Football The Rivalry

‘You have to win The Game. You don’t have a choice when you’re a Buckeye.’

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young Michigan

You don’t have to talk to Ohio State players or coaches very long to figure out how seriously they take the rivalry with Michigan.

There is not just one, but two separate full-wall displays about The Game, each featuring a clock counting down the days, hours, minutes, and even seconds to kickoff of the next year’s meeting.

Saturday after the Buckeyes’ 56-27 thumping of the Wolverines, sophomore quarterback Justin Fields said Ohio State’s intensity has been the key to their dominance.

“I just think that we take it more seriously than they do,” Fields said.

It may seem hard to believe that a player who grew up in Georgia and who had only been part of the OSU program for 11 months could possibly take The Game more seriously than someone like Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh’s father was an assistant under Bo Schembechler during the 10-Year War. He was a starting quarterback for Bo during the 1980s. It’s hard to imagine anyone could possibly understand or take the rivalry more seriously than that.

But the Buckeyes seemingly have.

They don’t just talk about working The Game every day, they do it.

The Buckeyes do “Team Up North” periods during practice throughout the year. If there are 231 days until that year’s Michigan game, the team will do 231 reps of an exercise.

That one game is not just at the forefront of everything the Buckeyes do, it’s why they do what they do.

“There’s no ifs, ands, or buts. People say ‘What if you don’t win The Game?’ There’s no choice. You have to win The Game,” said OSU head coach Ryan Day. “You don’t have a choice when you’re a Buckeye. You have to win that game.”

Day has now coached in three Michigan games, although this was his first as the head coach.

For OSU defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, Saturday in Ann Arbor was his first exposure to The Game, period.

“It was certainly very emotional after the game. That whole day, and that whole experience. A game like that is what you dream about. A game like that is why you want to coach college football. Probably the biggest that I’ve been around at any level, in any stadium,” Hafley said.

When the clock hit zero and the Buckeyes had officially won their eighth straight game in the series, the impact of the accomplishment finally hit.

“Emotional after for sure. Very happy. Beyond happy,” Hafley said.

But the weight the Buckeyes put on The Game means that the result can last the next 364 days – either good or bad.

“Jeff Hafley, he said to me the next morning, ‘Imagine walking in the Woody with all the signage up on the walls and not winning that game, have to walk by it 365 days, not winning that game,'” said Day. “I don’t even know what that would be like.”

With their dominating performance in Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes earned another year of watching happy memories playing on those video monitors.

For Hafley, the impact of that, and the rivalry on the whole has finally really hit home.

“I get it now. When I came here, I kind of saw what it was all about. To be a part of that, to get the first pair of gold pants, to experience it, that’s a special moment.”

7 Responses

  1. I respect the rivalry but no longer respect Michigan and make it clear that UM is not worthy to be a rival any more which has been apparent for quite some time. Michigan doesn’t respect the rivalry. The antics of pulling off Dobbins’ shoe are worthy of Animal House and have no place in this game or the Big Ten conference. That incident signifies UM’s loss of their identity. Don’t dismiss it lightly. This is part of what Harbaugh has brought to UM. Those players shamed their team and fan base and the entire Big Ten conference. The Buckeyes and Dobbins weren’t laughing as they routed the former “pride of the Big Ten” while Michigan talked about their other rivalries, deflecting the fact that this is the ONLY rivalry that counts. They have lost the class they once had. They had a good run against OSU during the Schembechler era but never did anything to deserve their status among the elite vis a vis repeatedly losing Rose Bowls, no national championships, etc. All they ever accomplished was being a thorn in OSU’s side. The most classless thing ever was Schembechler betraying Woody and OSU to coach up there. So they managed to ruin a few games for Ohio State but that’s been their only role. Their best win ever was the 1969 upset in Schembechler’s first year at UM and they’ve lived off that mystique ever since. OSU faded from national relevance for a while as the classic era of Earle Bruce came to a close and then John Cooper led them through the worst era in OSU history while making the transition to the modern era. The Modern Era began with Jim Tressel. That’s the end of the charade that UM is a relevant team. They are a perennial 9-3 program, and belong ranked in the teens. OSU is pasting them by 3-4 touchdowns regularly. Vested interests keep them in the conversation. Probably the same ones that brought Rutgers into the Big Ten. I’m sick of them being compared to Ohio State as if it’s still the Big Two and the Little Eight, which sailed long ago. It’s the Big One and Thirteen Average and UM is no longer as big a threat as PSU and UW. But I’ll never get tired of beating Michigan because it’s in my blood “You have to win the game” is what it’s all about. For me, a win over Michigan and a Big Ten championship still signifies a successful season and anything beyond that is icing on the cake. I want to beat them every year and I despise losing to them. It doesn’t matter where they are ranked. Jim Harbaugh was their last best hope, their miracle man. He was supposed to be their Urban Meyer. 0-5 and his players are pulling off shoes while being dry mounted by the Buckeyes on the field and the scoreboard. Let me never see the day that a Buckeye player shames themselves and the school like those Michigan players. They may as well be in the SEC now with meth labs in their RVs. UM football’s day ended a while back and it’s not coming back any sooner than the auto industry is returning to Flint. They’ve had one good coach since the 1940s. OSU is starting on their fourth. Ohio State is the only thing UM has left really. Michigan is like an ex-wife with six cats who constantly refers to her ex to maintain social standing even though it’s been decades since he remarried someone better and she’s on her fourth. The rivalry with UM exists today as nostalgia and marketing fluff for the networks but the gulf between the programs is greater than that between them and MSU at this point. They are saddled with a nutjob trying to get back to a gloried past that hasn’t existed since the 1970s and was overrated at best. UM had no Rose Bowl victories or NCs while OSU was getting their share. It’s no use pretending that a victory over UM is impressive as evidence of greatness but there’s no better feeling than beating them especially in Ann Arbor. I’ve enjoyed the rivalry immensely and would like to win another eight in a row and then another but as far as respecting them, that’s over. Penn State is a better program than UM but they aren’t worthy to be rivals either.

    P.S. Afaic, the Buckeyes are the Big Ten champions already. The game in Indianapolis is completely bogus. OSU alone is undefeated. They are the uncontested champs. Now they will play a two loss team a quantum level of talent lower that they already beat soundly to prove what? This game is not really for the Big Ten Championship but rather it’s the first playoff game with the Big Ten name hung on it. It’s the quarterfinal of the CFP, get it? You tell me how it’s not a farce to present it as a Big Ten championship. By some fluke the two loss Badgers win and like that they are champions? A great opportunity to lose a key player to injury in a meaningless replay against a second rate team we already beat. Again, thank you Jim Delaney and the powers that be for demonstrating how contrived and screwy they got it. The AP polls did a better job of determining the NC. Couldn’t be more pleased and prouder of the Buckeyes and Coach Day after the win over Michigan. Screw the Blue. Screw Georgia too. They’re benefitting from some fancy poll cookery as well. They have so much in common with UM.

  2. I’m so happy for this team. The coaching staff is doing it the right way and the culture of this program is extraordinary; even for Buckeye’s standards. I wish that Woody were still here to witness how his Buckeyes have grown under Tressel and Meyer to create what Coach Day now leads. Going forward, I believe that Coach Day and his staff are guiding the team towards becoming the next college football dynasty

  3. There’s no way tsun prepares for The Game the way we do. If they did then they would talk about it because they have no filter. They just don’t get it and I hope they never do.

    Go Bucks! Beat Badgers!

  4. Until TTUN gets as serious as OSU does, OSU will win until further notice……GO BUCKS!!

  5. [thoughts from the Legacy Forum]

    …how long was it while we were annually piling higher and deeper in our ‘coaching’ ‘relationship’ with Coach Cooper?

    So now Harbaugh ‘has’ ‘5’. Since numbers mean everything, call me when you reach 13….and we’ll know all about how the oceans & temperatures have ‘risen’.. or ‘fallen’…

    …and i’ll humbly tell you… how i ‘knew it all along…”

    that is, if we so want to stay in, or return to… that same ol’ boat….

  6. “You don’t have a choice”?
    Exactly… inaccurate.

    Each person “has a choice”, each moment, each practice, each day.

    “More seriously” is a comparison from that choice in each player, each coach… to each opponent….:

    …each moment, each practice, each day.

    Commitment is not a point, a thing, a pledge, a mantra, a saying, yet another pogrom.
    It is a dynamic, living, breathing… “thought and intention of the heart”.

    For we are given not just ‘life’, but the Example of selfless love and challenges to keep choosing to live it… “abundantly”.

    So to BEWARE the tunes & trinkets of the Pied Piper… is but one of our continuing choices. It suggests [not imposes] the value of ‘brotherhood’.


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