Nothing arouses passion like the the rivalry game. The backyard brawl, the battle for bragging rights, the border war tussle. Even a fan with no dog in the fight can feel the tension...and their own confusion. Who to pull for? Investing yourself for three hours in a team that is not your own can be deeply satisfying, but if you choose foolishly, you'll feel as dirty as Paris Hilton's sheets.
I've done that work for you.
I've applied dynamic methodologies understood only by the ancients to each of these rivalries. I will omit our two rivalry games - OU & A&M - to maintain my flawless record of objectivity. After reading this analysis, you'll know who to pull for.
I start with #1 on my list: Ohio State - Michigan.
Arguably, no game has captured the college football imagination more. No jerseys have captured more consonants uninterrupted by vowels. No struggle has featured more Polaks and Ukranians making big plays at 5.1 seconds per 40 yard clip. No gridiron explosion has featured more fullback dives on 3rd and 7. The stakes are always high. The winner of the game gets bragging rights, a Big 10 Title, and a trip to the Rose Bowl...where they will be pummeled senseless by their warm weather opponent.
Ohio St - Michigan
Michigan has appealing colors and iconic helmets. It's the class of college football. The Buckeyes have the colorful Woody Hayes, a certifiably insane gridiron version of Larry Bud Melman. Michigan's fight song makes me want to conquer a city-state. Ohio State's fight song makes me want to spell out loud while doing the Village People's Y-M-C-A. Michigan has a game day tradition of 110,000 people being racously quiet. Ohio State has a game day tradition of a band dork rendering a crowd orgasmic by successfully facilitating the spelling of their state name. Michigan is the all-time leader in college football wins and has won or shared 42 Big 10 Titles. Ohio State has 7 Heisman winners, at least of five of them actually deserved. When talking MNCs, suffice to say that both programs have won a large number of them, but they both seem to suffer from Alabama syndrome where they count the Dayton Light Shopper or The What's On In Flint Weekend Guide as a wire service empowered to bestow titles.
Woody Hayes hates Clemson...and Paul Schaeffer
Advantage: Michigan Michigan is class; Ohio State's helmets look like they lost a paintball match
Michigan has an unsympathetic head coach. Appalachian State? I mean, really. Lloyd Carr is the guy on your street that gives out pennies and toothbrushes to trick or treaters and fist-shaking lectures to any kid who belts a baseball into his backyard. Mack Brown could probably beat him in Stratego. Michigan's telegenic appeal forces the East Coast media to consistently overrate Mike Hart and Chad Henne. If I want to watch a slow, undersized back run for four gutty yards (without fumbling, mind you! Mike Hart just doesn't fumble, folks) I'll become an Amherst fan. Einstein gave us relativity theory, the Italians gave us the Renaissance, Mike Hart gave us 2nd and 6. Chad Henne - regular fixture on every pre-season Heisman list since his freshman year - is an impressive monument to media vapidity. Let me break it down very simply, Chad: you're throwing to Mario Manningham behind an oustanding OL. How is it you manage to continuously fuck that up?
Ohio State's propensity for dishing out HGH like skittles to their LBs is irritating. If I want to see pronounced supraorbital ridges on BALCO engineered Caucasian tackle mutants, I'll throw on Clan of The Cave Bear. They're like the New Nebraska, but without the lovable walk-ons. The sweater vests need to be mothballed, Jim. We haven't worn those since The Cosby Show left the air. Speaking of clothing, the Ohio State fan sartorial general issue of David Boston starter jersey, jorts, exterior cell phone belt clip, braided gold chain, and British Knight high tops is worse than Stephen Baldwin's career. Shave your goatee as well.
AJ Hawk wants Geico
Advantage: Michigan Queer Eye For The Buckeye is needed
Random Endearing Traits
Michigan: Wolverines! Red Dawn. That's what I'm talking about. Also, damn good school. If not for Cal, the finest public university on the planet. Respect.
Ohio State: Jesse Owens went here. 1936 Olympiad. Fuck off, Hitler.
Advantage: Ohio State If I don't give this to OSU, I'll be suspected of Nazi sympathies
Can't go against Jesse
No, I'm not talking Charles Woodson vs. David Boston. I mean talent. Both schools are located just south of the Arctic circle, inhabited by similar numbers of pasty girls. What is it about the Midwest that so frequently pairs an angelic face with a plonky caboose? That written, Michigan's academic prowess mean a large contingent of East Coast womyn with an inattention to the treadmill and collectivist political agendas. Ohio State has some big titted girls from Ironton who will think you're romantic if you let them order outside of the meal deal. Ohio State gets the edge, but neither school passes the line of acceptability.
Advantage: Ohio State Get yourself to a SEC campus, pronto
Today's wildcard is personal experience. I stayed at the Michigan player hotel in Glendale for our Rose Bowl matchup in '05. I was surrounded by their most ardent supporters. I experienced handshakes, respectful questions about our team (Vince Young seems overrated, but should we be worried about Cedric Benson?), and offers of good luck. At the game itself, while Michigan iced Mangum for the game winning field goal attempt, all of the Texas & Michigan fans shook hands and wished each other luck, no matter the result. I've never seen less tension between two fan bases at a closely contested game in my life. Both fan bases cheered hard and respectfully. It was fun.
One year later, Texas fans trip to Columbus. They bring back tales of jort-sporting jackanapes, parking lots full of angry white trash hooping it up like it was Talladega (and Texas is Jeff Gordon), beer and bottles thrown at kids, families, old people. As a friend described it,"Imagine every guy who has ever keyed someone's car standing around outside of a stadium." Young guys getting in the faces of women; grandpas getting a face full of beer and an earful of invectives. This clearly violates the Iron Law of Fandom: Thou shall not antagonize women, children, old people, families. Other young males are fair game. This is known in every place on the planet but Columbus, Ohio. This has nothing to do with passion or commitment. It has to do with a school culture where it's a socially accepted norm to be a complete douche. Pointing this out to Ohio State fans engenders only defensiveness, not introspection.
Advantage: Michigan Douchebaggery will simply not be tolerated
Final Result: 3-2
Michigan. By triangle choke.
You should pull for Michigan.