The importance of the Ohio State vs. Michigan game

Ohio State has had some really good success against Michigan for the last ten years. If Michigan is going to have any success in 2020, they need some help from their defense. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)
Ohio State has had some really good success against Michigan for the last ten years. If Michigan is going to have any success in 2020, they need some help from their defense. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images) /

The Ohio State football team loves beating TTUN every year and we love rubbing it in.

If you’ve read my articles on any sort of a regular basis you know I don’t hesitate to poke fun at or point out dumb things said by the Michigan Wolverines and their fans. Call it a sense of duty, if you will. However, here is something you probably don’t realize about me: I love this rivalry. The day of the Ohio State-Michigan game is an unofficial holiday at my house.

I love college football rivalries in general, especially those which end the regular season. It is a game players and fans point towards all through the regular season. The excitement builds over the course of nearly three months. You always keep an eye on what your rival is doing each week and compare your favorite team to them. There is nothing like a season-ending rivalry. That’s why it concerns me to hear ideas floated for moving Ohio State vs. Michigan to earlier in the season.

I began hearing these ideas of moving the game when the news broke of the almost certainty for an expanded playoff on the near horizon. The thinking is the Big Ten will do away with divisions in order to get the conference’s two best teams in the its championship game. Further speculation states the conference would want to move the Ohio State-Michigan game to earlier in the season to avoid the possibility of them having to play consecutive games against each other if both were to make the championship. Keep in mind this is all speculation, but I don’t like even the mention of it.

Ohio State football vs. Michigan is far and away the Big Ten’s best rivalry. It puts the conference squarely in the national spotlight on that final Saturday of the regular season. Of the other Power 5 conferences, only one has a season-ending intra-conference rivalry game that commands as much national attention: Auburn-Alabama in the SEC.

USC vs. UCLA in the PAC 12 has lost much of its luster from years past. Cal-Stanford is a great old rivalry, but barely makes a ripple on a national level. In the Big XII, The Bedlam Series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is always fiercely contested, but the conference’s marquee rivalry is played in early October when the Sooners meet Texas in the Red River Showdown. The ACC has a few season-ending rivalry games, but the ones of note are against out-of-conference opponents (Florida State-Florida, Clemson-South Carolina). Ohio State-Michigan is one of two season-ending rivalry games which gets national interest, has a bearing on the conference standings, and the playoff picture. Moving it to an earlier date would be a colossal mistake for the Big Ten.

Another reason this game should never be moved is simply tradition. We’ve lost so many great season-ending rivalry games because of conference realignment. Texas-Texas A&M, the Backyard Brawl between Pitt and WVU, BYU-Utah in the Holy War, and Oklahoma-Nebraska to name a few. The end of the Sooners and Cornhuskers rivalry is the most tragic to me.

It was truly one of the tops in college football that featured more than a few legendary battles over the years. They play in September this year for the first time since 2010 and have not met on a yearly basis since 1997. I’m sure their fans are going to enjoy the matchup this year, but it won’t be the same as those late November games. Time moves on and change occurs, but that doesn’t mean change is always for the better. I’m not convinced losing these great rivalry games has been worth the gains of conference realignment. For the sake of tradition, Ohio State football vs. Michigan must stay exactly where it is.

The Big Ten has done a great job of maintaining traditional rivalries. Throughout adding teams, going to divisional play, and realigning the divisions, the rivalries have remained in place. My concern is what drives nearly all decisions in college football: money. When the playoff expands and IF the conference does away with its divisions, I could see the Big Ten’s powerbrokers considering blowing up traditions if it means getting more teams in the playoff. More playoff teams equals more money for conference members. This is all speculation, but don’t think it couldn’t happen.

If you’re a fan of a school who does not end its regular season with a rivalry game this article will be lost on you. You have to experience a great rivalry to really understand it. College football needs games like Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama to stay where they are.

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Some things just shouldn’t be changed.