SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/16/2007 05:42:00 PM
OSU-Michigan Still Big, Could Get Bigger
It really looks like this could be the last showdown between Lloyd Carr and Jim Tressel.
Though I may have poked a little fun at a pair of overzealous Ohio State and Michigan fans in this week's Mailbag, the truth is, I, like many people, consider theirs the greatest rivalry in college football. (If you haven't yet, by all means check out HBO's fantastic special running this week).
I measure this not by the intensity of passion or contempt between sides -- the fact is, every rivalry, from Alabama-Auburn to Washington-Washington State to Lehigh-Lafayette, is intense for the people involved in it -- but by the fact that no rivalry more consistently carries such significant conference and/or national stakes for at least one if not both participants. This year's game is obviously no exception -- for the 10th time in 12 years, a Big Ten title is up for grabs.
I have covered three such Wolverines-Buckeyes clashes (2002, '03 and '06), but unfortunately will not be in attendance for this one. I was planning to at this time a week ago (the credential even arrived in the mail earlier this week), but after both teams lost last week and Ohio State fell from No. 1 to No. 7 in the BCS standings, I decided it would not be in my best interest. Why? Because I feared missing out on more dramatic national-title developments elsewhere.
It's been my hunch for several weeks that this had the potential to be an upset-ridden weekend in the BCS title chase. The first domino, No. 2 Oregon, already fell Thursday night. BCS No. 4 Oklahoma (at 7-4 Texas Tech) and No. 6 West Virginia (at 8-2 Cincinnati) both face daunting road challenges much like the Ducks did Friday night. Fellow travelers No. 1 LSU (at 3-7 Ole Miss) and No. 5 Missouri (at 5-5 Kansas State) may face less scary opponents, but the way this season has gone, I wouldn't take anything for granted.
The ironic thing, in light of bailing on OSU-Michigan because of its sudden irrelevance to the title race, is that one of the prime beneficiaries of Oregon's loss Thursday night and any potential further upsets this weekend could be … the Buckeyes. Less than a week after its national championship dreams appeared to be dashed, Ohio State, if it wins Saturday, will for all practical purposes rise to no lower than fourth in the revised BCS pecking order. That's because two of the three Big 12 teams ahead of them (Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri) are guaranteed to lose to one of the others either in the Nov. 24 Jayhawks-Tigers game or the Dec. 1 Big 12 championship.
That possibility, however, is still fairly remote. More realistically, both the Buckeyes and Wolverines -- just as they have so many times before over the past 60 years -- will be playing for the Rose Bowl on Saturday. And whichever team wins, one postgame storyline will tower over all others: Lloyd Carr.
Like most of my colleagues in the media, I have no definitive proof that Carr is about to retire, but I've heard enough believable scuttlebutt from enough different places to surmise that it's likely going to happen, possibly as soon as Monday. Considering what a divisive figure he's been among Wolverines faithful -- some of whom genuinely appreciate both his considerable character and his accomplishments (a national title and four Rose Bowls), others of whom despise his conservative play-calling and lament his recent failures against both the Buckeyes and bowl opponents -- Saturday's game could go a long way toward defining Carr's legacy.
Win, and he finishes above .500 (7-6) against Ohio State and gets to add another Big Ten championship to his resume. Lose, and his parting image will be that of a largely forgettable 8-4 season (one that began with a loss to a I-AA team) and yet another loss to Jim Tressel.
Yet again, both sides clearly have a lot to play for this Saturday. Nationally, however, there's a lot else going on as well. It should make for no shortage of good blog material.
I have to admit this is the best rivalry hands down. It's funny how people love to put down the Big Ten,but year after year they turn out a lot of NFL talent. I think the Buckeyes are #1 in #1 draft picks. It doesn't sound like the Big Ten is that bad to me.
People put down the big ten because the big ten sucks. Outside of OSU and Michigan there are no good teams. I use the term "good teams" loosely as well. And for you "bigblu" come on down to a few SEC games then you will really "understand"
the big ten always seems to put out talent, I watch the lineups and it is unbelievable how many offensive lineman are from the confrence, not to mention the linebackers and skill players, defintly right there with the sec and pack 10 in producing talent. Also conerbacks just from UM and OSU Law, Woodson, now Hall, Gamble, Clements, Winfield, Springs, Wow.
Stew, thanks for mentioning Lafayette-Lehigh, the most continuously played rivalry in all of college football. It truly is an experience that I would take over the big time rivalries any day of the week. Go pards! Four in a row!
The HBO special IS really good, and after watching it you get a really good appreciation for why this is such a storied rivalry. And I do believe it's true that behind all the seeming hatred there's actually quite a bit of respect for the "other side"...if anything all the Big 10 haters and pathetic "kool aid" comments (e.g., Barrett's) this year have helped us root for each other a bit more. I'll be hoping my Buckeyes win, but come bowl time I'll be rooting for Michigan and the rest of the Big 10 as well.
So an OSU joke in case you care...
"How many OSU fans does it take to change a lightbulb?"
A: 100. 1 to do it, and 99 to tell you how WOODY would have done it.
As an aside, it's a shame to see Dixon get hurt. While Oregon (like any team) has its share of obnoxious fans, Dixon is a great talent and you hate to see a team lose that way. Best wishes to you folks out northwest way!
Typically, another stupid SEC fan (Barrett) chimes in with a baseless SEC superior statement while the discussion is about the biggest rivalry in college football. Why don't you stupid SEC fans either stay in context with the discussion or shut your pie-hole and go off to your little corners and do your pitiful little self-serving superior dance.
Mandel: Last week while you were insulting the hard working Buckeye student athletes by calling their loss something like the "nightmare is over" you failed to recognize, as many Buckeye fans immediately understood, you're sleepless nights weren't over yet. The Buckeyes are one place closer and moving up. You better hope they don't take care of business tomorrow or you'll be refilling your Lunesta prescription.
All Big 10 and especially Buckeye and Big Blue fans...enjoy tomorrow for what it is and lets hope for a well played classic Michigan - OSU all out battle! This is what college football is, has been and will be all about!
Having lived in both the south and in Michigan, I have a close tie to both Alabama-Auburn and Michigan-Ohio State. While the Alabama-Auburn rivalry is intense, I have yet to experience anything like the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. During my four years at UM, Michigan went 3-1 against OSU, including the 1997 game which is the best sporting event I have been to in my life. I have seen every Michigan-OSU game in Ann Arbor since 1994, and am saddened by the fact that I cannot attend the game tomorrow since I have finals on Monday. GO BLUE! Let's send Lloyd out with a victory!
On a side note, you have to feel bad for Oregon. The team that came into Ann Arbor in week 2 was DOMINANT, and injuries have robbed them of many of their offensive playmakers at RB, WR and now at QB.
I believe that the SEC is solid every year. I am not going to bash any other conference. I will only defend mine. I keep reading these hysterical blogs about how the SEC plays no one out of conference like high schools, and blind colleges and things like that. That is definitely not true. Those teams play in the Big 10, Pac 10, Big Least, and ACC. You can spit out little facts like my team beat yours, or this team beat that team, but fact of the matter is that this year the SEC have 11 out of 12 bowl eligible teams. That shows me depth. I do believe that OSU and Michigan are decent but the rest of the conference is pooh. Oregon(with Dixon) and yes USC are not laughable but the rest of the conference, pooh too. V.T.(with an actuall qb) also the same with FSU could be decent. Bottom line is every conference has 1 or 2 teams expected to take it. SEC has 4 to 6.
By the way, you guys who posted the high school and blind schools that we play, look what happened to your beloved Buckeyes against one of those teams last year. Wait, I think Florida just scored again.
Did you just compare the intensity Lehigh-Lafyette and Wash.-Wash. St. to Alabama-Auburn? That is completely foolish. In fact, its foolish to compare the intensity of Mich-OSU to AU-UA. What people fail to consider in ranking college football rivalries is that the state of Alabama does not have a professional sports team in any sport, let alone major sport. Unlike Michigan, Ohio, or Washington, there is absolutely nothing to divide the attention of sports fans in Alabama. College football is all the state has, and it receives all of the attention that sports fans in other states channel towards other teams. People can't possibly care as much (the true metric of intensity) about Ohio St.-Michigan because their fans don't care as much about football-they simply can't because their loyalties are, in part, divided to the Browns, Lions, Cavs, Indians, Pistons, etc. Imagine that all of the time and energy expended in supporting those other teams was devoted to simply supporting Ohio State and Michigan football. Then we might have a real argument. And I dispute your claim that Mich-OSU has historically mattered more for the national landscape than AU-UA. Bama has more national championships than both of those schools combined. Your argument only applies to recent history.
You SEC fans STAY OUT of this thread, this isn't about you and your silly superior conference. This is about Michigan - Ohio State...the best and most intense rivalry college football has to offer. You trash talking SEC idiots better enjoy the ride while you can, because it won't last. Anyone with half a brain who doesn't eat grits and catfish for every meal knows that college football success is cyclical (for you southern educated dolts that means it runs in cycles, with different teams\conferences rising to the top every few years). The Big 10 will be back, sooner than later, and you can can bet that all your teams in the SEC have a LONG way to go to duplicate the sustained success that Michigan and Ohio State have consistently delivered year in and year out for decades. I'm a Michigan fan, and I hope they find a way to pull it out on Sat., but you can bet I'll be rooting for the buckeyes in whatever bowl they end up in, not because I like them, but because all you SEC morons and all your B.S. talk this year has caused big ten fans to band together in the hopes of getting you people to shut your mouths, because the smell of possum and crawfish is really stinking the place up.
Why can't everyone, including arrogant SEC fans, understand that the Ohio State - Michagan rivalry benifits all of college football?If you don't believe me, ask the over twenty-six million people who tuned in to watch "The Big Game" last year. Ask the millions of people that will tune into this game tommorow all over the country, even on the West Coast where they'll have to wake up at like six in the morning to watch the game at nine. This rivalry goes beyond pompous bickering over whose conference is stronger or better this year. So shut up, pick a side, and enjoy what is always an entertaining ride. Oh-H!! Eye-Oh!!
In response to daydream: Collegefootballpoll.com? Thank you for using such a authoritative site to prove your point. That site is, by no means, proof of anything. Bama has 12 national titles. Even if I accept your totals for Michigan and OSU, they only equal Bama when combined. But that wasnt even the point of my post. I really only meant to point out that OSU-Mich., while a great, important rivalry, cannot match Ala.-AU. when it comes to intensity, for the reasons stated above, mainly the lack of a pro team in Alabama.
Why does one conference have to be better than another? Why not just enjoy college football for what it is and that is the greatest sport there is. I am a diehard Ohio State fan but I have been going to school in Florida for the past three years and no matter where you go people love their teams and their rivalries. One doesnt have to be better than another just enjoy it for what is. I love watching my buckeyes but I spend all day watching college football because I love college football in general so everyone please stop arguing about who is the better conference or better rivalry and just be appreciative that we have the luxury of watching it every week.
Can someone please explain to me why SEC fans feel the need to thump their chests like gorillas in a thread that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with: 1. conference superiorty; 2. any SEC team (save an example of the AU/'Bama rivalry); or "bragging" about how the Big Ten is so great.
Stewart wrote a piece on the importance and history of the UM/OSU rivalry, and some idiots feel the need to spew venom about how great the bleeping SEC is over nothing. GET A LIFE! The world does not revolve around SEC football...sportswriters can write pieces that have absolutely nothing to do with your stupid conference, and the world will still spin, the sun will still rise, and most of you will still be ignorant.
With all due respect to your state's proud and storied football programs (the Tide, anyways), your arguments for why the AU-UA rivalry is superior to "The Game" show a blatent ignorance of that region of the country. First of all, while it is true that there are professional sports teams in both Ohio and Michigan, I don't think half of those you mentioned are even in season right now. Second of all, do you have any idea how many more people there are in Ohio and xxchigan? Current census data reveals that Alabama boasts a wopping population of 4.4 million, and there are maybe a 100,000 more throughout the country who care about either team from your state. Not too shabby. (especially compared to where I currently live, which is partially why I'm here). The combined population of Ohio and Michigan? 20.4 million. That's 5x as many people! And trust me, most of the people care about this game 365 days a year. Especially given the usual quality of our said professional sports teams. The professional teams draw regional interest (Cincy vs. Cleveland, etc), but we are all united by OSU, no matter what corner of the state you live in. Additionally, this is a border state rivalry. So we can freely hate each other's guts year round. Whereas, you on the other hand have to go back to your boss (who's an Auburn grad) and kiss ass on Monday. Don't talk to me about intensity. Trust me. There is nothing like it.
I have a few more points to add: 1) Ohio and Michigan are practically as boring as Alabama, as far as things to do goes. They aren't California, so there isn't much else to distract midwesterners other than football. They are both football states, and produce much more instate high school talent than Alabama can even dream about. 2) You want to talk about "dividing attention", what do you call NASCAR? I've been to the south. That God forsaken event is spreading like a cancer. I don't know how you have the energy (or the hearing) left for football. Show me a football fan in the south, and I'll show you 10 mouth breathing NASCAR fans.
Keep your mouth shut about our brand of football, and our rivalry. You may have the better conference this year, but you will never have a better or more storied rivalry. I normally would never let such comments bother me, but i have absolutely had it this year with all the "my conference is better than yours" wining, as have most the people who read and contribute to this blog.
I believe that tomorrow we are going to see a truly epic battle between OSU and xxchigan. There is as much intensity and emotion going into this year's game as any I can remember in recent years. Go Bucks! and good luck to all. It's this time of year that I really miss Ohio...
Auburn and Alabama have a nice regional rivalry. It's still nothing like Ohio State and Michigan. For all of Alabamas titles...even if they claim 12, it doesn't match the 14 of Ohio State and Michigan (7 each Ohio State in 1942, 1944, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1968, 2002 plus some disputes over claims of years in the 70s plus Michigan in 1901, 1902, 1932, 1933, 1947, 1948, 1997 and Michigan actually claims 11). I seem to notice that Michigan and Ohio State have a fairly equal distribution of titles there. Plus Woody and Bo looming large over the game...Bear casts a shadow, but there is no counter part to give the game that extra umph like Bo did for Woody and the rivalry. I've been to both games, as well as Tennessee vs. Georgia and Georgia and Auburn games. Still nothing like the hatred between these two schools. Woody wouldn't even say the name of that school up north. Auburn and Alabama is a nice game, good regional game that is paramount to the state of Alabama; but it's not Michigan and Ohio State.
Almost forgot...Big Ten has 10 bowl eligible teams. Seems like some sort of balace and quality. Ohio State has USC in september next year, had a home at home with Texas, when's the last time that an SEC team went across country to duke it out with a team from the Pac Ten, Big Ten or Big 12? I mean I can understand loving the I-AA Southern Conference and the Sunbelt Conference; but if the SEC was so superior why not travel to play it...Big Ten usually has a non-conference game in October, I'd love to see a home at home for one of those.
I can't think of a better rivalry today. At one point you might have argued that Oklahoma-Nebraska or USC-Notre Dame or even FSU-Miami was the premiere rivalry game, but no longer. (I enjoy Florida-Georgia, and LSU-Alabama might turn into a great rivalry game, but they aren't at this national level just yet.) It is a tribute to both Michigan and Ohio State that they have remained national football powers for decades and that, consequently, these games mean so much to their respective alumni and to college football fans everywhere. Let's celebrate this game mightily. And let's support and encourage all the other great rivalry games that exist throughout college football. These rivalries are fascinating and fun for everyone.
As an SEC fan, I have to ask other SEC fans, does it make you feel good to go on random internet blogs and message boards and talk about how you're the best? This post had nothing to do with the SEC. You just look silly.
jmob 74. Don't forget the one and one with Oklahoma the 2 yrs after USC and the one one and one against The U. I think it's safe to say that the Bucks aren't scared. Meanwhile, the rest can play Troy, UAB, UCF, La Tech and continue to talk about their schedules and how tough they are. Go Bucks!
As a long time SEC fan and LSU alum, I have to agree with Will: the SEC fans need to act more maturely in a thread about the great college football rivalry of OSU/Mich. If you are a football fan, this one is the tops.
Guys, let's get rid of all bias. I am an Auburn grad and worked in the state of Alabama. I now work in Georgia with a lot of Michigan and OSU grads. Michigan and OSU is the "Biggest Rivalry" mostly due to the fact that they have had recent success and the two schools have such large number of alumni. There is no question that the Big 10 has the greatest number of alumni - their schools have the largest alumni. So as an Auburn grad, OSU-UM may be the most watched and nationwide the largest rivalry. I will admit that. The difference in intensity is the fact that the AU-UA game is talked about 24/7 365 days a year in Alabama and all the alumni care about winning. I ask OSU-UM alum and they admit the game is not as heavily talked about outside of the week or 2 before and following the game. AU-UA is talked about every day in Alabama. SI named a sports show top 10 in the country, which devotes 99% talk to the UA-AU rivalry for the entire YEAR. Do radio stations in Michigan and OSU talk about just those football programs all year? On May 30th, is the UM-OSU the only talk on the radio or in the work place? When you live and work with each other all year, that is all everyone talks about (NASCAR is not as big as you think - they might care about drinking and that is it). 26 million may watch the OSU-UM game, but 26 million, outside of the alumni, don't care who win. And the alumni don't talk about the game 365 days a year. Fact is, after "The Big Game" - OSU fans go back to Ohio and UM fans go back to Michigan. Some mix, but for the most part, one state will be happy and the other will not for a couple of days. Then they forget about it. In Alabama - the victory never dies.
Let's not forget that one of the main reasons that the MU-OSU game has retained such significance over the years is that the rest of the Big 10 conference has historically been very poor. There's not one other team in the Big 10 that has come into power and sustained any type of life at the top. That's why NU-OU in the Big 8 was always such a rivalry (and the Big 12 ended that).
No doubt some of the historically weaker schools have fielded some fine teams over the years, and the two big schools have had off years. But the powers manage to rebuild and the wannabe's fade away.
Paul, I agree that Auburn/Bama is the big rivalry in the SEC. I have many friends from the state of Alabama and they are nuts over that game year round. I can't think of a team that LSU plays every year that has the same tradition of rivalry. Maybe Ole Miss , maybe Razorbacks, depends on the year.
OSU/ Mich is by far a more national media hyped game, that certainly contributes to its place in college FB lore.
Sorry to anyone I offended about their conferences earlier. I read so many of these blogs and just couldnt take anymore SEC bashing. As a die hard fan though, I have to admit that OSU/MICH is truely a great rivalry and I am sure that there are others that are pretty great. That is what makes college football so great. At the end of the day (SATURDAY) I feel great having watched games like this.
-That is a well though out response, with one glaring problem- Your point about population might make sense in the aggregate; when you add the level of intensity of all the people from Ohio and Michigan, it comes to a greater number than when you add the intensity of all people in Alabama, simply because the former two states have far more people than the latter. I assumed the metric we were using was something like "intensity per fan" or "average intensity", in which case your point is irrelevant and my point still stands. The Alabama game is a bigger deal to those that care about Alabama and Auburn, largely because of the lack of a pro sports team. And by the way, the NFL and NBA are in full swing, so I don't quite grasp your point about College Football being the only sport in season. But that doesnt matter either way: the idea im trying to get across is that Alabama/AU fans have no divided loyalty-the time in the spring you spend thinking about baseball we spend filling Bryant Denny with 92,000 people. No one is saying this is healthy-but it ceartainly does indicate that people in Alabama care more about college football. Particularly with the presence of Nick Saban.
-Beyond the lack of a pro-sports team, there is the history of Alabama as a poor, generally backwards state. In a time when Alabama was impoverished, possessed disgusting, morally bankrupt racial and social biases, and lagged in education, college football was one thing that people in the state could feel proud about. It is a rallying point, Pehaps even to an unhealthy extent. that people in Ohio and Michigan just couldnt understand because their states experienced (and still do) a greater level of social and economic prosperity than Alabama.
-No one is going to dispute that in recent years at least, OSU-Mich. is a bigger deal to both national polls and in terms of national popularity. It is a fantasic rivalry that represents the pagentry of college football. But the people who care about it just don't care as much on average as the people who care about AL.-Aub.
To all: -And please dont give me any "SEC superiority" flak over this post. I am not arguing for the superiority of the SEC. I'm not really sure that would be much of an argument : ) . I am just asserting the intensity of one specific rivalry that happens to be between SEC teams.
Getting involved in best rivalry debates is a pretty hopeless cause, as emotions tend to rule, as evidenced by all the blogs. But, here goes mine. I think you underestimate the importance and tradition of the OU-Texas game. For years it has influenced the outcome of the conference champion. Since it is played early in the season, that is not so evident until season's end. And, along with the Georgia-Florida game, it is special for the 50-50 make-up of the audience on a neutral field. Finally, year in, year out, it is a great game. This year's game underscored that. So while Michigan/OSU has its place among the great rivalries, I would still take OU/Texas. Why? I'm a Sooner!!
BoiseBuckeye, bgault, and others who are hammering at SEC fans for "talking about something that's completely off-topic" (regarding the 'who has the better conference debate): The SEC fans didn't start it. Go back and read the first four comments from today - 2 or 3 of them were from BIG TEN fans, and THEY started the issue about which conference is better.
Show some class and quit the name-calling...the SEC fans aren't the only ones who have been getting into the "my conference is better" debate this year -- pretty much every conference has been represented on this blog.
DMC, I don't know what kind of crack you're smoking, but nobody started the "SEC is better" stuff...other than an SEC fan. The Big Ten fans were talking ABOUT THE RIVALRY --- although I wouldn't expect the average SEC fan to be able to understand that kind of logic. Naturally when someone says "the best" they HAVE to be talking about conference strength, right?
To the few of you out there who are considerate SEC fans...good luck in the championship game. Hope LSU hands it to Oklahoma. To the rest of the redneck nation out there with nothing better to do than infiltrate a blog about the OSU/UM rivalry --- SHUT UP! NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR IT! (Oh, and infiltrate means to "move into" for those of you SEC ignoramuses that think I'm using a big word.)