The classic match-up set to happen one more time next Saturday could prove interesting on several levels. Let's look at a few.
After the disastrous Rich Rodriguez years, which brought a once proud program to it's knees, Michigan hired Brady Hoke. In his very first year he quickly turned that team around and posted an 11-2 record, including a bowl win. Remember, other than his incoming "true" freshmen class, Hoke accomplished this with players he had inherited from RichRod. Definitely very impressive. The Wolverines were back in a big way. Then, as UM always seems prone to do, they got cocky. Somebody somewhere decided to schedule the reigning national champions Alabama for their first game in 2012. Even though it was played at a neutral site (Cowboys Stadium down in Big D), the result was predictable. A blowout. They wanted too much too fast and they got properly taken to the woodshed by a far superior team.
But to their credit, Michigan rebounded quite nicely. Sure, they were narrowly beaten by Notre Dame in South Bend, but look at where the Irish are now. #1 in the country. True, the Cornhuskers of Nebraska shucked the Maize and made them blue in Lincoln, but those things happen. Nebraska's pretty darn good, especially at home. Other than that, UM has much to be proud of this season. They didn't lose a game to a "patsy" along the way, which Michigan teams have had a history of doing. They found a way to win the close games, and blew out the weaker teams. Plus, they finally beat arch-rival Michigan State for the first time in 5 years. In his first two years as head coach, Brady Hoke has yet to suffer a defeat in the Big House in Ann Arbor. Hats off to Brady. Well done indeed. Now comes.....
Like UM's RichRod years, the Buckeyes have recently had their trials and tribulations as well. After the 2010 season, a few players were discovered to have been swapping OSU memorabilia for free tattoos and cash, a Cleveland area booster had been paying them for jobs they evidently never worked at, ineligible players had been allowed to play during the season, free use of luxury cars and other perks seemed to show up out of nowhere, and all along then head coach Jim Tressel knew about it -- but never reported it -- to his superiors at OSU, to the NCAA, to anybody. For some unknown reason, those were the sort of pesky little antics that draw the attention and ire of the NCAA folks that oversee such things. Imagine that. When the dust cleared, Tressel had been booted, a few star players fell off the radar, OSU had been placed on 3 years "probation", whatever that means, and can't participate in any post-season action this year. As in no bowl game. There were a couple other minor details about returning some money and vacating their 2010 record, but those were all toothless little penalties that nobody in Columbus likely cares about anyway.
Needless to say, Ohio State's football program was in a state of disarray in 2011. But then they went out and hired a guy named Urban Meyer. Yours truly doesn't know if Urban's any relation to a guy named Oscar, but there's no baloney about the fact Urban Meyer is one helluva college head football coach. His track record speaks for itself. In HIS very first year at OSU, he's even outdone Brady Hoke from that school "up north", as Woody Hayes used to say. The Buckeyes are 11-0. Brady Hoke finally overcame the OSU nemesis last year, beating them in Ann Arbor, while OSU was still trying to sort out who's who after such a major upheaval. Brady had talked a lot of smack, the most notable of which was referring to Ohio State as merely "Ohio" leading up to the game. There was no need for that, because it was disrespectful of a university that is every bit Michigan's equal, if not more so in some regards. It seems Brady has quickly taken to the blue-blooded arrogant nature that UM is perceived to have by so many others. Don't think for a second this has been lost on Urban Meyer and his current team. Meyer has never talked smack . He just has a way of getting it done. And lord knows, the Ohio State folks will be jacked up to the max for a serious dose of payback when UM comes a-calling. No matter how that game turns out, UM will still be going to a bowl game somewhere, and Ohio State won't.
Right now Notre Dame is the only major college football team in the country that is undefeated. Sort of. Though Ohio State can say the same, nobody seems to be allowed to talk about that. Yours truly wasn't aware that the NCAA sanctions involved them not being able to be ranked in the polls, but evidently that must be in the fine print somewhere.
So wouldn't it be something if Ohio State beat Michigan, Notre Dame lost at USC or in a bowl game, and the Buckeyes turned out to be the only undefeated team in the country, under a first year head coach that inherited a mess -- but officially nobody could even acknowledge them?
Oh my. It could very well happen. The talking heads would be chattering away on a frequency only bats, mice, and very small dogs could hear. Right up until the NFL playoffs started -- of course -- mercifully only a matter of a few days. Then they would forget about it.