Not only does the 112th edition of The Game have the intrigue of the first coaching matchup between Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh, but personally it will be mark a the start of the second decade of the rivalry for me since I have been living in Columbus. I have very few complaints about the first decade, as Ohio State was able to rack up a 9-1 record against That Team Up North.
Growing up in Western New York I didn't really have an idea on just how big the rivalry was until around 2002 when I was looking at college options. While I wasn't at the game in 2002, I was in Columbus for the weekend, and was able to see firsthand just how intense the rivalry was. Of course a little extra surrounded that game since Ohio State was undefeated and had a chance to head to the BCS National Championship Game, but let's just say I was hooked on the rivalry after that weekend.
In Sept. 2005 I moved down to Columbus to go to Ohio State after spending a couple years back in New York at community college, and just a few months later I was introduced to the tradition of jumping into Mirror Lake the week of the Michigan game. Back then The Game was a week earlier, so the jump was held on the Thursday night of game week. Looking back on it, the whole thing is definitely some idiotic thing you do while at college. Not only are you outside in the cold, but then you proceed to jump into a freezing lake that has who knows what at the bottom.
I couldn't not jump into Mirror Lake, though. Thankfully there was the help of some liquid courage to make the jump easier, and resulted in me staying in there considerably longer than I should have. It was worth it though, because a few days later as I watched from a friend's house on campus, Ohio State made a fourth quarter comeback up in Ann Arbor to earn a 25-21 victory in the first game between the schools I witnessed as a Columbus resident.
The next year was the ultimate edition of The Game, with Ohio State entering the matchup as the top ranked team in the country and Michigan was right behind them in second. Unlucky for me, the Wednesday night of Michigan week I got a touch of food poisoning, which hampered me throughout the weekend. But I wasn't going to let it stop me though, as I made the Mirror Lake Jump while I was pretty sober, which I don't recommend doing unless you absolutely have to.
There were so many stories heading into the 2006 edition of The Game, that it felt like kickoff was never going to arrive. Not only did you have two undefeated teams battling, but it was one of the rare 3:30 p.m. kicks for the rivalry, as most years it kicks off just after noon. On top of all that, the day before The Game we learned of the passing of former Ohio State assistant and Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler, which added even more emotion into a game that had plenty of it. The Buckeyes went on to win 42-39, and the scenes on campus after the victory were like nothing I've ever seen before.
I guess I've been lucky enough to enter into the rivalry during a time in which Ohio State has dominated, with the only loss I've seen came in 2011 when Luke Fickell was the interim head coach. Jim Tressel won the last seven games against Michigan he has coached, and so far Urban Meyer is undefeated against the Wolverines as Ohio State's head coach. But I'm not quite sure just how much the Ohio State domination is going to continue in the upcoming years, as the hiring of Jim Harbaugh has added some life into the Michigan program.
Heading into the 11th game against Michigan as an Ohio State fan, even though the rivalry has been one-sided, there still has been plenty of other memories. Beanie Wells going for 222 yards on 39 carries in 2007. the 35-point victory in 2008, which was the biggest win for Ohio State since 1968. Carlos Hyde going for 226 in 2013 and that almost not being enough, as the result ended up being decided by a missed two-point conversion by Michigan late in the game.
While all of those memories are fun to relive, I think my favorite overall edition of The Game came in 2012, which was the first with Urban Meyer as head coach. Ohio State was serving a bowl ban that year, but entered The Game undefeated. I had some friends invite me to a tailgate they were having along the fences near 315, and even though none of us had tickets to The Game, there was a few TVs set up so we could watch in the parking lot. It was beyond freezing that day, and even with the fire that was going, it felt like there was no good way to stay warm. Luckily it wasn't all for nothing as the Buckeyes squeaked out a 26-21 win and finished the season undefeated.
Growing up I thought the best rivalry in sports was Yankees-Red Sox, but that was just because I am a Yankees fan, and had limited exposure to Ohio State-Michigan. After spending a decade in Columbus, I know Yankees-Red Sox isn't anywhere close to Ohio State-MIchigan. While some schools might have "hate week" for their main rival, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry never sleeps. It could be the middle of June and some little thing will happen to just fan the flames of the rivalry, which is what makes it so great. I just hope the next decade of the rivalry is as memorable for me as the first decade.
Now let's go kick the s*** out of Michigan. Go Bucks.