In most of America, people woke up this morning, rubbed their hands over their sleep-filled eyes, and wondered aloud that it could be Thanksgiving Week already.
Not so in Buckeye Nation. Sure, we know there is some minor holiday on Thursday featuring turkey, stuffing, family arguments about politics, and appalling overeating — but our real focus is on next Saturday, when Ohio State takes on That Team from Up North in the latest annual incarnation of The Game.
This year’s version of The Game promises to be a humdinger. Both Ohio State and Michigan have ten wins, both are ranked in the top five nationally, and both harbor hopes of being selected to be one of the four teams in the College Football Playoffs. The Buckeyes have had an up-and-down season that has seen them crush some teams and squeak by others. Yesterday’s nail-biter against a rugged Michigan State squad fell into the latter category. That Team from Up North, on the other hand, has been a lot more consistent in thrashing just about everyone they’ve faced. Both teams have one loss, but Ohio State’s defeat, to Penn State, means the Buckeyes don’t control their own destiny in their bid to win the Big Ten championship. Michigan can get to the Big Ten title game by beating the Buckeyes, but if Ohio State wins it has to hope that those same Michigan State Spartans who gave the Buckeyes such a tough time yesterday can beat Penn State.
Regardless of the Big Ten title game implications, this will be the most eagerly anticipated Ohio-State-Michigan showdown since 2006, when the Buckeyes and Wolverines were ranked 1 and 2 going into The Game. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh may be quirky — OK, downright weird — but the guy obviously can coach. In two years, he’s turned around the Michigan program and has Wolverines playing with swagger and toughness, especially on defense. Ohio State, on the other hand, has to figure out which team will show up on Saturday — the one that has been almost unstoppable offensively, or the one that struggles to score and finds itself trying to hang on by its fingernails come the fourth quarter. Members of Buckeye Nation are hoping it’s the former.
So bring on The Game. Oh, and on Thursday throw me a turkey leg, willya?