A rivalry like none other

During a recent broadcast of a West Virginia University football game, a camera caught Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen on the sideline uttering a word unbecoming someone of his stature.

Other than the announcers pointing out it wasn’t hard to read his lips, it received little attention.

But, on Monday, during his weekly press briefing, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer uttered the one word that is simply unacceptable for a man in his position.

He referred to this week’s opponent not as “that team up north” but as Michigan.

The reaction was over the top.Meyer had broken with a long-time tradition. Ohio State fans – and especially the coach of the Buckeyes – never, ever mention that team that wears maize and blue by name.

Talk about two schools that don’t like each other. Each has versions of the other’s fight song that aren’t suitable for prime time.

It stems back from the days when Woody Hayes was coaching the Buckeyes and Bo Schembechler was walking the Michigan sidelines. The two programs were so far above all the others in the Big Ten, it was virtually inevitable they would meet one another for the league title and the berth in the Rose Bowl.

Hayes was known for his dislike of Michigan. There’s a great story about him being in Michigan on a recruiting trip with an assistant coach who points out they are about to run out of gas. Hayes ignores him. The assistant speaks up again. Hayes ignores him. Finally, with the gauge virtually on the ‘E’ the assistant implores Hayes to pull over.

He is told in no uncertain terms they will not be buying gas until they cross the Ohio border. Somehow, they make it.Sports is at its best when two rivals meet. Both fans bases are jacked. Both teams are pumped. The atmosphere is electric.

Yet, of all the rivalries in all the sports we cover, I’m not sure there is one any more intense than Ohio State-Michigan.

This year’s game, naturally is a big one. Ohio State can complete its second straight undefeated season under Meyer and clearly state its case for a berth in the national championship game.

Michigan can be the team that hands Meyer his first loss as the head coach of the Buckeyes, thus ending the longest winning streak in school history and preventing OSU from competing for the national title.

Yes, I know Ohio State needs help to move into the top 2. It is getting penalized because the other members of the Big Ten collectively represent a rather weak lot. That’s not Ohio State’s fault. It is playing virtually the same schedule it traditionally plays. It can only beat who it plays

I admit I had my doubts when OSU hired Meyer, given his mental issues at Florida. But he not only has exorcised his demons, but his name is such an attraction, OSU should be a contender year in and year out during his tenure.

Meyer hasn’t made many mistakes since taking over at OSU. I’m sure Buckeye fans will forgive his slip of the tongue – well at least this one time.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com