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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Know Your Foe - Ohio State

The Wolverines head to Columbus for the conclusion of the regular season on Saturday. Much like the previous 11 games, the stakes are high. But since this one is against perennial rival Ohio State, the fact that Michigan is #2 while the Buckeyes are #1, a berth in the National Championship Game is at stake, and it’s a battle of good (Michigan) vs. evil (Ohio State), this game is probably a bit more important than most. As any Buckeye fan will be happy to point out, tOSU has won four of the last five meetings, including the last two in Columbus. Michigan holds the series lead, 57-39-6. There has never been a Michigan-Ohio State game with more hype. And it might actually be justified in this case. This is a big game. No more hyperbole or build up is needed. But the preparation wouldn’t be complete without the final regular season version of the MZone's KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – The current Ohio State University was founded as The Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1870 as a land grant institution. But that only sparked the beginning of two huge battles in the first couple of decades of the school. The first was a result of two factions who opposing views of the role of the university. The "narrow gauge" group, held that the college should teach subjects related to agriculture and mechanical arts. The "broad gauge" party wanted a more diversified curriculum that included English and ancient and foreign languages as well. In 1873, an 8-7 vote called for the broadening of the curriculum to include seven fields of study: agriculture, ancient languages, chemistry, geology, mathematics, modern languages, and physics. The first class of twenty-four students, including three women started in 1873 and the named was changed to Ohio State University in 1878.

The second battle also came from in state. Two universities – Miami and Ohio University – had their feelings hurt that they weren’t chosen as the state university. At times, former U. S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, who later became governor of Ohio, mocked the older schools, and lobbied hard for monies for the state university, tOSU. Hmmm. There’s something about this school that likes bullies named Hayes who bring them glory. Finally, in 1906, the state legistlature settled the issue by declaing tOSU as the only school that would offer post-graduate degress, while Miami and Ohio would only offer bachelor’s degrees.

Location – Columbus, Ohio. Located smack dab in the middle of the state, Columbus is, surprising to many, the largest city in the state. It has kept this title by bullying the few surrounding suburbs into annexation in exchange for sewer and water service that the city controls. And though C-Bus is the largest, people from Cleveland or Cincinnati have far more pride in their hometowns. It’s known as the Arch City for the metal arches that spanned High Street during the early 20th century. Columbus is the capitol of Ohio and is home to Nationwide Insurance as well as the corporate home to The Limited, Express, Bath & Body Works, Victoria's Secret.

Nickname - Buckeyes. The name comes from a type of tree that is native to much of the eastern United States, including Ohio. The leaves appear in a five-leaflet cluster, and the fruit, or nut, is round and typically about an inch and a half wide. It’s poisonous to humans, horses and cattle, though not to squirrels. We’ll find out on Saturday how Wolverines handle them. Ohio State fans love their buckeyes. They wear them around their neck, and tOSU students and alums refer to themselves as Buckeyes.

In addition to the tree, and the fruit that carry the buckeye name, there are two towns in the U. S. named Buckeye, though neither one is in Ohio. There’s also a breed of chicken named Buckeye, as well as a species of butterfly. I used to work with a tOSU grad. Every year for Michigan-Ohio State week his wife would make these chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes. I’ve never doubted my allegiance in this game to Michigan, but those chocolate buckeyes came pretty close to getting me to say “It might not be so bad if Ohio State won.”

Mascot – Brutus Buckeye. Brutus was born in 1965 and was the brainchild of Ray Bourhis and the student group Ohio Staters. At that time, most mascots were live animals and Bourhis proposed bringing a buck deer to the games but that proved too logistically difficult. The first Brutus costume weighed over 40 pounds. Through the years Brutus has had a number of face lifts – as well as some lipo evidently. But after the first incarnation, Brutus has appeared to be an angry, often drunk looking mascot.

I’ve been to games to see Brutus dishing out as well as receiving abuse. But the most memorable was in 1983 when Brutus, as is his wont, ran the perimeter of the field at Michigan Stadium waving the Ohio State flag. As he made his way down the Michigan sideline, one of the athletes holding the M GO BLUE banner had seen enough. He made a beeline for Brutus and dove into his legs, taking down the costumed mascot. Brutus’ head almost fell off and he cocked his fist, ready to punch the Wolverine athlete who took him down. And who was that diving star that day? Olympic silver medalist, and former felon Bruce Kimball.

Colors – Scarlet and Gray. The official colors were selected by three students in 1878. The reasoning for the combination was that they were a “pleasing combination” and weren’t being used by any other college. The original selection of orange and black was shot down when the students discovered that Princeton used those colors. It was the last time in recorded history that Ohio State and Princeton would ever be confused for each other. Now we’ve gone over the whole red thing in the Wisconsin, Ball State, and Indiana Know Your Foes. And the fact that tOSU calls their red “Scarlet” doesn’t change the argument. Red is just too common. This is the third straight Michigan opponent which claims red as their dominant color and fourth this season. The gray that’s added to the tOSU color scheme is somewhat unique, but is it really gray? Take a look at those helmets – there’s undoubtedly a metallic quality to them. Any non-color blind person would call them silver. And until a couple of years ago, the Buckeyes wore silver pants as well before changing back to the matte gray.

Logo – A block O, with “Ohio State” arched through the middle. The block O has been part of Ohio State for years, and plenty of Buckeye gear still only includes the single letter. In the early eighties, the words Ohio and State were added, though the current logo has been in use for about 20 years.

Fight Song – Across the Field. One of the all-time great fight songs. There’s almost no way you can walk away from listening to it and not end up humming it right after. The only drawback to it, is that it’s very football-centric. Sure, this makes sense for a school like Ohio State, but as we’ll see below they also excel in a number of other sport. And the opening line of “Fight the team across the field,” just doesn’t make sense when cheering for the Buckeye basketball or swimming team. It’s not surprising that the first word is “Fight.” This is Ohio State, after all. They like to fight. But they get big credit for also using the word “reverberating.” Sure, most of the students and graduates of tOSU have no idea what it means, but it’s a great word and the usage is perfect in the song. In addition to the fight song, the Ohio State band will also play Hang On Sloopy, and after the game the players join the crowd in Carmen, Ohio.

Academics – In the latest U. S. News Ranking of America's Best Colleges, Ohio State is tied for 57th, with Pittsburgh, and Boston University. This is actually a much higher ranking than tOSU has received in past editions, and puts them in the middle of the Big Ten, which, again, isn’t that bad for tOSU. Most importantly for Buckeye grads, they’re one slot ahead of Miami of Ohio which is generally considered a stronger school academically. With almost 52,000 students on the Columbus campus, Ohio State is the largest university in the country, But bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to tOSU. Not many of their undergraduate or graduate programs rank among the elite. Sure, the Department of Dance is considered the top ranked graduate program and the second ranked such program in North America. But other programs, like Business, medicine, and law are good. Yes, they’re also big. But better? Not so much.

Athletics – Few schools have the athletic tradition of Ohio State. It’s the only university to have won national championships in football, basketball, and baseball. Well, the only one other than Michigan. tOSU has also won national titles in golf, men’s swimming, men’s gymnastics, and men’s outdoor track. The women’s teams have never won an NCAA-sanctioned title, but they have won 24 titles in synchronized swimming, and two in pistol. As someone who’s attending the game in Columbus this weekend, that really scares me.

But let’s face it, when people think of Ohio State sports – hell, when they think of Ohio State period – they think of Buckeye football. They’ve won five recognized national championships, including the 2002 crown. They’ve won 32 Big Ten titles, though, interestingly, not an outright title since 1984. Former coach Woody Hayes is worshipped as a god in the state despite an irascible personality and repeated episodes of poor sportsmanship. The identity of the school – and much of the state – is wrapped up in how the Buckeyes do on the gridiron. It unites the state from Cleveland to Cincinnati, from the farms to the cities.

Famous alums – This is another instance of Ohio State being bigger, but not necessarily better. Check out this list of tOSU alumni. It’s looooong. But there aren’t many people who really stand out other than athletes. The Hoover Street Rag has a grreat showdown that summarizes things well. As mentioned above, the Buckeye football team has produced hall of famers. And even in other sports, Buckeyes are among the all-time greats, including Jesse Owens, Jack Nicklaus, Frank Howard, John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas. The most familiar names in academia are current University of Georgia president Michael Adams (the guy who won’t allow Florida-Georgia to be called the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party), and former University of Michigan president Harlan Hatcher. You know, the guy who the Grad Library is named after. In business tOSU alumni run Diebold (the voting machine people), and the founder of Shoney’s restaurants. Well known Buckeye journalists include Jack Buck, Judith Miller, and Erin Moriarty. The field of the arts is populated with Buckeyes Patricia Heaton, comedian Richard Lewis, network executive Fred Silverman, singer and actor Dwight Yoakim, artist Roy Lichtenstein, and comedy writer Bruce Villanch. And though the state of Ohio has produced eight U. S. Presidents, no chief executive has ever been a tOSU alum.

The Game – Everyone has a prediction for this game. And all of them taken together mean nothing. But in Know Your Foe tradition, one will be made. Will the Buckeyes prove that their pre-season #1 ranking was correct? Will Michigan get redemption for last year’s horrible season? Will Columbus require that National Guard following the game? And will all the garbage and destruction left in the wake of the game improve the city as a whole? By the time the game of this century has concluded on Saturday, these questions will be answered. Michigan 23, Ohio State 20.


Anonymous said...

"Ohio State fans love their buckeyes. They wear them around their neck,"...

So you're saying that Buckeye fans wear DEEZ NUTZ around their necks when they aren't storing them in their mouths?

Andy said...

It was the last time in recorded history that Ohio State and Princeton would ever be confused for each other.

Best line of the day.

You Know This said...

One of the most interesting ones on this list is this one....

Roy Plunkett, inventor of teflon

So just remember when you're frying up for Kegs and Eggs the morning of the game, a Buckeye invented that surface!

Non-Stick Bitches, Non-Stick


Anonymous said...

"And though C-Bus is the largest, people from Cleveland or Cincinnati have far more pride in their hometowns."

That's such a load of crap. I grew up in Columbus, and I'm definitely calling bullshit on that one. Those are definitely fighting words!

Anonymous said...

"Carmen Ohio" (the alma mater) was written following an 86-0 loss to Michigan in 1902. So yet another OSU tradition that was influenced by UM.

Jim said...

Hasn't Texas won a hoops national title? If so, then they also have won one in all 3 big sports.

Scott said...

They invented teflon, huh?

That's just beggin' for a Tressel joke.

College Football at Fumbled.org said...

The tension is building for tomarrows college football show down between No.1 Ohio State and No.2 Michigan. It is predicted by many polls that if Ohio State loses to Michigan they will fall in the rankings to No.3 or worse. Tomarrow, Ohio State not only needs to win; they must defend their chances at a the National Title.

Anonymous said...

The Texas men's basketball program has never won the NCAA championship.

The Longhorn women won in 1986.

Anonymous said...

I live in the Detroit metro area. Michigan has serious economic issues and only when the people pull together can the problems be overcome. It’s going to take everyone not just democrat or republn A great place to find out Michigan and Detroit is MICHIGAN AND DETROIT

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention OSU's second fight song "Buckeye Battle Cry". It is this song that is played after a score.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention Bo Schembechler has a degree from Ohio State

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Anon 11:00. The Buckeye Battle Cry is the song the band plays as they come down the field after their pre-game ramp entrance. They play Across the Field after a score.

Cincy and Cleveland people have more pride in their cities? And this sweeping generalization is based on... what? I'd be interested in the source of this gem, because my personal experience living in Ohio most of my life indicates the exact opposite.

Good blog anyway, and go Bucks.

Charlie said...

It seems your comments remind me of the people who wrote the verbal assults used in in the last election. You know - half truths, twist this then that. I lived, worked, and enjoyed Michigan, 1959 - '75. Maybe you enjoy dreaming up the stuff your writing - but at the risk of losing your integrity? Good luck. You may need it.