Ed Puskas: Buckle up, the rivalry is back


How did Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler do this for 10 years?

If Ohio State’s 30-27 double-overtime win over arch-rival Michigan on Saturday is any indication, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh will be lucky to make it halfway through a decade of these games with their hearts and minds intact.

Some will suggest that Harbaugh — based on his sideline antics and comments after The Game — already is dancing on the edge two years into this stint at his alma mater. Ohio State may have continued its winning ways in the series (barely), but this wasn’t Michigan just lining up for its yearly flogging as the Wolverines dutifully did during Jim Tressel’s 10 years in Columbus.

This might just be a rivalry again, thanks in large part to the intensity the manic Harbaugh brings. Meyer took his cue and put on a sideline show in the first overtime.

I left my Fitbit at home Saturday when I made my way to the office to get started on today’s sports section and keep an eye on The Game. It wasn’t a conscious choice, but it probably was the right one. I’m not sure I would have wanted to know what my heart rate was by the time Curtis Samuel bounced around left end and raced untouched for the game-winning touchdown in the second OT.

Michigan-Ohio State is The Big Thing in college football. The Wolverines and Buckeyes have always had a healthy — or not-so-healthy — dislike for one another. But as intense as the rivalry used to be, it seems magnified a thousand times now.

Maybe it was easier because college football was different from 1969-78, when Bo and Woody were engaged in The Ten-Year War.

There was no ESPN, no Internet and no Twitter. Michigan fans didn’t take potshots at the Buckeyes or post memes on the Facebook pages of Ohio State fans.

Ohio State fans did not — at least we don’t think they did — openly speculate about whether or not Schembechler might have consumed a booger on the sideline. And unlike today, there was no video or photographic evidence to make such a case.

But today — in a microcosm of how magnified everything the coaches and players in this rivalry do has become — you can easily find a link to a video of Harbaugh either doing just that or not doing so. And after throwing his play-calling sheet onto the field and destroying a headset in another routine day at the office, Harbaugh ensured there will be even more material for OSU fans to mine.

Hayes famously ripped apart a sideline marker and even attempted to do the same to an opposing player. And even on his friendliest day, Hayes wouldn’t say the M-word in public.

So let’s not pretend The Game was a polite affair in those days. But The Ten-Year War seems quaint now compared to the Harbaugh-Meyer sequel.

If the Wolverines can reload after losing 43 seniors — including leading rusher De’Veon Smith of Howland — we could be in for something that makes The Ten-Year War look like the Kennedys playing touch football at Hyannis Port.

After all, Ohio State has one senior starter. The Buckeyes are going to be good for a while. If the Wolverines are, too, we’re in for one heck of a ride.

Write Vindicator Sports Editor Ed Puskas at epuskas@vindy.com and follow him on Twitter, @EdPuskas_Vindy.

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