This is it, Michigan fans. The Game is upon us. Ever wonder what it's like on the other side? Here's your chance to find out.
In the final part of a series here at Maize n Brew, we're looking at not only the X's and O's preview of each and every Michigan game, but also at the perspective of you, the loyal fans. Each week, we're going to interview one of our fellow SB nation writers about what makes each game truly special. We're looking at great games in history, little-known facts, and the general nature of rivalries. The other side gets their say, but what about you, Michigan faithful? Give us your thoughts "On the Rivalry" in the comments! Q&A about Michigan and the hated Ohio State Buckeyes with our rivals over at Eleven Warriors right after the jump.
(Ed note: Late post this week due to the holiday, but many thanks to the fellas at Eleven Warriors for making this happen.)Remember Bo: WIthout exception, this is the most important game of the year for every Michigan fan. The in-state rivalry with Michigan State and the Notre Dame rivalry really don't compare with The Game. Lots of fans outside of Michigan and Ohio point to the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry or some of the old great NFL rivalries as ones that compare to Michigan-Ohio State. Where would you place The Game in the context of other sports rivalries, for people that might not be as familiar with Michigan-Ohio State? (ed note: Maize n Brew is of the opinion that nothing is bigger or more intense)
Eleven Warriors: Well, I think for fans of Ohio State or Michigan, The Game clearly sits above any other rivalry in American sport. I'm not naive enough to think a baseball fan in Boston or a cricket fan in Karachi would feel the same way, but clearly when you're looking at college football rivalries, it's at the top and I tend to think most neutral fans (those outside of the Iron Bowl, various civil wars, Red River Shootout, etc.) might be inclined to agree. The last twenty years have been kind of odd in that we've seen each side go on spurts, but these things have a tendency to work themselves out in the end. In fact, I read recently that the two teams have scored the exact same number of points in The Game since 1927.
RB: Historically, home-field advantage has played a huge role in the series. The Big House and the 'Shoe are both notoriously difficult to play in - what difficulties do opposing teams face coming into Ohio Stadium? Having had beer thrown at me in the Horseshoe when I was six years old, I can speak to the intensity of the fans as well. What do opposing fans have to deal with? One example Michigan fans love to point out is the video aired before Navy visited the Horseshoe begging fans to respect the armed forces...
11W: It obviously varies. The vast majority of Buckeye fans a visitor might meet would be easy going and polite -- we're Ohioans and polite by nature, after all. As with any fanbase, you're going to have some bad apples here and there and it's unfortunate when the actions of a sad few are trumpeted over the general demeanor of a fanbase. With regards to Michigan fans and their perception of Buckeye fans, sure it can get intense between the two sides, but every knowledgeable Buckeye fan I've ever spoken with has a great deal of respect for Michigan as an institution and the rivalry as a whole. On a related note, it hasn't helped perceptions when you have a guy like Brian Cook, who's immensely talented, but also has a tendency to partake in fanbase assassination when things don't go his way. In the aftermath of '06, we heard stories of Buckeye fans crapping in coolers and assaulting a man in a wheelchair, when the real story should have been about the wonderful game that was played on the field.
RB: That said, Michigan fans are particularly rabid about the rivalry as well. What's it like coming to Ann Arbor from a Buckeye perspective?
11W: I really think it's a two-way street. Both fanbases probably have the same amount of "good" fans as they do "bad" fans. Michigan fans love to look down on their neighbors to the south, but it's important to note that the nearest metro to Ann Arbor has given us Ted Nugent, ICP, and Kid Rock -- and some of that culture exists in the fanbase. The bottom line is if you travel to a road game in the Big Ten, you can probably expect a good deal of lighthearted heckling but overall it's a pretty positive experience. From a stadium perspective, the one thing I hear Buckeye fans talk about most after their first trip to the Big House is the structure itself. The TV shots we see growing up present it as a larger bowl, jutting out from the ground, but in reality, it's more like the Rose Bowl in the sense that it's not really that big from the outside, but once you're inside you get a feel for its size.
RB: Most houses surrounding the stadium and all of Frat Row tend to go very over-the-top during OSU week, and the biggest pep rally of the year comes on Friday Night for "Go Blue, Beat OSU" night. What sort of things happen in Columbus leading up to the game?
11W: One current tradition is Mirror Lake Jump (ed: worth a watch - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1pBo00lJMw) (2nd ed: cesspool). It started in 1990 when students jumped into the frigid lake on campus on the Thursday before the Michigan game. With the addition of a conference bye week and the game pushed back to Thanksgiving weekend, it was held on a Tuesday for the first time this year and several thousand students participated. Ultimately, it's a silly, but incredibly fun tradition. Beyond that, the entire state represents team colors throughout the work/school week and the Dead Schembechlers (a local punk band) host an annual "Beat Michigan" concert on the night before the game. (ed: This author does not care for the Dead S****bechlers. Blasphemy!)
RB: I've heard from fans of other Big Ten teams about how much program success affects perceptions of rivalries. Obviously, when Michigan and Ohio State play, it's more often than not for a Big Ten Title (most recently in 2006). How would you say (other than gleefully) that the recent streak of OSU victories has affected the rivalry? Has anything diminished due to Michigan's down years in the second half of this decade?
11W: I hate saying it, but the recent downturn you guys have faced has taken a bit of the edge off of the rivalry. I used to go to bed the night before the game a nervous wreck, but lately I haven't had the butterflies. It's completely cyclical and will bounce back the other way, but for now at least, it's lost a bit of its edge. I'm not complaining too much -- much of my formative years were ruined by John Cooper's annual late November collapse.
RB: As I mentioned above, Michigan-Ohio State usually carries massive implications for the Big Ten title picture and often for the national championship. What was the best game you can remember and why?
11W: 2002 was special because it was a tight game and got us into the Fiesta Bowl against Miami. Obviously 2006 was incredible with all of the hype coming into the game (which didn't disappoint on the field). I'm one of those OSU fans that would prefer the Wolverines to be unbeaten when we meet because that's how God would want it.
RB: Many people think football when it comes to OSU-Michigan, but recent basketball, hockey, and soccer clashes have fueled the rivalry as well, especially last year's buzzer-beating heroics by Evan Turner in the BTT quarterfinals. How would you characterize the rivalry beyond football and even beyond sports?
11W: Football is the flashpoint, but the rivalry exists across the board. You can feel it in basketball and hockey the best, but it's a cultural thing -- beating Michigan -- regardless of the sport.
RB: Having attended most of the Michigan-Ohio State games in recent history, I can say that one thing done right in Columbus is the food. What are the game-day tradtitions in terms of bars or breakfasts for Buckeye fans? And seeing as this blog is also about beer, can you point us toward any excellent local brews that one should try upon visiting Columbus?
11W: The Varsity Club on Lane Avenue near the stadium is a campus institution and is a great place to prep for home football games. The last time I stopped by was before the Purdue game and I walked in to see Nick Mangold of the New York Jets hanging out and pounding brews. The tailgating scene in general is pretty solid. Naturally, alcohol is prohibited, yet there it is, everywhere.
With regards to local brews, there are a couple of options: The Columbus Brewing Co., Barley's and Elevator are all strong and worth checking out.
Thanks again to Jason and Eleven Warriors for their help. Be sure to check out Beauford's game preview right below this piece. Until the bowl game- Cheers, Michigan Faithful!