“Satan’s waitin’, let’s get hatin’; Bomb Ann Arbor now”
–“Bomb Ann Arbor Now” by The Dead Schembechlers
It’s that time of year again, and the hour (or four) of reckoning is near. This Saturday at noon, Ohio State will face off against that team up north for the annual contest that stands as the greatest sports rivalry in America, which means that we have entered Hate Michigan week once more. This year The Game is once more The Game that all eyes across the nation will be watching to see how it shapes the College Football Playoff in the race for the National Championship. Both the Buckeyes and the Ballerinas – er, Wolverines are well positioned at #2 and #3 respectively to make a case for inclusion in the committee’s top four with a chance to take down #1 Alabama and whoever else gets thrown into the mix, and take home a trophy. Hey, want to know something? We don’t fucking care. Neither of us. The National Championship is nice and all, I mean, it’s not like I didn’t go bonkers when the Buckeyes capped off an incredible season by winning the first CFP Championship two season ago, but beating Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon in the final stretch was not the high point of the season. Oh no, that came during the last week of the regular season when we beat Michigan. Every season for the Buckeyes and Walruses- uh, Wolverines is ultimately measured as a success or failure by the result of The Game. I have explained this before in previous posts that I have churned out during Hate Michigan week:
Furthermore, I have shown my love of American football in other posts from the early months of this blog until just last week, such as:
Now it hasn’t always been about the Buckeyes; that last one is about the improbable win my alma mater John Carroll scored against their rival Mount Union, and my love for the Blue Streaks has sprouted up here and there over the lifetime of this blog, as has occasionally my love for my hometown Toledo Rockets who have the best game prior to The Game against the next highest ranked team in the state of Michigan. Go Streaks and Go Rockets!
Nevertheless, today I am regaling in the memories of the greatest game of the The Games that I have seen in my lifetime, the Game of the Century for the 21st Century that pitted #1 Ohio State against #2 Michigan. There have been many games that have been declared the Game of the Century for one reason or another ever since college football has taken off in national prominence. The earliest that most consider is the initial meeting between Ohio State and Notre Dame in 1935 which saw Notre Dame make a huge comeback in the 4th quarter where they scored all their points to win 18-13. Not every Game of the Century matched its hype like this. Many have ended in blowouts, or even ties. The timing of the game is an important factor as well, as some games prematurely lauded as the Game of the Century have had their impact lessened as the season went on and one or both teams involved lost more games, or at least some luster. Five years ago the mid-season matchup of Louisiana State and Alabama was declared to be the greatest game to ever be played… before it was. The game was certainly close, ending in a 9-6 win for LSU in overtime, but the reputation was marred by sloppy play, too many turnovers, and a lack of offense (a theme these two teams repeated this season). They were eventually pitted against each other again in that season’s BCS National Championship, and many hoped to see if the second time was the charm. It wasn’t; Alabama won 21-0 in dominating fashion, further proving the point that you cannot craft a true Game of the Century with headlines and hype. The game itself has to measure up to and, as difficult as it may be, exceed expectations to truly stand the test of time. The true Game of the 21st Century has done that.
November 18, 2006 gave us a clash of titans that promised to be a major game to close the regular season and did it ever. Factoring in the most bitter rivalry and a clear separation of the two teams involved from all others throughout the season and The Game was the most important game for not just Ohio State and Michigan, but for everyone. Some of the sparkle may have worn off with the postseason results for each team as both were beaten badly in their bowl games (a lesson in not getting too caught up in a small handful of teams, especially just two), but the stakes of the game were never higher, and neither were the rankings and records of the Buckeyes and Jean Valjeans – um, Wolverines, who were at the top of all human and human and computer rankings with 11 wins and no losses each. Something big was brewing.
ESPN and all other sports news agencies were broadcasting about The Game constantly, but no other interview quite captured the essence of the matchup like this one:
The Dead Schembechlers annual concert held on the eve of The Game is again on High Street this year, complete with a coloring book with a Beatles-inspired theme.
It may be a poor segue, but it is worth noting that the actual Bo Schembechler, Michigan’s legendary coach who previously was an assistant under Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, died the day before the border battle of 2006. Michigan’s performance is all the more impressive considering that heavy blow.
The Game itself that year was surreal. Considering the anticipation of it going into it, it almost did not feel possible that it was actually here, but it was. Michigan scored first with a Mike Hart run, but the Buckeyes responded and scored again and again with proficient senior quarterback Troy Smith leading the offensive charge. Coach Jim Tressel called the right plays at the right time for the Buckeyes, especially breakaway runs by Chris “Beanie” Wells and Antonio Pittman, and a play-action fake touchdown pass to dynamic receiver Ted Ginn Jr., and they appeared to start to pull away. However, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was no slouch, and he got his team back into contention with the help of Hart and veteran quarterback Chad Henne. The firepower of each team was on full display as they punched back and forth at one another. Ohio State seemed to have the clinching score after a timely penalty kept their drive alive long enough for Smith to find receiver Brian Robiskie, but the weasels from up north had some fuel left in their tank too and scored a touchdown complete with two-point conversion to pull within three points with only minutes left. The sigh of relief I exhaled when Ginn Jr. secured the ensuing onside kick was loud enough to shake the foundations of every house in the neighborhood – not that it mattered as the entire area was filled with simultaneous shouts of joy and dismay. The Buckeyes won in the most entertaining game on the largest stage with the grandest stakes. Not just a go at a perfect record or a trip to the national title game, but a hard-fought win against your rival when they were at their best. The stuff The Game of the Century is made if.
Now, ten years after, here we are again. Ohio State and Michigan each own 10-1 records and are ranked #2 and #3. A trip to the Big Ten Championship is on the line (although, thanks to Ohio State’s lone loss, it is very possible that neither team will get to go!), and inclusion in the four-team playoff for the national title almost certainly awaits the winner. Hey, want to know something? That’s right! We don’t fucking care. Whatever happens in the rest of the college football world will happen aside from these two teams. It won’t remain that way for very long, but for the length of 60 football minutes (and approximately 3.5-4 actual hours) the players, coaches, and fans will not give a damn about anything else but The Game. I hope you’ll join me in not giving a damn about the whole state of Michigan. Go Buckeyes!
Thanks for reading and watching! Thanks especially to former Buckeyes and current Bills quarterback Cardale Jones whose tweet on The Game inspired the title of this post. You’re the only Twitter account I need to read, Cardale. The big game will be playing this Saturday at 12pm on ABC. If you need a closer vantage point than your television, then tickets are still selling starting at $300. If you’d like to tell me anything about it, or send any questions or requests my way, hit me deep at firstname.lastname@example.org. Snap back here again next week for a post that will surely contain, yet not be focused on football.