Buckeyes & Wolverines In the New Era

Will the Border Battle return to stay?
Photo courtesy of thebuckeyebattlecry.com

I’m nervous. And I like it.

The past ten years has made a mockery of the greatest rivalry in college football, and in my opinion the best rivalry in all of sports (Yes, my status as an Ohio State student DOES bias my opinion). Oh, sure, Ohio State fans will say they have loved the success. They love the comfortable position they have held in the rivalry each year as Michigan struggled to score points and struggled more to prevent them. Buckeye faithful will tell you it’s an amazing feeling having that much power over your enemy, watching them gasp for air as Appalachian State blocks a field goal and, just for giggles, runs it back for a touchdown. I admit that I got some kind of sick, greedy joy knowing we were going to win and took in a deep, guiltless satisfaction every time the clock struck zero. Life was wonderful in Ohio. And it seemed there was no end in sight.

Until the media-dubbed “Tattoo-Gate”.

Come 2011, Tressel is gone. Replacing him, assistant coach and former OSU player Luke Fickell. No one was really sure what just happened. Terrell Pryor was set to become the first quarterback in Ohio State history to beat Michigan four times. Instead, Ohio State starts Joe Bauserman, a former pitcher for the Pirates that couldn’t guard me in intramural basketball. The Pirate’s losing ways followed him into the 2011 season, where Joe lost his job to freshman Braxton Miller. Ohio State began the season a painful, unheard of, 3-3. The state of Ohio didn’t know how to handle what was happening. They weren’t losing to overly skilled teams like Florida and LSU, they were losing to a sub-par Miami team, putting a measly six points on the scoreboard while doing so. Again: what had just happened?

Adding to the dismay of Buckeye fans was the continuing success of the ‘Team Up North’. At the beginning of the year, Michigan brought in former Ball State coach Brady Hoke. Hoke was a former college linebacker who brought a linebacker’s mentality to the Maze and Blue. They had an identity again, and Hoke did something unheard of in college football: He had success in his first year. Michigan began the year 6-0, finishing at 11-2 after a dramatic OT win against Virginia Tech in the All-State Sugar Bowl.

Fans hope for another “10-Year War”

Prior to winning the Sugar Bowl, Michigan did something they hadn’t done in 7 years: beat Ohio State. Despite Ohio States fans being somewhat prepared for that being the year their streak came to a halt, a lose to Michigan stings no matter what the circumstances. And let’s not forget: the Buckeyes had their chances! They were 3…4…5 (whatever it was) Braxton Miller overthrows away from pulling out another win against the Wolverines. That part at least let Buckeye fans believe they still had some talent; there was hope. However, Michigan was clearly the dominant team and basked in all the glory that comes with winning the game of all games. It was clear Brady Hoke was there to stay. It was clear he was a perfect fit for Michigan. It was clear the Buckeyes were in trouble.

Everyone, especially Ohio State fans, was wondering what would come next.

On November 28, 2011, the state of Ohio got its savior.

Urban Meyer came in with a head of steam, his passion and enthusiasm leaving a lasting impression every time you heard him speak. You could hear every recruit in Ohio  stand up and say, “I want to play for that guy!” And most of them proved that by saying goodbye to whatever school they were previously committed to and running into the open arms of Meyer. Or it would be more appropriate to say that Meyer just reached out and snagged that guy and that guy, and that guy, too. When I traveled to Florida this summer I spoke with one UF student about Meyer. All he had to say about Meyer was, “Dude’s a beast.” There are probably more appropriate, formal titles that can be given to Meyer, but with his relentlessness and ferocity, the dude is a beast– as much as a coach can be.

What Michigan and Ohio State fans are now left with is pure football gold; a scenario eerily similar to that of the 1970s, when Woody and Bo went at it like titans. Hoke must put in more time to be considered one of college football’s elite, but every sign indicates that he is on his way. Urban Meyer said himself that winning programs just don’t have great head coaches, they have a great staff of coaches. Brady Hoke has surrounded himself with just that. Ever listen to Michigan’s strength and conditioning coach, Aaron Wellman? Talk about a focused guy who makes a lot of sense when he talks. He is a microcosm of the tough, focused attitude Michigan football has seemed to take on. Every one is talking about Meyer, but Hoke is quietly building a program that is set to be dominant for years to come.

The Woody and Bo comparisons go deeper than both of them being good coaches. Like Bo, Hoke was born in Ohio, where both of them played college football (Bo at Miami, Hoke as Ball State) and eventually began their coaching careers. Bo and Woody were big time rivals but even bigger friends. Woody called Bo a winner, Bo respected Woody’s style of coaching. Urban and Brady understand the balance of rivalry and respect just the same. The two of them were seen eating wings together outside a restaurant in Michigan. When one thinks of Woody and Bo, smash-mouth football comes to mind. Though both teams run some spread elements, both Meyer and Hoke will tell you that their offenses are built around power run-game philosophies (maybe more deception on Meyer’s end, but nonetheless…)

We are at the beginning of another Ten Year War. We are about to see another heavyweight showdown between two of the best coaches, two of the best universities in all of college football. The Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry is back the way it should be. Not with one team taking 6 out of 7 games and the other team losing to Northwestern some years. Both these teams will be good every year of the next decade. Every. Year. Both coaches respect the other, respect both schools, respect the game, and when you mix that with the unwavering desire to win, you have the Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry the way it should be.

I’m nervous. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About: Josh Selway

I am a senior English major at Ohio State with a minor in media production and analysis. I played football, basketball, and baseball in high school, and remain a huge sports fan today. Ohio State’s teams are the only teams I follow passionately, but I will root for Cleveland teams! If I knew what exactly I was going to do after graduation, I’d put that here. Can’t wait to find out though... Go bucks!