To the east, Pennsylvania houses Pittsburgh, a city whose professional football and baseball teams have maintained rivalries with squads in both Cleveland and Cincinnati over the years. Then there's the yearly meeting between Ohio State and Penn State, and until 2012, the famed Big 33 game allowed the Keystone State and the Buckeye State to battle for gridiron supremacy as well.
But when Pennsylvania decided not to renew its Big 33 contract with Ohio in 2012, it became a natural choice to look to the other rivalry – the one with That State Up North.
"It was our first and only call, in all honesty," said Ohio All-Star Chair Erik Baker, the coach at Sycamore Mohawk. "There's a natural tie-in between the two."
The result is the first Ohio-Michigan Border Classic, which will take place Saturday afternoon at 1 at Findlay's Donnell Stadium.
"That's one of the reasons I'm playing in the game, to put on for Ohio." - Marshon Lattimore
Forty prep all-stars from each of the two states will battle for bragging rights in a game that will have some solid star power. The Ohio team includes Ohio State commits Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith of Cleveland Glenville as well as Michigan signee Noah Furbush (Kenton), Michigan State signee Vayante Copeland (Dayton Thurgood Marshall) and players who will be attending Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, Virginia Tech and Marshall.
The Michigan side is highlighted by Michigan signee Jared Wangler (Warren Delasalle) at linebacker as well as five future Spartans in defensive tackle David Beedle (Clarkston), Byron Bullough (Traverse City St. Francis), offensive tackle Nick Padla (Berrien Springs), wideout Brandon Sowards (Wyandotte Roosevelt) and corner Jalen Watts-Jackson (Orchard Lake St. Mary's).
And if you're wondering if bragging rights are actually on the line, they most certainly are.
"That's one of the reasons I'm playing in the game, to put on for Ohio," Lattimore said.
There will be a bit of an Ohio State feel as well. OSU head coach Urban Meyer and staff member Greg Gillum have lent a hand with planning and been cooperative in allowing the two Glenville players to take part, and the Ohio team concluded its first practice Wednesday with a hearty "O-H" and "I-O" response. In addition, former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce, a longtime prep coach, will be the Buckeye State's honorary captain.
"He was like, ‘Anywhere a boy from Ohio is playing a boy from Michigan and you're keeping score, I'll come,' " Baker said with a laugh.
The organizers – the two state high school football coaches organizations – hope anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 fans show up, with some Michigan schools expected to bring student sections.
After all, the rivalry is an obvious one.
"It's Ohio and The Team Up North," Ohio head coach Mike Fell (Lima Senior) said. "These kids grow up with that. It's a natural rivalry that way, but these kids are top athletes in their school, in their state. They're wanting to play regardless of who they are playing, but it's a natural rivalry with Michigan."
On the other side, Michigan eschewed continuing an intrastate all-star game in order to take part in the new contest, which will give the state – which traditionally doesn't have quite as many Division I recruits as Ohio – a chance to measure up.
"We've seen the bigger athletes, the big-time kids going to the Big Ten, the ACC-type of schools, they want to play in this game," Michigan head coach Mike Zdebski of Walled Lake Western said. "This is much bigger. This is that Midwest flavor to it with the two states that are right next to each other."
The two states will play for two years – once in each state, with this year's game in Findlay to give northwest Ohio representation in the all-star game circuit – before determining whether to keep the new contest going.
But at least one participant already thinks the new battle between the natural rivals will be something that will continue into the future.
"It's just nice starting a tradition," Smith said. "You know it's going to be played every year, and it's an honor to play in it in the first year against The Team Up North, and we represent Ohio. It's bigger than just us; we are representing the state of Ohio."