'THE GAME' LOOMS
This has been my favorite week of the fall since I was six years old. It's Michigan week.
I don't care what anyone says. With the exception of a National Championship game (applicable only in 2002), this is the biggest game on the Bucks' schedule every year. Say what you want about Texas, but given the choice to beat "the Blue" or "the Horns," I'd take the bragging rights over that state to the north. Perhaps my season-long craving for the OSU/UM matchup stems from the fact that in my lifetime as a Buckeye fan, I have seen four Buckeye victories, eight losses and a tie. Of course, many of the games I witnessed were doing the Cooper era. If Cooper only could have beaten Michigan, he would probably have two national championships, still be the head coach, and Jim Tressel would be somewhere far away from Columbus. 4-8-1 isn't exactly anything to relish, so it makes you wonder if I am a glutton for punishment. Coming into this week there should be a presumption on behalf of a Wolverine victory right? After all, they do hold the all-time lead in the rivalry. Before everyone lynches me for heresy, let's remember that no two matchups are the same. Here I will closely examine the 2005 edition:
- Home-field advantage: The Buckeyes under Tressel are 1-1 in Ann Arbor, but before the 2001 win, you have to clear back to 1987 to find the Buckeyes last win in "The Big House." The fact remains: OSU has struggled up north, no matter how well they have meshed during the season (ca. 1995.)
- Who has more to lose?: Traditionally, the team with the worse record or who is out of the Big Ten race has had success. Why? These teams played carefree football and used "The Game" as a chance to make their season. Such was the case with OSU last year. Michigan was still an outsider in the National Title hunt. OSU has choked against Michigan in 1993, 1995 and 1996. In the games where each team had the potential to win the conference or acquire a BCS (or major bowl) bid, the edge again goes to Michigan. See 1997, 2000, and 2003 as examples. Perhaps Ohio State's only clutch win over the Blue was that 13-9 outlasting in 2002 when both teams were fighting for a Big Ten title. This year, I put the game in the "mutually important" category. An OSU loss and a Penn State loss would give Michigan a share of the Big Ten, also, and a bid to, more than likely, the Fiesta Bowl. OSU, of course, will get at least a share of the crown with a win and probably a trip to the Orange Bowl.
- Who is the more talented team?: The fans of both schools would claim it's them. I give a slight edge to Ohio State this year because of how well they are gelling right now. However, Michigan's younger players have developed over the course of the season, also like the Buckeyes of last year. Remember, the most talented team often walks away a loser in this game.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Ohio State 17. Just call me the eternal pessimist. At home, I would like the Bucks' chances better, but that just isn't the case. Expect Columbus to be a ghost town Saturday evening and all day Sunday; it always happens after a loss. Believe me, I hope I'm wrong. In fact, I would like to be so wrong that the Scarlet and Grey are up by four touchdowns after the first quarter. I will be watching the game earnestly and hoping, praying, that you all will get the chance to make "told you so" comments.
As a parting shot, best of luck to Capital tomorrow in our biggest game in twenty years. Because I know so little about the opponent, I will not venture a prediction. I, unfortunately cannot make the trip, so I will be streaming the game over the Interent while watching the Buckeyes. If you would like to do the same, you can do so by clicking here around 12:30 p.m. Saturday.