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The Game Relevant?

As a man born and raised in the state of Michigan, I have a pure hatred for Ohio State University. Even though I don't go to U of M (I attend neighboring Oakland University), and probably never will go there (unless I want to be in an olympic-sized pool of debt), that sense of hatred still boils in my veins. When "The Game" was on, the entire state prepared for history in the making. Back then they did, at least. Now, not so much.

The last time "The Game" was relevant was 2006. At Ohio Stadium, the #2 Michigan Wolverines walked onto the field to take on the #1 Buckeyes. 21.8 million people turned on their TVs that night to witness a shootout, but when the dust settled, the Buckeyes survived 42-39, winning a Big Ten Championship, an undefeated regular season, and sent them to the BCS National Championship Game against Florida (who they lost to, 41-14). Michigan, seeing that there was no Big Ten representative at the Rose Bowl at the time, went to Pasadena with an 11-1 regular season record, where they lost to Pac-10 champ USC 32-18 on New Years Day.

In the past, "The Game" was played to decide championships, bragging rights, and trips to Pasadena. It was played to see whether the Maize and Blue or Scarlet and Grey would fly higher than their adversary. Now, it has all changed. Michigan hasn't won a national title since 1997, while Ohio State hasn't since 2002. The Wolverines last won a conference title in 2004, and never played in a Big Ten Championship game since it was incepted in 2010. Ohio State has played in one, where they lost to Michigan State in 2013 a week after beating Michigan by 1 point. Their last meeting was marred by a fight by the teams in the first quarter in Michigan Stadium. 

Since their infamous 2006 matchup, Ohio State has gotten an edge on the Wolverines, winning 6 out of 7 match ups (Michigan won in 2011, 40-34 in Ann Arbor). Both teams have gone through two coaching changes, although the Buckeyes had a interim coach after Jim Tressel resigned,with Luke Fickell taking the reigns. After that, Urban Meyer, the former Florida Gators coach, took over. Michigan, after Lloyd Carr retired, went with Rich Rodriguez for 3 years (going 15-22 and only making one bowl appearance in that span). After "Rich-Rod" was fired, Brady Hoke came in, and in his first season sent the Wolverines to a Sugar Bowl victory in 2011 over Virginia Tech, compiling a 26-13 record entering his fourth season. 

With Maryland and Rutgers entering the Big Ten this year, the landscape has changed once again. The proposed realignment means that Michigan and Ohio State will now be unable to compete for a Big Ten Championship anymore unless another realignment comes into effect. They could compete for a division title and a spot in Indy, but no more chances for a Big Ten Championship matchup between these two teams.

The Ohio State-Michigan game is no longer prominent when it comes to championships and Rose Bowl berths. It is no longer relevant in the sense of a "make or break" game. It is now just a game for bragging rights between two schools that are prominent in the midwest and the nation. It is a rivalry, and one that will last until the end of time. But a rivalry that's reduced to barely nothing now. What will the 2014 college football season bring us between these two teams en route to their Nov. 29th match in Columbus, I cannot say. But if it's anything like the past few years, it will simply be a road to simple bragging rights for a year.

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