what was so gracefully named, the "Ten Year War," would ensue.
So what can we learn from this history lesson Buckeye fan?
That this isn't just a lesson for the fans, but the coaches, and players alike. I don't care that these players weren't alive when this happened. I don't care that Michigan is 3-8 and has looked awful all year long. I don't care that we have beaten them six out of the last seven years.
I don't care about Michigan's struggles with a new system, poor quarterback play, hideous tackling, and lack of team chemistry. I don't care that not a single player on Michigan has beaten Ohio State in their tenure at Ann Arbor.
You're Ohio State, everything is on the line for you. A possible BCS bid, and a Big Ten Championship...the motivation is there. You have the foot on the throats of the enemy. You stick your heel into them and turn the foot.
Set the tone for Rodriguez and this new regime, that you are the big dogs on the block, and they are going to have a war on their hands not only the final game of November every year, but year round in recruiting as well.
I hate Michigan. I've hated them since I could remember fellow Ohioan Desmond Howard Heisman posing in the endzone as a child. I remember them destroying multiple National Championship opportunities in 1995 and 1996 with inferior talent to my Buckeyes. I lived 2-10-1, and if you're a Buckeye fan, you know that number too, without me having to explain its meaning. I detest Michigan, and I'm thrilled to see them at the current state they are in.
All that said, as much as I hate them, I also greatly respect them as well. I learned that from football, that no matter how much you hate the enemy you are facing, you have a controlled fear and respect for them. You take nothing for granted against them, and you'd better be prepared for a fight when you encounter them.
The 2008 edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes need to take a lesson from the 1969 edition. Don't take anything for granted when it comes to facing the Michigan Wolverines. Respect the opponent and come mentally and physically ready to execute your assignments.
The 1969 Buckeyes forgot to due those things, and they watched the Rose Bowl and National Championship go down the drain, and a ten year war ensue. I urge Ohio State players, coaches, and fans alike...respect and fear the opponent. Play with urgency, fire, and passion, and we will this game on Saturday.
Because on any given Saturday...Ohio State vs. Michigan in 1969 can happen. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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P.S: This is the first of a week full of Ohio State vs. "The State Up North" articles. So if you liked this one stay tuned for others throughout the week.
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