Ohio State Football: How Firm Thy Friendship O-HI-O

Nov 27, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day on the sideline during the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day on the sideline during the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

All good things must come to an end, as the old saying goes. That’s what happened to the Ohio State football team Saturday, as many streaks came to a close.

An agonizing two-year wait resulted in a soul-crushing feeling of emptiness. How it happened to the Ohio State football team is a story for another time. But for now, let’s pour out our emotions and find the why behind the earth-shattering feeling.

Many Ohio State alumni and fans disconnected from society in the hours following The Game Saturday afternoon. It didn’t feel like Clemson in 2019, Oregon earlier in the year, or Michigan State in 2015.

I was born in Columbus and raised in Pickerington, and immediately christened into Buckeye fandom as nearly every baby is in Ohio. I know the South has a reputation for the most passionate fans, but football in the Midwest, particularly in Ohio, is a lot of people’s lifeline. Scarlet and Gray is in people’s blood.

I grew up idolizing the Buckeyes and dreaming of one day attending college there. When I received my acceptance letter, it was one of the happiest days of my life. You see, growing up in Ohio teaches you many things. Still, two seem to rise above the rest: passionately loving the Buckeyes by embracing tradition and respectfully hating that Team Up North.

Ohio is different. Yelling O-H and having a second holiday during Thanksgiving week is as ingrained in Ohio’s culture as any tradition you’ll find as far back in history as you can search. Though many think there’s nothing to do in the state, and to some degree, they’re correct, they don’t fully grasp the essence of how Ohio captures your heart and creates a deeply rooted sense of state pride.

I’m 22 years old and have countless sports memories growing up. However, losing to Michigan isn’t one that brings a familiar feeling. The Ohio State football team has dropped a handful of games to the Wolverines in my lifetime, but only twice I honestly recall — 2011 and Saturday.

I grew up with Jim Tressel’s promise and matured with Urban Meyer’s relentless obsession for beating that Team Up North. Now, brings Ryan Day – what will his legacy in The Game be? He can undoubtedly coach and win at a high level, but will it all matter? I believe in Coach Day and trust him with the program and the rivalry.

The state of Ohio is personified by eleven warriors brave and bold playing in the Horseshoe on the banks of the Olentangy dressed in Scarlet and Gray. We win as a state and lose as a state — really a global fan base.

This rivalry runs deep — it’s all we think about and look forward to every year. I remember storming the field after an incredible comeback against Penn State led by JT Barrett. We sang Carmen Ohio as a stadium, and then Sweet Caroline broke out over the PA system as a troll.

Not before the song finished was the entire fan populous on the field singing, “we don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan.” The Game was still a month away at that point. The victory over the Nittany Lions was sweet, but that matchup is merely a competitive, often weird, fight than a blood bath rivalry.

What other game causes you to shorten the alphabet or forego a full color? 

The Game on Saturday felt so different leading up to kickoff because it was program-defining for Michigan and Jim Harbaugh. It was bigger than 2006, 2016, and 2018 combined because if not now, then honestly, when?

I was a pitcher for the majority of my fourteen years playing baseball. Triples happen, but at least those guys are on base. 

The matchup ended up being the genuinely perfect storm with all the ingredients for victory in the forecast, literally. Snow was falling, emotions were focused and flaring, and the game went according to the script.

The Wolverines were the better team on Saturday, and there’s no shying away from that fact. Even though the loss hurts, what is the standard being asked of the Buckeyes? Nowadays, fans of the premier programs have the bar so high it can’t be held. Ohio State-Michigan is the greatest, most intense, Rivalry in all sport, and you honestly think one team will never lose again?

To put it in perspective, this is Ryan Day’s first loss to a Big Ten opponent — he’s in his third season. Ohio State’s first conference loss since 2018 (Purdue) and the first loss in November since Iowa in 2017. No other team can boast such statistics, not even the GOAT Nick Saban and Alabama.

Ohio State remains a premier program in college football and just went ten years – an entire decade – without losing in the most intense rivalry on the planet. To Michigan’s performance on Saturday, we say: rivalry renewed.

The 2021 Buckeyes will join a list of illustrious teams that weren’t in Ohio State lore because of the loss to Michigan. But there’s a lot that was for the Ohio State football program this year, such as all the young talent and one of the most elite units in the sport’s history with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

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The future is bright in Columbus, and C.J. Stroud should win the Heisman in a few weeks. The gloomy cloud of a loss will soon (hopefully) pass (in 362 days), and nightmares of Hassan Haskins running through a 4-2-5 with ease will cease. The Ohio State football team will be back and haven’t gone anywhere. Trust Ryan Day. Go Buckeyes and beat Michigan.