|This story originally published on CollegeFootballNews.com|
By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
Ohio State vs. Michigan. As the cyclical world of college football continues to revolve, The Game (as it is referred to by many followers) 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 Vadar--winning seven in a row and eight of the last ten. 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 punch-lines 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 “ten year war” between Woody Hayes and protege Bo Shembechler, The palette that this 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 beat down by OSU during the 60's and early 70's, there is little example of extended periods in which it has been an even affair.
Perhaps until now.
The sweater vest has become unraveled by tattoo needles, un-sent e-mails, and memorabilia sales. The program, usually a consistent model of winning is in transition and just finished a disappointing regular season that hasn’t been seen since 1999. The Buckeye ship, for all intents and purposes, has run aground.
But there is a silver bullet lining...and it looks to be in the form of one of the most revered and winningest coaches over the last decade--Urban Meyer. If the worst kept secret in the college football universe is true, the former Florida coach, and two-time national champion, is leaving the beaches and sunshine of Florida for the gray skies and chilly weather of the Midwest--where he has deep roots. And the Ohio State brass are ready to roll out the scarlet carpet it seems--yesterday. The Buckeye leaves are rustling with anticipation of a dynamic offense, talented recruiting classes, and of course, more championships.
On the other sideline, Michigan, also in transition has finally evicted 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.
Enter stage left, Michigan man Brady Hoke.
Hoke has re-instilled the confidence and swagger of the Wolverine program and family. Riding along side him on his white horse, is all everything 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 is a possibility, and the future is brighter than those newly refurbished Notre Dame helmets. But 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 one. So far, so good.
So here we sit on the precipice 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 snow bird 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 “ten-year war II”, it should be a fun ride for fans of both teams, and fans of college football in general.