CLOSE

Bob Wojnowski and Angelique Chengelis preview the Michigan-Ohio State game and Michigan State Insider Nick Hill previews the MSU-Maryland game. The Detroit News

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Ann Arbor — Well, that strategy didn’t work. The theory was, if Michigan politely dialed it down against Ohio State for a few years, it’d raise the level of civility in the rivalry. It’d make the folks down there feel better about themselves, less likely to be disruptive when they visit our state on weekend work-release programs.

It was an unorthodox plan, to be sure. And as usual, the Buckeyes simply took it too far. Give them a six-pack, they’ll take a case, plus a pack of smokes.

Here we are, 15 years later, and Ohio State has won 14 times, the last seven in a row. That may be good for the Buckeyes’ self-esteem (such as it is), but it’s not good for a storied rivalry. It needs to change, before short-sighted dopes start claiming Wisconsin-Minnesota, or Michigan State-Maryland, is bigger. It needs to change for fans to re-anoint Jim Harbaugh, who has pieced together a fine 9-2 season, except all nine victories technically came against “Not Ohio State.”

To change it, the Wolverines finally realized they needed to change — their offense, their defense, their willingness to do whatever it takes, within the rules. I mean, that’s what the Buckeyes have done for many years hahaha, sorry, I made myself laugh with that part about the rules.

It’s true Ohio State has dominated, periodically slapping a 62-spot on the scoreboard just for fun. It’s also true its last two esteemed coaches, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, left amid controversy, suspicion and persistent door-knocking from the NCAA. But that’s an excuse, and historically, Michigan doesn’t make excuses, unless it involves holding calls, pass-interference calls, scheduling, weather, clock malfunctions or the occasional random ref guess on a fourth-down spot in double overtime.

More: Fifty years later, Michigan's upset over Ohio State burns bright in Wolverines' lore

Although the Wolverines are on a nice little roll since they stopped dropping the ball, they’re still significant underdogs against 11-0 Ohio State in Saturday’s showdown. The No. 1 Buckeyes already clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game, and are so confident, they reportedly won’t even bring their own yard-marker guys to the Big House.

They are bringing sack-master Chase Young, who was suspended two games after an investigation discovered Ohio State didn’t need him to beat Maryland or Rutgers. Also, Young reportedly borrowed money to send his girlfriend to the Rose Bowl, which isn’t allowed unless the money is delivered in an official, Ohio State-approved brown satchel. Sheesh. If the Wolverines knew you could get to Pasadena that easily, they’d have done it long ago.

Or would they? See, the Buckeyes will do anything to win this game, and you might even grudgingly respect their devotion to emotion. They still cross out all the M’s during ichigan Week, which makes it difficult for fine Colubus dining hotspots such as cDonald’s. Even at the height of their own dominance over one particular coach, the Wolverines never crossed out all the O’s in Jhn Cper.

At halftime of the victory over Penn State last week, the Ohio State band created a scissors formation that sliced through a Michigan logo. Whether using scissors, paper shredders or the handy delete button, the Buckeyes are adept at destroying unwanted evidence.

More: Shea Patterson's lifetime of Michigan dreams comes to a head on Saturday

Yet despite all their success, the obsession is unrelenting. Is it based on jealousy because of the universities’ disparate entrance requirements? Michigan uses grades and test scores, while Ohio State asks a candidate to submit a saliva sample and correctly spell O-H-O-I. Is it because Michigan declines to cave to the “mascot culture” and force someone to run around wearing a mangy wolverine head, while the Buckeyes worship a dude in a nut costume that appears to suffer from a cranial disorder?

The Buckeye nut is named Brutus, which is brutish. If the Wolverines had a mascot, it would be named Ken. This leads to charges of arrogance, and on that count, Michigan would be convicted in any court in any land.

But instead of mocking the Buckeyes’ rabid ways, perhaps Michigan should try harder to match them. For instance, if Ohio State can get a prized transfer quarterback, Justin Fields, why can’t the Wolverines? I say that disregarding the fact they already did, and that’s my point. Michigan has a better shot because it got aggressive and landed prized transfer Shea Patterson.

Earlier this week, Meyer said his greatest coaching achievement was going 7-0 against Michigan, greater than any of his national titles. That’s fairly astonishing, and yet believable. Ryan Day is 11-0 in his first season as head coach, but if he loses to Michigan, his official season record will be 0-1 and he’ll begin deleting his social media accounts. Harbaugh is 0-4 against the Buckeyes, which is a problem but not considered a crime against humanity (yet).

Everyone talks about Harbaugh’s big-game issues, but you know who never has won a road game against a ranked opponent? It’s Day himself. The Buckeyes’ toughest road opponent was Indiana, and maybe that schedule sham explains their gaudy statistics. (Legal disclaimer: Maybe it doesn’t).

It’s rivalry week all across the country, a nostalgic time when old foes recall past glories. It could be cold and sloppy in Ann Arbor Saturday, and I’m sure Ohio State would prefer a high of 62 and a low of 39. Michigan would be happy with a high of 24 and a low of 12.

More: Trieu: Michigan welcomes flood of recruiting targets for The Game

Hmm. The last time it was 24 and 12 in the Big House was 1969, when Bo Schembechler stunned the No. 1 Buckeyes. That was back when the Wolverines would get very angry if Woody Hayes beat them 50-14, which was even worse than last year’s 62-39 rout.

The new theory is, the Wolverines learned from that humbling and are officially sick of it. They’d better be ready, because you know the Big Ten will do anything to make sure it gets a team in the playoff. Meyer will be in the Big House as part of his Fox TV job, and according to my fabricated sources, he’ll also serve as the instant replay official. Hey, whatever it takes. For the good of the rivalry, Michigan must find a way to deal with it.

Pick: Ohio State 23-20

The picks

► Maryland at Michigan State: The 5-6 Spartans continue their magical run for bowl eligibility, determined to become the latest team not named “Detroit Lions” to play a postseason game at Ford Field. As always, Michigan State is encouraging fans to arrive early to honor the seniors, and also to watch Michigan-Ohio State on the video screens. Pick: Michigan State 37-13

► Wisconsin at Minnesota: They usually just play this rivalry for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, a trophy yanked from the hands of the Bunyan statue that Michigan now owns. But this year, if the 10-1 Gophers win, they’ll face Ohio State for the Big Ten title and a possible spot in the playoff, and Minnesota won’t be the only place that freezes over. Pick: Minnesota 27-20

► Alabama at Auburn: The Crimson Tide is No. 5 in the rankings and could miss the playoff for the first time in, oh, 37 years. Alabama needs Georgia to lose, or Clemson to lose, or Utah not to win big. I suspect Auburn will do what a good rival sometimes must do — make the other guy look good. Pick: Alabama 31-20

bob.wojnowski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @bobwojnowski

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE