Michigan can write the next chapter in the Ohio State rivalry by winning second straight in the rare Battle of the Undefeated

cried Lloyd Carr.

That was 16 years ago, a day after the death of former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler’s beloved mentor. It was also the day before the 2006 Michigan-Ohio State game at The Shoe. The winner would advance to the BCS Championship Game.

Ohio State won 42-39 in one of the most emotional games in rivalry history. And Lloyd Carr cried. It was about defeat on the field, but also about them person Loss.

“From the moment we heard the news, I think the game has been the focus of our team,” Carr told CBS Sports.

Bo would have wanted it that way.

Michigan-Ohio State Game 118 is upon us and it seems right that we’re back. For the first time since that meeting in 2006 and for the fourth time ever, the Wolverines and Buckeyes go undefeated. For the second year in a row, the winner advances to the Big Ten Championship Game and — pending an expected roll from an underperforming Big Ten West opponent — an undeniable berth in the College Football Playoffs.

Perhaps no other rivalry is so ingrained in the coaching DNA of their past. The Iron Bowl entered a different phase when Nick Saban arrived in Alabama to eventually fight – and mostly bat – a bunch of different Auburn coaches. Oklahoma-Texas shares time with a state fair. Florida-Georgia is played in an NFL stadium.

We’re not here to order the rivalries this Rivalry Week. It’s like having to pick your favorite kid—not fair (and ever-changing). But there’s something else, something desperate and enduring about the state of Michigan-Ohio that won’t let go.

Mainly because the programs don’t let go of their past. Both are still influenced today by the patriarchs who made this series a rivalry: Schembechler and Woody Hayes. Bo coached under Woody at Ohio State before becoming his main coaching rival. The pair led “The Ten Year War” from 1969 to 1978, in which Schembechler meddled against Hayes’ Big Ten dominance.

Carr trained under Schembechler for 10 years. Jim Harbaugh played for Bo. As Michigan’s quarterback, Harbaugh was so steeped in the coach’s somber attitude that Harbaugh once guaranteed a win at Ohio State and a berth in the Rose Bowl in 1986. Then he led a team that went ahead and did it.

“Jim Harbaugh was destined to come back and train in Michigan one day,” Carr said.

“You are shaped by what happened in your past. We have scars,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said this week.

Day has only one scar considering he was speaking of the only Big Ten loss of his four-year career. That was in Michigan last year.

Harbaugh has lasting marks of a different nature. If Michigan wins, it will continue to be because Captain Comeback has been channeling Bo from the moment he took the job. Harbaugh still has residual anxiety from the time he was 10 minutes late for his first team meeting as a player. The freshman quarterback was berated, humiliated and punished by Schembechler for days.

“There’s a deep, lasting scar there,” Harbaugh once told CBS Sports. “It’s not even a scar. It’s a broken bone with a staff in it. It’s like a broken femur.”

On Saturday, No. 3 Michigan has a chance to prove they’re the better team, if not the better program. No. 2 Ohio State has monopolized the limelight and heat of its hated rival for the past several decades. That is the dichotomy of this rivalry. The programs have dueled on recruitment and in the media, but it only matters that fourth Saturday in November.

“We’re exactly where we want to be,” Carr said.

Today, regardless of the outcome, the consensus is that Ohio State has the better program. It’s a modern quarterback factory. The wide receivers room could be the best in the country for an extended period despite losing Jaxon Smith-Njigba to injury. Third-string running back Dallan Haydan put up 146 yards in Maryland last week.

While Michigan meandered through the post-Carr years with Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, Ohio State played in six BCS and CFP postseasons together and won two national championships since 2002. Urban Meyer handed control of the current run to Day.

Still, Michigan was historically dominant in the series, which it led 59-51-6 all-time. you find out

Michigan could ruin what looks like a magical season in Ohio State. The Buckeyes have beaten every opponent by double digits and have been in the top three all season. Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud is a slight favorite for the Heisman Trophy.

Ohio State has been dominating lately. Michigan has not won a consecutive game in the series since 2000. Oh, the horror for one of those programs that makes up half of the top four in the CFP rankings.

With a win on Saturday, it would be Michigan who could reverse course and lay claim to being the best program at the moment.

The nature of these types of rivalries will change fundamentally in the near future. Maybe not lose weight, but change. In an extended playoff, Ohio State and Michigan would certainly come in. Hell, they could both come in this year despite Saturday’s result.

But there’s something so cutthroat about this matchup. Ohio State focused on that scar this week.

“We’ve been licking our wounds, hearing all the laughter and everything everyone’s saying for 365 days,” Stroud said.

“It sucks. It sucks,” said defensive end Zach Harrison. “You’re constantly reminded of it.”

Some of the current coaches attacked each other like elementary school students. In August 2020, it was announced that Day 100 wanted to hang on Harbaugh and Michigan. Not bad for a New Hampshire native who joined the program from the NFL in 2017.

“Sometimes people stand on third base and think they hit a three, but they didn’t,” Harbaugh snapped at his counterpart.

The rancor will bounce off the walls of the Ace of Cups, a club on High Street in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday morning. Veteran punk band The Dead Schembechlers will perform a concert at the club three hours before midday. Among her… hits? … “Harbaugh to Hell”, “You Lost to Appalachian State” and “Bomb Ann Arbor Now”.

Even today you don’t have to squint Schembechler to recognize his influence. Harbaugh’s offense consists of a 5-foot-8, 210-pound running back, Blake Corum, rushing like a chainsaw ball. Corum might as well be a footballing descendant of Michigan greats of the past, from Butch Woolfolk to Tyrone Wheatley to Mike Hart.

“We’re still in this form,” Carr said.

Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel once won a national championship with a conservative style that Woody would have loved. In 2002, the Buckeyes won half of their 14 games by seven points or fewer.

Meyer re-established the roar of the rivalry, if only because the Ohio native grew up watching the struggles between Hayes and Schembechler. His attack was quick but his style was demanding. It was more than a coincidence that Harbaugh was hired in Michigan two weeks before Meyer won Ohio State’s last national championship.

The escalation of tensions had to be reacted to. In essence, the Ten Years’ War was prolonged.

The result of these meetings was zero. The joy of the winner is absolute. The abyss of despair for the loser is bottomless. Up until last November, the score was absolute for Ohio State, who had beaten Michigan eight times in a row. It was more than that – 15 of the last 16 and 17 of the last 19.

Then the Wolverines broke through in the cold and snow with a dominant 42-27 performance in the big house last year. All it took was seven long years of Harbaugh being good but not great as Michigan coach. Great funds Beat your biggest rival every now and then in the game.

Of course, the result couldn’t last in Ohio State. In a related move, the Buckeyes brought in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State days after Ohio State gave up those 42 points, Michigan’s most in the series since 1943. Knowles has delivered a team that was criticized in 2021 for its lack of toughness. The Buckeyes have improved from 59th overall defense to ninth this season.

Knowles, 57, has been part of significant rivalries at Cornell (vs. Penn) and Oklahoma State (Bedlam vs. Oklahoma) — even an Egg Bowl as coach of the Ole Miss linebackers. But nothing like that.

“When you’re young and in the profession, think of it as the pinnacle of the profession,” Knowles said this week, “…this is the biggest stage there is. You take all of that and multiply it by a thousand.”

Carr, 77, remains champion and captain of Michigan’s last national championship in 1997. A warm feeling is returning now after his Wolverines broke through yet again against the hated Buckeyes.

These days, the coach, who spent 28 years as an assistant or head coach at Michigan, prefers to watch The Game from his living room to avoid the traffic and crowds. He can’t avoid history.

“These two guys made the rivalry as big as it’s ever been,” Carr said of Bo and Woody. “They took it to another level. They still have their impact.”

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