A College Football Playoff Championship for the Buckeyes and the arrival of a highly touted NFL coach in Ann Arbor has upped the ante on one of college football’s oldest and most historic rivalries.
CHICAGO — One of college football’s oldest and most historic rivalries got a fresh coat of paint and a healthy injection of intensity this offseason.
A College Football Playofff National Championship for Ohio State, the program’s first since 2002, catapulted the Buckeyes back into the national spotlight and cemented head coach Urban Meyer’s reputation as one of the best college football coaches of the past 30 years.
“Watching them win, it definitely stung a little bit,” Michigan wide recorder Jehu Chesson said. “But at the same time you need to respect that program at Ohio because whatever they’re doing down there, they win a lot of football games.”
The Bucks had their way with just about every team they faced this past season, including a 42-28 victory over the Wolverines that saw QB Cardale Jones throw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to lift OSU over Michigan for the third straight season.
Three days later, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke was promptly given his walking papers and relieved of his duties.
Enter Jim Harbaugh, who brought his San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013. He’s the man the Maize and Gold brought in to help return the program to prominence.
Nearly 120 years after they first played, big personalities and big programs, one at it’s zenith and one at it’s nadir, has breathed even more life into a rivalry that most thought couldn’t get any bigger.
With the spotlight turned up to 11, that last Saturday in November means more now than ever.
“Yeah, it is [bigger] now,” Chesson said. “We’re excited to play them when that time comes and it’ll always be a great game because it’s the best rivalry in college football.”
Even as someone whose been on the winning side the last three years, Ohio State defensive lineman Aldophus Washington can feel the spotlight’s shine ramping up, even now in August, with kickoff nearly four months away.
“I definitely think the game will be more high-profile now,” Washington said. “With Coach Meyer coming in and being 4-0 against them, and them hiring a guy from the NFL, it’ll definitely be more high-profile.”
While Meyer’s success against the Wolverines speaks for itself, Harbaugh will have to wait until November until he gets his first crack at taking down the hated Buckeyes.
Harbaugh, however, seems content with looking at the Buckeyes as just another game. When asked Friday about whether or not he will have any special names for Ohio State the way Hoke and some of his players simply referred to the school as “Ohio”, Harbaugh was brief in his response.
“No,” Harbaugh answered shortly. “Just Ohio State.”
And while some of his players don’t seem to have adopted the same mindset with regards to nicknames, it’s clear that what Ohio State has accomplished in the past six months resonated just as much in Ann Arbor as it did in Columbus.
“As a lover of college football and as a lover of sports in general, you need to look and you can learn from things that they did,” Chesson said. “Your pride can never get too big to where you just shut them out. You have to embrace it.”
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