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A Buckeye talks Michigan football: While We’re Waiting

Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

There is football this week. 2018 has suffered it’s last week without football. From here on out, there will be football in our lives, and that’s always a good feeling. The NFL Preseason kicks off Thursday, and then the week after is when things get started for most teams. The Cleveland Browns get their preseason underway a week from Thursday in New York against the Giants. Preseason football may not mean much, but for a 1-31 team, it means a lot. So here we go.

I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to discuss the Browns in coming weeks, but today, let’s take a look at a couple other things going on in the world of sports. Specifically, let’s talk about…Michigan football???

What is going on Up North?

For anyone not aware, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I am an alum of The Ohio State University. Nothing in sports runs more in my blood than scarlet and gray. And no rivalry means more to me than the rivalry with That Team Up North, the University of Michigan.

Growing up, I hated and feared Michigan like nothing else. Every stinking year it seemed like the Buckeyes had their season ruined in the finale by those god-forsaken maize and blue colors. It didn’t matter how good of a team OSU had, when it came to rivalry week, I was a nervous wreck. You see, I grew up in Northwest Ohio just outside Toledo. My hometown is a little over 20 miles from the Michigan border if you draw a straight line. Our local networks covered Detroit sports teams, and there was an even split of OSU and UM fans in my school. So every year I had to hear it from those kids whose parents were cruel enough to raise them as Michigan fans in Ohio.

Then, Jim Tressel came and delivered us all from the oppression of sports humiliation. The tables were turned, and Ohio State began to experience an unprecedented run of success against those hated rivals. John Cooper’s infamous 2-10-1 record was absolved with a sterling 9-1 record under Coach Tressel. It seems like that was just the warm-up, though, as Urban Meyer has now put up a 6-0 record against Michigan.

It’s weird for me to think about, but kids growing up today don’t even know to fear or respect Michigan’s football program. Ohio State is 15-2 against Michigan over the last 17 years. Kids in high school don’t know anything but Ohio State domination in this rivalry. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want OSU to lose to Michigan any year, but there is truly a part of me that misses that real hatred of Michigan. That hatred that comes from losing.

I have no clue what the Ten Year War between Woody and Bo must have been like. All my life I have known nothing but one side dominating the rivalry. First, it was Michigan, now it’s Ohio State. When Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh, though, I really thought this might change. I thought we might be entering another Woody and Bo type of era. But boy, have I been wrong about that.

If one were to describe Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan thus far with one word, what would that word be? For me, it would be ‘weird’. We all knew Harbaugh was quirky and different, that’s no surprise. But the extent of that was only grown since Harbaugh was anointed as the savior of the program, and in that time, it has morphed from quirky to weird.

For our latest example, we turn to a Bleacher Report article from the other day:

Yep. Still weird. Whatever.

If Michigan is winning and beating their rivals, nobody would care about this stuff. But with Harbaugh now 0-3 against Ohio State and 1-2 against Michigan State, some of the natives are getting restless. With Harbaugh a legit “Michigan Man” and heralded as the one guy who could save the program, failure seems like too much for anyone to admit. As a result, some of the fans are lashing out in wildly unpredictable directions. This has now led to former Michigan QB John O’Korn seemingly lashing back against the fans.

Attacking fans has never really been a winning strategy, but here we are. Michigan fans are rightfully antsy and irritated at what has become of the program. Sure, Michigan is still relevant and under Harbaugh’s watch. They have a pair of 10-win seasons and have been to a bowl game every season, which is a vast improvement over his predecessors, Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. But at Michigan, that’s not enough. Nor should it be. The fans are right to expect and demand more.

Which really begs the question, how much time does Harbaugh have if things don’t get better? I’m a little surprised that he has as much leash and faith from Michigan fans as he does, if I’m being honest. Then again, I once watched OSU allow a coach to go 2-10-1 against their rivals, and I was forever defending Coach Cooper. Coop was bringing in recruits and the program was winning tons of games. They just couldn’t beat Michigan or win many bowl games. It was an illusion of success, similar to the illusion Michigan seems to currently find itself.

A win over the Buckeyes in Columbus this fall would do wonders to turn this around for Harbaugh. A win in Lansing over the Spartans would be a huge plus. But Michigan is in a tough spot playing both rivalry games on the road this season. If Harbaugh loses them both, I just have to wonder if enough will be enough.

Regardless, these are strange times for the Michigan football program. And I am finding equal parts delight and bewilderment with all of it. I’d like to see this rivalry elevated again, but if Michigan is content to keep losing to OSU every year, then who am I to argue with that?