Why Ohio State-Michigan isn’t close to the best rivalry in college football
As we head into Thanksgiving and rivalry weekend, college football fans will have no shortage of things to argue about.
But despite all the back-room disagreements and dinner table debates, one thing is indisputable this year: Ohio State-Michigan is the single-most important game that will be played over these next few days.
Take two schools who already hate each other, rank them No. 2 and 3 in the polls and attach major Big Ten title implications as well as a spot in the College Football Playoff — oh, and add in Urban Meyer vs. Jim Harbaugh as well. Yeah, this game is huge.
But while the relevance of this weekend’s Ohio State-Michigan game is unquestioned, there is something else that is unquestioned about this game as well: It's not the best rivalry in college football — and it's not even close.
Sure, that idea goes against everything you've probably read this week, but if you look at the facts, it's true.
Michigan has lost 13 of their last 15 meetings with the Buckeyes. And until the Wolverines start holding up their end of the bargain — as in, winning some of these games, it’s not a rivalry. Period.
Understand, that’s not my opinion, but instead it’s fact. Look up the simple definition of “rivalry” online, and you'll find two very distinct meanings:
1. A person who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another; competitor.
That is definitely Ohio State-Michigan in a nutshell. But that also brings us to the second definition:
2. A person or thing that is in a position to dispute another's preeminence or superiority.
The second definition is key, because unfortunately for the Wolverines and their fans, there really is no “disputing” Ohio State’s “preeminence or superiority.” The Buckeyes have simply been better than Michigan for a long time now.
As mentioned above, Ohio State has won 13 of the last 15 meetings overall. If you include a season that was eventually vacated by the NCAA in 2010 (although it was very much played on the field), the Buckeyes have also won 11 of the last 12 against their purported rival. Even worse, poor Michigan can barely get any solace in that one solitary win — it came in 2011, following the vacated season and after Jim Tressel was fired and replaced by interim head coach Luke Fickell. The Buckeyes finished 6-7 that year, the only season they’ve ended the season below .500 since 1959.
The worst part for Michigan is that even Harbaugh’s arrival couldn’t help stem the tide last year (in a 42-13 loss in Ann Arbor). And if the Wolverines can’t pull out a victory Saturday, Michigan’s fourth and fifth-year seniors will go their entire careers without beating Ohio State.
Want another sobering stat? The last time Michigan beat Ohio State in Columbus (the site of this year’s game) was in 2000. The current freshman on the Wolverines’ roster were just two years old.
Add it all up, and it's impossible to argue that “The Game” is the rivalry in college football. Especially compared to some of the sport's other great traditional matchups. Florida and Florida State have split their last 10 meetings, while Oklahoma holds a slight 6-4 edge against Texas over the same stretch. Heck, even in the Iron Bowl, Auburn has beaten mighty Alabama in two of their last six meetings overall. How can you possibly compare Ohio State-Michigan to any of those?
You can’t, which is why for Jim Harbaugh’s club, the message is clear this weekend: Beat Ohio State.
Not just because Big Ten title aspirations and playoff dreams are on the line. But because an entire rivalry’s reputation is on the line too.