The Thanksgiving holiday is rich with tradition. Most all red blooded Americans have participated in and embraced the holiday tradition at some point in their lives. In elementary school we are taught about the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday and as adults we drink to get through the holiday!
Oddly enough, the biggest (and best) rivalry in sports occurs within days of Thanksgiving. Both are full of tradition but the irony in the story is in the definition. During the Thanksgiving holiday we are giving thanks for the harvest and expressing gratitude. In the Ohio State/ Michigan rivalry we are giving thanks for the bloodbath of corn-fed, hard-nosed football dynamites. We are also grateful for the opportunity to utterly despise those in Maize and Blue (or Scarlet and Gray but who in their right mind would do that?!?).
The definition of tradition is the passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation. A mode of thought or behavior followed by people continuously from generation to generation; a custom or usage. An inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior. A love for the Ohio State/ Michigan game.
OSU coach Jimmy T understands tradition. On the evening of his hiring in 2001 at The Ohio State University he announced to a full Schottenstein Center, “I can assure you that you’ll be proud of our young people in the classroom, in the community and, most especially, in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan.”
Earlier this week, when questioned about his understanding of the importance of this coming Saturday’s game, Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez stated “Just because I did not coach here before, did not play here, I'm not from the state of Michigan, does not mean I don't understand the rivalry. I understand the rivalry as well as any coach could possibly understand it. Trust me, I understand the importance of the rivalry.”
Do you really Dick Rod?
Upon the announcement of his hiring to the University of Michigan RR was handed a blue button with “Beat Ohio State” in maize letters.
Rodriguez said earlier this week he has kept the button on his desk.
After being asked about the button later by a visitor to his office, Rodriguez had to do some searching. He found it tucked under some paper in the top drawer of the desk.
“I put it in there one day when I got mad,” Rodriguez said.
While the OSU/ U of M game is full of importance and passion, it is not the only rivalry Michigan has adopted. Let it be known that under Rodriguez Michigan has won just one rivalry game, compiling a 1-4 record against Notre Dame, Michigan State and OSU.
Most analysts are claiming that this Saturday’s game holds little esteem. Those analysts are probably going to miss Thanksgiving dinner too. The tradition is at the forefront. The passion is there. The desire to win is prevalent.
This will be the last game of the regular season for all seniors. Records won’t be recited decades from now but whether or not that class won the Ohio State/ Michigan game will be remembered by all. Additionally, past history bares the still seeping wounds of either team being on top of the world going in to the game and falling to the “weaker” rival of that season.
The Vest is always adamant in focusing on the task ahead but still allows daily focus on the big game. Practices allow time for a Michigan focus where intense conditioning is scheduled. While the conditioning prepares the team for all opponents, the real focus is on what is to come in the grand finale. 60 minutes in November of blood, sweat and tears.
Michigan’s record is 5-6. If they can pull off a victory they will become bowl eligible. Ohio State has already secured a spot in THE ROSE BOWL (Oh yea! They prevayled… btw Happy Birthday Mom!) but a victory positions them alone as champions of the Big Ten as well as decades of bragging rights. Stats hardly matter leading up to this game and neither do records. It is tradition and passion that make the game.
Asked if the teams' enormously different fortunes and the Bucks’ recent accomplishments would make it difficult to get energized for Michigan, Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman said, “It's not tough at all. We want to win the championship outright and to beat Michigan. That's a lot of motivation to play well.”
There is still a game to play. Ohio State will make forcing turnovers a priority. Ohio State should have no trouble gaining the advantage against a Michigan team that ranks 102nd in the nation in turnover margin. U of M freshman QB Tate Forcier has struggled through the second part of the season but his stats show he is a BA.
Ohio State excels in not only forcing turnovers but also keeping opponents out of the end zone. The defense has only allowed 10 touchdowns in the last 39 quarters and it ranks sixth in the country with 23 takeaways. This hurts Forcier’s chances to be a big dog on his home turf. Furthermore, star RB senior Brandon Minor is listed as out with a shoulder injury.
The only hope Michigan has on defense will be a huge game from DE Brandon Graham, a candidate for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He is tied for the lead nationally with 18 tackles for loss. His eight sacks rank second in the Big Ten behind Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan. He has forced two fumbles and even blocked two kicks. He IS Michigan’s defense.
Graham cannot do it alone and can only hope Terrell Pryor can make some major miscues in his 1954 throwback uniform (a season in which the Buckeyes won the National Championship). Highly unlikely considering Pryor plays very well under pressure and has stepped up in a big way in the last two, and notably, season changing games.
Dan Herron is taking control at tailback and Brandon Saine is a competent counterpart. The combination, along with Pryor, will likely be too powerful for the Wolverines’ meager run defense. The Buckeyes’ offense will be throwing a nontraditional curveball at the Wolverines by periodically running a wildcat offense. Roar!
Personally, I think Rich Rod sees a game. I think coach Tressel sees an opportunity to distribute the traditional gold pants. Take note RR; the gold pants are a gold charm replica of a pair of football pants given to players and coaches following wins over Michigan. The tradition started in 1934 when first-year coach Francis Schmidt told those wondering how OSU would fare with the Wolverines: “They put their pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else.”
The Grinch stole Christmas. According to my recent trip to the mall, Christmas stole Thanksgiving. Based upon the recent comments and reactions from fans of both teams, Rich Rod is doing his best to take all of meaning out of the biggest rivalry in sports and the most important day of the year!!!
This game always has and always will have a lot of meaning. As a true fan, your heart is still there. As a player, your heart is still there. As a coach, your heart had better figure out a way to get there because this game is marked on every maize and blue and scarlet and grey calendar in the land before any birthday, holiday or anniversary is ever noted. That too is tradition.
Jeffy, I know you’re really good at math. What is 2190 + 365? Ouch!
About the Author
Written by Rebekah Edwards