It just really means more to Ohio State
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – While the SEC claims that "It just means more" is something unique to their conference, a slick advertising campaign that sits poorly with the rest of the nation has nothing on the outlook of how Ohio State prepares for Michigan and how the Wolverines may in turn prepare for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes have now stretched the series dominance to 17 of the last 20 on the heels of blowing out the home team 56-27 in the 2019 season finale. Ohio State was paced by a pair of Heisman-worthy performances between Justin Fields throwing for 302 yards and four scores, including one after just returning to the field after what appeared to be quite the scare of a knee injury and JK Dobbins carrying the ball 31 times for 211 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
'The Game' was not without its tense moments as the Wolverines pressed the Buckeyes harder than anyone else has this season in the first half, and exposed more than a few things on an Ohio State defense that went without Shaun Wade for the entire game and lost Damon Arnette as well in the secondary for a major portion of the second half.
Players like Sevyn Banks, Amir Riep, Cameron Brown, Chris Chugunov and others had to step up when their names were called. And while it was not always perfect, the Buckeyes never lost focus along the way and if it was a starter or a third teamer in there, everyone was moving toward one goal.
And when things got tough, the tougher team won.
That team was Ohio State.
Ohio State has been the tougher team for the better part of a generation now in this series and there is no evidence that the tide is going to turn any time soon.
"I think we take it more serious than they do," Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields said after the game.
Fields did not grow up in this rivalry, this is his first time participating in 'The Game' and he was one of many players on this Ohio State team that had to really learn what this game means, not only to everyone around the football program but everyone around the state of Ohio and beyond.
"I think it just means more at Ohio State," Fields added. "That is pretty much the (biggest) reason I think why have more success than they do."
Go back a generation prior (1980-1999) and Michigan held the edge by a commanding 13-6-1 edge. This series is far removed from the days of Ohio State walking into this game with the more talented team only to find new and creative ways to win.
Now the Buckeyes generally hold the talent edge with the better team from the recruiting rankings all the way to the final standings and win totals. Yes, there are some instances where the teams are 'talent equated' but that is not the norm in this series as Michigan has gone from coach to coach, from Rich Rod to Brady Hoke and now to Jim Harbaugh.
Not all of Ohio State's wins have been pretty. Some of them have been downright nail-biters and the Wolverines have come oh-so-close to finally exorcising the demons.
Only to have Lucy pull the football away from their Charlie Brown in this strange relationship.
42-41 in 2013 probably took a few months off the lives of even the most-hearty Ohio State fans. The double OT game in 2016 in Columbus was one of those rare games where the Buckeyes may not have had the 'better' team according to many.
But the work in February or April or July for 'The Game' put in by the Buckeyes is always there to draw from. And while it might not be fair to say that an extra Michigan Period is going to lead to that big third down stop, the Buckeyes have this game on their mind all year long.
That might not be the same for the other team involved in this rivalry, if you can even call it one at this current moment in time.
"I know a few players on the team and I just know the things we do in terms of workouts and how serious we take it at Ohio State. Just talking to those guys and kind of getting their perspective on things, I definitely see that we take it more serious."
No coach in the history of this series has had such a bad start to his tenure in this game as Harbaugh who is now 0-5 against Ohio State.
Harbaugh was not having any of it during his postgame presser on Saturday. When asked if this was a talent gap or a preparation gap or a coaching gap and what is the biggest difference between Michigan and Ohio State at this point, things went horribly wrong.
"I will answer your questions but not your insults," Harbaugh said.
The reported rephrased and said he did not mean any disrespect, but Harbaugh was already done with that line of questioning.
"They played better today," Harbaugh said coldly and almost distant.
There is a growing distance between these two teams, and it does not appear that any sort of bridge is going to bring the two sides any closer.