There’s no matchup I look forward to covering more than this one each year, and I think in general it’s the one that Ohio State fans anticipate most each season. I’m a relative newcomer to the rivalry – On Nov. 18, 2006, for example, I chose to go watch some high school classmates at the TV-less LHSAA state swim meet – but it took, oh, one quarter for three players to get ejected the first time I covered an OSU-Michigan game and I’ve been hooked ever since.
So in most years, just being the Ohio State-Michigan game would be enough to land the top spot (although I wrote in Michigan State’s capsule that I thought that was the most anticipated game of last season). I’ve seen enough in the past two years to know that any quality gaps between the two teams doesn’t seem to be a deterrent in the quality of the game, but this year’s meeting also includes a narrative overload.
The most apt (and popular) comparison includes just about everything from the 1968-69 seasons. The Super Sophs coming off a national championship, the talk of perhaps the best team ever fielded by a legendary Ohio State coach, the new head man at Michigan… it’s pretty incredible, really. With the Buckeyes currently sitting as prohibitive championship favorites, the odds point to Michigan having a chance to relive its 1990s days as a season ruiner. Ohio State will have the chance to show that yet another Michigan coaching change isn’t enough to prevent the Buckeyes’ current run of gold pants.
I can’t wait, and I bet you can’t either.
No. 1: Michigan
Conference: Big Ten
Stadium: Michigan Stadium (109,901)
Head coach: Jim Harbaugh (first year)
Record against Ohio State: 58-46-6
Returning starters: eight offense, seven defense
2014 record: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)
Scout.com recruiting rankings: No. 35 (2015), No. 27 (2014), No. 2 (2013), No. 4 (2012), No. 29 (2011)
Who to watch: TE Jake Butt, LB Joe Bolden, LB Desmond Morgan, OL Kyle Kalis, S Jabrill Peppers
Why This Matchup Could Be Higher:
Numerically impossible on this list… but from a degree standpoint, imagine if Harbaugh comes out winning right away.
Why This Matchup Could Be Lower:
It would take, say, a season similar to Nick Saban’s first at Alabama (7-6 with a loss to ULM) to take some excitement out of this one, but even that might not be enough. If the stakes are at their highest and Ohio State is in position to play for a national championship, just the thought of Michigan (no matter its record) having the chance to sink OSU’s dreams will generate plenty of buzz.
No. 10 Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan
No. 9 Illinois
No. 8 Rutgers
No. 7 Maryland
No. 6 Indiana
No. 5 Minnesota
No. 4 Penn State
No. 3 Michigan State
No. 2 Virginia Tech