For a sportswriter, summer is a time for trying to come up with stuff to write without having to actually work too hard to get it done. This means that you can expect me to have a Mailbag in the next week or so, as that is always easy content.
Sometimes, however, the Mailbag comes to me.
Hypothetical: If Urban loses two in a row to UM, what will the fan reaction be? Serious question.
— Boaty McBoatface (@polisciguykris) June 21, 2017
“If Urban loses two in a row to Michigan, what will the fan reaction be?”
Good question, Boaty, and it’s one that I’m assuming no Buckeye fan has ever actually asked themselves. It would be like asking, “What would you do if when you mowed your lawn, the blades of grass screamed in pain and bled all over the yard?”
And anyway, before Urban Meyer can lose two in a row to Michigan, he must first lose one in a row.
Here’s the thing, though, if Michigan is going to beat Meyer twice in a row, 2017 would be the most likely starting point. The Wolverines get the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor this year, where even though they haven’t had the best luck against Ohio State, they have had some luck.
By the time late November rolls around, this young Michigan team is going to be deep and experienced. It’s not a stretch to think the Buckeyes could go in there and lose. Look at what happened to OSU at Penn State last year, or Michigan State the year before.
But can Michigan double up Ohio State in 2018?
The Buckeyes will be breaking in a new quarterback, likely a new running back, new tight end, and two new offensive linemen. Defensively, they will possibly be losing all four starting defensive linemen, at least two-thirds of their starting linebackers, and at least two starters in the secondary. That’s a recipe for concern.
Sure, the 2018 game is in Columbus, but we saw last season how much that mattered. The Buckeyes may have won 30-27, but it took two overtimes and a rare moment of clarity by an impartial line judge to properly spot a J.T. Barrett run on fourth down. Just imagine the outcry from the nation if he had gotten the spot incorrect.
But let’s venture into the hypothetical situation presented above.
What would the reaction of the Ohio State fan base be with consecutive losses to Michigan?
I think it depends on the fan.
You have to remember, the average fan would have to be somewhere in their 20s to even remember what consecutive losses to Michigan feels like. For the people who have no recollection of losing two games in a row to the Wolverines, this would be a new experience. As with most new experiences, there is some curiosity which ends up clouding the horror of the situation.
Young people — high school and college kids — are resilient and have the attention span of a traffic signal, so I don’t see them being too distraught about two losses. As long as their favorite soccer team did a good thing that weekend, they’d find a way to go on.
Kids, however, would probably be destroyed. Finding out that Ohio State can lose to Michigan is probably up there with finding out about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
Imagine going to see the Harlem Globetrotters and watching them lose to the Washington Generals.
That’s what those poor kids would be going through.
For the older crowd, however, there would be some anxiety. After all, some scars never heal.
Don’t get me wrong, the Ohio State fan base has a great deal of confidence and faith in Urban Meyer’s program, but old habits die hard.
If Michigan wins the next two, that means in order to break the streak, Ohio State would have to win in Ann Arbor, which is never easy. In fact, assuming Jim Harbaugh is still around and recruiting like he is now, the 2019 team should be his best.
So, yeah, I think the nerves would get ramped up because two losses can become three losses really quickly. The older fans know this because they still remember the pain of such things.
And as the saying goes, the journey of a thousand losses starts with one bad spot.
What Does It All Mean
It means those people who suggest that Ohio State needs to lose in order to make the rivalry better don’t actually understand the rivalry.
Every game between Ohio State and Michigan is self-contained greatness. It is its own standard and doesn’t need the law of averages sticking its nose in places it doesn’t belong.
This isn’t kindergarten. Teams don’t take turns winning, and if they did, all rivalries would eventually die.
What would the Ohio State fan base do if they lost two in a row?
You know those dudes who keep bottles of Pepto on their desk at work and just take swigs throughout the day? That would be Ohio State fans who experienced the 1990s.
“Hey, we’re ordering pizza. You want in?”
“Can’t. Ohio State has lost two in a row to Michigan and my ulcer is being an ass.”
I don’t see two losses as being some monumental thing, however. Most of the anxiety would be about what it could mean, as opposed to what it does mean.
If Boaty is wondering about a hot seat for Urban Meyer, no such thing exists, and two losses in a row couldn’t wish it into existence either. There would certainly be fans calling for his job, but it would be a small minority of fans who are absolutely perfect in their own lives.
I think it would take three losses in a row to Michigan before people started talking. Even then, you’re still probably looking at an Ohio State program that is going 10-2 every year. Will 10-2 become the new 9-3?
Four losses in a row could be a signal, however.
After all, if you send the vast majority of a recruiting class on their way without a pair of Gold Pants, it might be time for a change.
I mean, if we’re being hypothetical and all.