It’s The Game, and there’s nothing like it, even this year

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Author @TheCoachBart

It’s defined not by traveling trophies, cute nicknames, or in-state borders. It’s called only, “The Game,” and while it’s cliche to say you don’t understand the hate unless you’ve been around it in any way …

you don’t understand the hate unless you’ve been around it in any way.

So there.

When people say those two simple words, The and Game, you immediately know who it is because the impact is that lasting. Michigan. Ohio State. Well, they might think of the hip hop artist, but I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that reference relates much to the TSS audience.

They’ll meet once again in the last game of the season as they always do, coming in from opposite ends of the spectrum, one onto his third promotion at a high paying job that he got right after college, the other struggling to get full time work at minimum wage.

It matters not to those involved.


Michigan and Ohio State will forever be attached at the hip in some amalgam of hatred, rivalry, and — whether each wants to admit it or not — respect. For not just anyone can be the rival of a Michigan or an Ohio State. It takes longstanding, steep, century-old success through all of the ups and downs of college football to sit at a table both schools basically helped chop the wood to build.

For Ohio State, the Buckeyes have everything to lose on Saturday at high noon. Michigan mostly has nothing. On a Wednesday morning radio appearance, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit — a former Ohio State quarterback — talked about how the week is different. Everyone is all in on that same opponent, excited to band together to club their rival. There’s a different feel about The Game.

Ohio State lives in 2014 with bigger fish to fry than Michigan, though none tastes as good to the Buckeyes. Urban Meyer’s boys enter this Game (with a capital G) smack dab in the middle of a CFB Playoff chase that should shine well upon them should they win out.

Gone are the feelings of the John Cooper 1990s, when powerhouse Buckeye teams with eyes on championships tiptoed into lesser Michigan, only to watch legends be made out of guys like Tai Streets and Tim Biakabutuka before walking out with their tails betwixt their vexed legs.

This year, there is no feel that Michigan has a shot, and to be honest, I always like writing a “this is what Michigan has to do to win” subsection when previewing The Game. However, at some point, I just threw my hands up in the air and said, “Sometimes, stuff just happens.” That’s not viable analysis.

Michigan comes in on a stretcher, in the midst of a process that has seen the program torn to shreds. UM now looks to encounter a new and more prosperous era, the third such instance since 2007 for a program that was once the accountant husband, a model of stability.

Interim athletic director Jim Hackett has been rumored to be taking the post full time, and while Michigan folk surely are weary of putting yet another corporate CEO with zero athletic director background in the post, it’s Michigan, and the Wolverines bounce to the beat of a different drum.


If anything, Michigan can learn from Ohio State, only four years ago shocked by the sudden forced loss of Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes endured one salty year (the last time Michigan defeated Ohio State, ironically) and shot for the moon with Urban Meyer. And here we are.

It’s a rivalry that some will say has lost importance now that Michigan keeps locking its keys inside the car and Ohio State is already a few miles down the road going 80 in a 55.

It hasn’t. The walls in Ann Arbor, the feel around the state of Michigan, it tingles this one week a year, and the natives breathe that same old smoke and fire in Ohio whether the Wolverines are a hideous mess of 5-6 or 11-0.

Saturday marks an annual meeting of old friends that are living on different sides of the tracks these days. The dislike and again, respect, are still there. And hell, Michigan wasn’t good last year and still made a game of it.

That’s what happens between these two, who judge themselves based on one another, like sisters who are both 10s and always competing to be better than the other.

If Ohio State wins by a slim margin, don’t chide the Buckeyes. These games are not easy to win. It’s a dislike infused into a rivalry that spans state lines. It will be an impressive win regardless. If Michigan wins, the aliens are coming, so just prepare for that.

Either way, it’s simply The Game, and there’s nothing else like it.