For more than pride …
More often than not, something big and real is on the line when the Buckeyes and Wolverines meet -- used to be, that was a spot in the Rose Bowl. More recently, it's been a battle for a BCS spot.
Often, it's bye-bye to one team's undefeated season. In 1969, the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 and unbeaten. Then they met Michigan. And lost. Bo Schembechler's Wolverines were beaten by Ohio State -- and only Ohio State -- a bunch of times in the early 1970s. In the 1990s, Michigan sullied a flawless Buckeyes season three times.
I don't want the ball, you take it! No, you take it!
In 1950, playing in a snowstorm, the teams combined for 45 punts, often booting on first down. Michigan won, 9-3. The game was dubbed "The Snow Bowl."
The Classic Game
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Michigan. 1973. Each team is undefeated. Big Ten title and Rose Bowl trip on the line. The teams play to a 10-10 tie, and share the title. Who goes to Pasadena? Big Ten ADs voted on it, and the Wolverines stayed home.
It's too good not to be true …
Here's the story: Ohio State coach Woody Hayes hated Michigan so much that he refused to spend a dime in the state … even when his car ran out of gas, a few miles away from the Ohio border. Hayes, legend has it, pushed his car into Buckeye territory to prevent a Michigan gas station from profiting from his misfortune.
Wouldn't he have just poisoned the food?
In the 1970s, when Archie Griffin starred for the Buckeyes, distrust between Hayes and Schembechler ran deep. Griffin recalled, for example, that Hayes once accused Schembechler of hiring very pretty waitresses to serve the Buckeyes breakfast the morning of the big game.
Obviously, that distraction could cost Ohio State the game. Hayes sent the waitresses packing. "They were all nice-looking ladies," Griffin said. "That's for sure."
Once just another game, new Colorado coach Bill McCartney literally decided in 1982 that Nebraska would be his team's rival. Schedules were printed with the Huskers' matchup designated with red ink. He went dorm-hopping to get students psyched and didn't let people wear red during Nebraska week.
And by 1994, some fans, even in Nebraska, started to believe it. "I kind of think it is starting to be, but I'm not sure why," one beauty salon owner told the Omaha World Herald in 1994. "The ladies don't talk too much about football in here no matter who is playing that week. But because it's a big game, quite a few people are having parties and that kind of thing. So I guess that makes it a rivalry, doesn't it?"
Not a rivalry
Former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne, also in 1994: "Over the last six or seven years, Colorado has been a very good football team, and we've hung in there, so obviously there's a lot of importance attached to this game. There are certain games like Harvard and Yale, USC and UCLA, and maybe, Michigan and Ohio State that … no matter how the teams are playing or what their records are, they're still so-called big games. I don't think Nebraska and Colorado have that kind of history."
A couple years ago, Nebraska fan Jacky Conrad was doing some food shopping in Boulder. She came out of the store, orange juice and rolls in hand, to find her car just about to be towed away. The store manager had spotted her Nebraska license plates, and the big game was coming up.
"I was speechless," said Conrad. "The manager said, 'I don't want a Nebraska car in my parking lot.' He wasn't even being rational about it. He just hated Husker fans, and he wanted that car towed. I wasn't even wearing my red yet."
Nebraska fans have a rep for being the nicest around. Colorado's sports information director told the Omaha World Tribune in 2001 he demurred: "The Nebraska fans, they get this reputation for being the best in the world. To that I say bunk. We've had cups of urine poured on our players. I've had players tell me they have been spit on by grandmothers. Let me put it this way -- there are the same percentage of jerks at any stadium you go to."