ALDLAND will have a presence on the ground at this weekend’s Ohio State- Michigan game in Ann Arbor. According to widespread commercials promoting this game, the annual meeting between these two rivals is known as “The Game.” I have attended this game many times over the past twenty or so years, and I’ve never heard it called that. Unless Brendan, between gulps of Four Loko, corrects me on Saturday morning, I’m going to chalk this labeling up as a media marketing concoction.
Outside of pride, this game does not have a lot of meaning for either team. Ohio State is undefeated but has only an outside shot at the BCS championship game, and has already secured a spot in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State. Michigan is bowl-eligible at 7-4, but they have a losing conference record and will be home dogs on Saturday.
In year three of the Brady Hoke era at Michigan, things are slipping a bit. His teams have yet to beat Michigan State and Ohio State in the same season, and it looks like the Wolverines could go 0-2 against their conference rivals this year. Michigan was 11-2 with an exciting Sugar Bowl win in Hoke’s maiden maize and blue voyage, but they were 8-5 last year, losing to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. There’s still room– with zero margin for error– to improve on that mark this year, but even if they do, it may not erase the feeling that there’s a noticeable lack of spark with this Michigan team. Negative forty-eight yards of rushing against Michigan State says a lot about the Spartan defense, but it says something about the Michigan offense too, and although at least one critic has pointed a finger of blame at Hoke, most Wolverine fans have been calling for the head of offensive coordinator Al Borges. (Text message from a die-hard Michigan fan after the Nebraska loss: “I can never actually root for Michigan to lose, but I hate the offensive coordinator enough that I think a few more losses are in Michigan’s best interest if it gets the OC fired.”)
Still, the feel in Ann Arbor under Hoke is decidedly different than it was under the coach Hoke replaced, Rich Rodriguez. Should it be, though? Is there a chance Michigan fans are missing Rich Rod?
Ohio State is about a two-touchdown favorite on the road this weekend, and although that feels about right as I write this on Tuesday morning, my prediction is that they will not cover on Saturday.
Unless Michigan has beefed up their mobile reception capabilities, expect in-game coverage from Brendan and I to be somewhat limited, but you can always track us @ALDLANDia.
I suggest watching this preview of tomorrow’s game between Michigan and Ohio State on mute.
Brendan and I will be at this one tomorrow, where we’ll attempt to go 2/3 on planned Ann Arbor tailgate rendezvous this season. This is an important game for both teams. Michigan has the chance to move to a completely improbable 10-2 record and beat Ohio State for the first time since 2003. For the Buckeyes, this has been a lost season in many ways, but a win over the Wolverines on the road would validate everything for them. This is particularly true, I get the feeling, for head coach Luke Fickell, who almost certainly is done after one season on the job. Some already are reporting that OSU has a deal with Urban Meyer that will make him the next head coach sometime after this Saturday’s game.
Michigan fans like to taunt Michigan State fans by making a point of regarding Ohio State, rather than the in-state Spartans, as their main rival, saying that rivalries actually have to be competitive. Michigan hasn’t done much winning against either school in the last few years, and first-year coach Brady Hoke already continued that trend against MSU this season. I’ll be eager to see how he fares against OSU tomorrow.