And, no, it has nothing to do with how bad the Wolverines have been on the field this season. It is because the Buckeyes will not look anything like the Buckeyes.
The annual Ohio State-Michigan game is supposed to be an almost sacred event. Children in both states – myself included – grew up with visions of silver and blue helmets clashing on cool November afternoons. Unfortunately that won't be the case Saturday because of an ill-conceived money grab by Nike.
Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, allow me to briefly explain. Ohio State is one of several schools that will wear Nike's new Pro Combat uniform this season. TCU and Virginia Tech have already debuted their alternates, while Ohio State, Florida State, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, LSU, Missouri and Miami (Fla.) will all don alternates before the end of the season. Ohio State has chosen to wear "tribute uniforms" against Michigan to honor the 1954 national championship team and will wear their new duds in Ann Arbor.
As a traditionalist and someone who pays close attention to what teams are wearing, the whole thing just bugs me.
The desire to honor the 1954 champs isn't a bad thing. Throwback uniforms are usually pretty cool, especially when done well. Take for example what the eight original American Football League teams are doing this season in the NFL to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the AFL. The Bills, Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Jets, Patriots, Raiders and Titans have all worn unis identical to the ones their franchises wore in during certain years in their AFL histories. They're all factually accurate (even the Broncos' vertically-striped socks) and they're all fantastic.
So if Ohio State wanted to honor the '54 team, that's fine. However, I would rather have seen it done earlier in the season and have the school go all out to honor the members of the '54 Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. No one would have had a problem if Ohio State did this against, for example, New Mexico State. The Michigan game is a big enough deal as it is. It doesn't need gimmicks.
Then we come to my biggest problem with the uniform: It doesn't look anything like the '54 uniform. Are they honoring an historic OSU team or UNLV? I can't tell. It's really a shame because the '54 unis looked great with unusual shoulder stripes, gray pants with a pair of solid scarlet stripes and a white helmet with no numbers on the sides. Unfortunately, it's just like Nike to overdesign something. While the OSU Pro Combat look is far better than most of its counterparts, it's still pretty bad. I was among the reporters at the Nike press conference on Monday in which the uniforms were unveiled. The Nike representative clarified earlier reports that called the uniforms as 1954 throwbacks, instead calling the look a "modern classic" that uses the '54 look as a point of inspiration.
I have to admit, I had to look down at my notebook to make sure he wouldn't catch me snickering. There's nothing classic about it. It's a money grab, and not a good one at that.
The vast majority of the players don't seem mind the change. In fact, several of the seniors were a part of the group that chose this particular design over three other "tribute" options: a late 1950s look, one from the 40s and another from the early 1970s. Yet that doesn't change the facts. The uniform is ugly and doesn't look like it was influenced by anything Ohio State has ever worn. Players come and go, but Ohio State is bigger than all of them.
It's took bad Nike couldn't leave well enough alone.