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Friday, November 25, 2011

Behind Enemy Lines: Talking M/OSU with The Buckeye Battle Cry

As you know, we take special delight in giving our Big Ten brethren from Columbus grief here on the MZone (probably because we haven't been able to do it on the football field for quite some time due to their lax interpretation of the rules).  And while most a large portion some Tosu fans react to our shenanigans as they do when somebody tries to explain to them that pro wrestling is fake, some not only have a sense of humor, but they give as good as they get.  Such is the case with the boys of The Buckeye Battle Cry.

This week, in anticipation of The Game, they asked the MZone to answer a few questions about the greatest rivalry in sport in their Across the Web series.  So, in a nod to bipartisanship, we reluctantly agreed.  Below is the transcript.

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Do you ever feel dirty rooting for the Maize and Blue?  Do you ever get one of those shudders like pure evil has settled into your soul?

Never dirty, just horribly dazed watching what passed for our beloved Wolverines the last three years.   And if you've been following the Maize and Blue this season, as you know, the only evil emanating out of A2 is of the Pop Evil variety.  While, as the world knows, the evil that spews forth from Columbus is more of a Mordor strain.

What's your favorite memory of The Game? On the other end of the spectrum, what play or game gives you nightmares?  


Sweet, sweet memories.
Near the top of the "good" list are '95 and '96 when Michigan wasn't given a chance and Ohio State was undefeated and, I believe, #2 in the country both times.  Of the two, I think I enjoyed '96 a tad more just because it was in Columbus.  That was the 13-9 Michigan win that swung U-M's way when Shawn Springs slipped and fell allowing Tai Streets to score on a 69 yard slant.  OSU had been up 9-0 at halftime and you could almost hear the dread as it settled over the stadium.  My god, I'm getting weepy just thinking about it again.  But I digress.

Actually, at the top of my fave list has to be '97 when #1 Michigan faced off against #4 OSU with everything on the line.  The Game initially looked to be a Wolverine rout with Charles Woodson returning a punt for a TD (you seen that replay once or twice, right?).  But when OSU cut U-M's 20-0 lead to 20-14, you could hear a car key jingle pin drop in The Big House.  Thankfully, Michigan held on and then won the Rose Bowl to claim a National Championship.

It was the stakes of '97 and what a victory meant that made it so meaningful and memorable.  Conversely, that's precisely why 2006 still gives me nightmares.  For the first time in history, Michigan and Ohio State were #1 and #2 at the time of The Game.  OSU had the big lead at halftime but Michigan fought back.  With 6:49 left, Michigan had cut the lead to 35-31.  OSU had the ball on the Michigan 38 yard line, 3rd and 15.  Troy Smith rolled out and threw an incomplete pass.  Michigan was gonna get the ball back with a chance to drive down for the winning score.  But...

Michigan LB Shawn Crable was flagged for a late hit on Smith.  OSU got the first down and scored the clinching TD three plays later.  So that play/game is still what sends a chill down my spine whenever I think about it.  Now if you'll excuse me whilst I clean up the vomit from my keyboard after having to actually write about that &%$# game/play. (Memo to self: never do one of these Q&As with a Buckeye blog again.  Ever.)

Many Ohio State fans are frustrated by our current Athletic Department's decision to commercialize football and basketball games. With M*ch*g*n making similar decisions regarding "special" uniforms and weddings at the Big House, are you concerned that some of the "soul" of gameday experience is being compromised?

I think this is Ohio State
100%.  I loathe "special" uniforms.   Does that mean I'm out of touch?  Maybe.  But you didn't need any of that shit for decades and The Game did just fine.

Look, I can't stand the very sight of your scarlet and gray/grey uniforms and your little pot-leaf-infested helmets.  I get the same feeling seeing them that that a bull must get when he sees the color red (obviously bulls hate OSU, too).  Which is exactly why, when Michigan plays Ohio State I want, to see them!  That's part of the rivalry -- the bile that rises when I see your godforsaken uniforms.  I want to see two teams in the 'Shoe or The Big House that look like Michigan and Ohio State, not Nike or Adidas ads.

I guess the only positive is, the last two years when you guys wore whatever it is the hell you wore for The Game, at least in some small way it didn't feel like we were losing to Ohio State because you didn't look like Ohio State (then again, we didn't look like Michigan.  Unfortunately, that had nothing to do with our uniforms).

M*ch*g*n seems to have a defense for the first time since Mr. Carr left the program. What does that feel like, and who makes it happen?

Hey, been meaning to ask -- what's with the lack of "i's" when spelling Michigan?  I assume it's because folks in Columbus are really big Wheel of Fortune fans.  But again, I digress...

For years to be known as a defensive-minded school and then to not simply slip but completely implode was disgraceful and painful to watch.  Worst of all was watching Michigan actually get worse as the season progressed the previous three years.  Even in the year we lost to Appy State then got smoked by Oregon, by the time we got to the Ohio State game, we were playing for the Big 10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. 

So here in 2011, to go from where we were just last year to where we are now is nothing short of miraculous.  Last year we were the 110th ranked defense!  How bad is that?  Before this season, I think any U-M fan -- myself included -- would have been thrilled with something out on the field that wasn't a YouTube Yakety Sax clip waiting to happen.  It's mind boggling to now be not only good, but statistically one of the best defenses in the country.

As for who makes that happen, Rich Rod inadvertently answered that during his presser this week when he was introduced as the new Arizona head coach.  He said that it was hard watching Michigan play this year because "those are all my guys."

Exactly.  Which means  you have to give all the credit in the world to Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison for coaching them up to the level they've attained this season.

So- you've got another coach from Ohio who's turned things around for your program. What was your initial reaction when Hoke was hired?

Big fan and supporter from day one.  Which wasn't even close to the case in much of the Michigan blogosphere.  Many wanted a "bigger" name.  Or thought Michigan "settled" for Hoke.  But for every big-name hire that works miracles -- like Nick Oversigner Oversaban Saban at 'Bama -- many, many more fail, ala Rich Rod at Michigan and hopefully Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

Put it this way, I don't seem to recall Buckeye fans exactly overjoyed with The Vest's hiring.  He wasn't the first choice.  But he loved Ohio State and understood the rivalry and knew how to cover shit up.  Heck, Michigan fans weren't thrilled when Bo was hired.  The headline in the local Detroit paper was "Bo Who?" 

Hoke loves Michigan, obviously gets the rivalry and is a damn good coach.  You don't do what he did at Ball State -- BALL F'ING STATE! -- and SDSU and not have some coaching chops.  And he's only confirmed that with what he's done this season at Michigan.

Colin Cowherd- Asshole, or Douchbag? Discuss...

Gee, how do you pick one?  I think you have to merge them and go Assbag or Douchehole.  Or, as he was named by the blogosphere after the CowherdItSomewhereElseFirst incident with us, Schrutebag.  The guy's a clown.  I don't think he has insight as much as he's successful at trying to call attention to himself by being a jackhat.

(Finally, something I think UM and OSU fans can actually agree on. )

Currently, tOSU has two M*ch*g*n natives on their roster, while UM has 21 former Ohioans on their squad (I'm assuming they've been permanently banned). With several more folks from our state seemingly headed north to the dark side, how does it feel to know the successes in Ann Arbor don't happen without the state of Ohio?

Say what you will about our lack of success against OSU the last couple of years, I think your very question proves that U-M is a school that will give a kid a chance to escape the heinous stigma of having to attend that school in Ohio.  Sure, it may help our football team but on a larger human scale, it's more of an act of mercy and kindness.

In spite of your hopes and dreams, the Rodriguez Era didn't transmogrify into the Oregon Death Attack that you envisioned. What's your take on Rich and his time in Ann Arbor? How do you feel about his new gig in Arizona- will he raise them up?

From everything I've heard and read, Rich Rodriguez was a good guy.  And his success pre-A2 points to a fine football coach.  However, I think the fit was a bad one from the get go.  He came in and talked like -- as well as backed up said words with his actions -- as if he was taking over at Buffalo State, not the winningest program in the history of football.  Instead of "updating" our offense, he proceeded to tear everything to the ground.  He threw not only the baby out with the bathwater, I think he also pitched the entire tub (or maybe it just got overrun by the sink while employing his 3-3-5 defense during the bath itself).

Rodriguez's attitude -- both stated and implied -- that "we had more work to do here than I thought" was both a) entirely incorrect and b) a mindset that leads (and led) to mediocrity (and worse).  Contrast that with Hoke who said if we don't win the B1G our first season, we'll have let the kids down because that's what we always strive for at Michigan.  Put it this way, I'll excuse his "failure" this year.

As for how he'll do in Arizona, I actually think he'll succeed there.  While I don't think he'll compete with the powers in the Pac-12 year in and out (which is a UA issue, not RR issue), I think he'll put together a solid, winning program.  And I wish him well.  Again, sounds like a great guy, but wasn't the right man for the Michigan job.

We're asking everyone - If the B1G expands, who would you want to add? If we can only pick up one team, who would you drop from current membership to keep things at 12?

Boy, I don't know.  I guess my two part answer to that is: a) anybody but Notre Dame.  The B1G has been wooing them and kissing their ass for so long -- plus helping them schedule by having UM, MSU and Purdue play them each year -- that I say screw 'em.  Not only do I not want them, I wish U-M would drop them from the schedule so we could play an interesting home-home against a variety of high-quality opponents like OSU is doing with Texas, Miami, etc.

And b) if we do expand, no matter who joins, the biggest thing we need to do is put Michigan and Ohio State back in the same division.  I still believe that it was a colossal mistake to separate Michigan and Ohio State.  There should never be a chance that the result of The Game will be a mulligan; a do-over in the conference championship game.  N-E-V-E-R.  Winner take all.  That's part of what makes it special.

As for dropping someone, I wouldn't.  I love the general stability of the conference.  Although, just to be a dick I'd tell Brett Bulimia we were dropping Wisconsin only to watch his head explode.  Not a fan of his.  I bet he listens to Colin Cowherd.

How do you feel about this game coming in?  Does it feel like that 2004 game, or do you feel that M*ch*g*n will finally be able to take advantage of having the upper hand again? Other than the ones your fans will jingle, what are the keys to a Wolverine victory?

I never want to say I'm confident going into The Game (certainly not after losing so many in a row, some of them even with Ohio State using eligible players).  But while this could come back to bite me in the ass, I really like Michigan's chances.  Looking at it as objectively as I possibly can, Michigan should win.  Period.  This year U-M is the better team.  I think even OSU fans would admit that (internally, not out loud).  Furthermore, unlike The Dark Period, Michigan is -- and I have to get used to this again -- actually improving as the season has gone on.  Just as importantly, from what I've seen this year, OSU isn't close to a complete or good team.  Miller is going to be a great QB...but not this year.  Not yet.  He's too young and doesn't have enough help around him.  Plus, with The Game being played in The Big House, it really does feel like the odds and rivalry gods are in our favor.

As for the keys (to the game, not the famed Big House cheer variety), I actually believe the biggest is the mental aspect for Michigan.  Sure, players can say they weren't around when The Streak started and they're a different group of guys.  But in the back of their minds, they have to be feeling the pressure.  Plus, with Fickell apparently gone, he and his team have nothing to lose. 

So first and foremost, Michigan has to do their best to concentrate on just this Michigan/Ohio game, not the larger albatross that is The Streak.  After that, the key is to make Braxton Miller beat you with his arm.  I don't think he can do that yet, especially with what Mattison will be throwing at him from a scheme standpoint (at least that's my hope).  If you see Braxton Miller with a lot of third and long situations, I think Michigan could potentially have a big day.

Offensively for Michigan, I think RB Fitz Toussaint is the key.  I believe it actually starts with him more than Denard.  As Fitz goes, so will go Denard.  If he can establish himself early, forcing OSU to focus on both his and Denard's legs, the Bucks could be in for a long afternoon.  So if I'm Fickell, I actually concentrate on stopping Fitz and once again try to turn Michigan into the one Denard man show of last season.

In closing, thanks for having me, gentlemen.  I appreciate the opportunity to show that, while we both give each other a ton of crap online, there is a ton of respect for The Game and both participants (I almost said respect for that school in Ohio but my keyboard wouldn't even allow it to be typed).

Now, here is where I guess I'm probably supposed to wish you luck this Saturday.  But it would be a complete and total lie.  Thus, I wish you the opposite of luck.

Go Blue!

3 comments:

osu>um said...

Mr. Yost

I've always got a kick from your sarcastic admiration of my beloved Buckeyes. You would be pleasantly surprised how many Buckeye fans agree with you on Gene "Pimp Daddy" Smith's decision to whore out our traditions to Nike. In addition your take on Michigan and Ohio State being in the same division is spot on. Screw Barry Alvarez or who ever the AD at Purdue is, OSU and UM made this conference and we shouldn't be dictated by the majority vote of losers who have made fortunes off of our collective backs.
P.S. What the hell was your AD, you know Pizza Boy, thinking when he agreed to separate divisions.

Ramona said...

Sweet! This was fun to read!

Yost said...

osu,

Could not believe they did that. And DB's reasoning that playing OSU twice in one season would be even better is FLAT OUT WRONG!

Thanks for reading.

Ramona,

Thanks!