Why did Big Ten Ohio State vs. Michigan moved? Understand The Game’s new date on the 2020 football schedule
“Why don’t they make the OSU / Mich game the last game of the season?”
That’s the text I received from a thread with my three best friends seconds after the Big Ten schedule was released Wednesday morning. Michigan will play in Ohio state this year on October 24 – a change that former Ohio state coach Urban Meyer said “breathtaking.”
“Frankly, it’s heartbreaking. But adaptability, sacrifice will be critical for everyone, ” Meyer said on the Big Ten Network.
Meyer knows the rivalry best. He was 7-0 as the head coach against the Wolverines. The Big Ten, however, have sacrificed their greatest tradition.
You can try to understand the decision-making process of Big Ten logic and television networks. They want to ensure that the big game of rivalry would help boost revenue that could be lost if the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forces a partial cancellation of the 2020 college football season. They chose the Pac-12, which posted USC-UCLA in its opening week on September 26.
MORE: Ranking every top five showdown between Michigan and Ohio State
The game was one-sided and the Buckeyes won 15 of the past 16 meetings. Rumors that The Game would be relocated took to the air last week, so there was at least some preparation for it.
That’s why. You try to understand it all somewhat, and then you see that it makes no sense at all. It still leads to some illogical conclusions. If you are going to move it to get it in, why not put it in September? Why would you play that game in mid-October? Why not try to give a sense of normality in that unstable environment?
The reaction from both sides is the truth. The Game belongs – even in the current university football landscape – in the last week of the regular season. If Indiana and Purdue can play for the Old Oaken Bucket in the last week of the regular season on November 21, Ohio State and Michigan can also play in that slot.
Look at the schedules of both teams.
The Buckeyes play Michigan before Halloween and they play an equally important game in terms of the Big Ten East race at Penn State on November 7. Why not move that game up? Ohio State has a farewell week for the regular season finale against Iowa. Nothing screams Senior Day as good as a home game at The Shoe against the Hawkeyes.
The schedule is not giving Michigan any favor either, except returning the state of Michigan to the Big House for a second consecutive season. The Wolverines are due to play in Wisconsin the week after The Game, and they close the season with Maryland on November 7 and a game on Northwestern on November 21.
By moving the game, the build-up to The Game has been effectively wiped out. November just doesn’t mean much. You’ve seen this in other rivalries, such as Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, that are no longer played in the last week of the regular season. It is a precedent that the best rivalry of college football could change.
For a conference that thrives on tradition and keeps that rivalry between Michigan and the state of Ohio so close, it’s a move that admits the entire regular season may not take place. Ohio State and Michigan are planning their programs around those three and a half hours. Legacies are determined by it. It has always been like this. Will it always remain that way after 2020?
Even when Michigan-Ohio happens, it doesn’t feel the same. You ruined Halloween for the losing fan base. You’ve taken away those Thanksgiving week traditions that both sides love so much. There is still something to be said for trying to play the game at the right time, even under the current circumstances.
That’s the way it should be. The 2007 HBO documentary “Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry” best painted that tradition during a montage that illustrates how much that tradition means to both sides of the rivalry. A voice over says it all:
“One of the things that makes the Michigan-Ohio rivalry so great and what sets it apart from other sports rivalry is that it happens not only once a year, but at the same time every year. And all the great traditions in most cultures take place in the same time.”
The players can say what they want. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields spoke at a conference call on Michigan on Tuesday.
Justin Fields is ready for the game in Michigan.
“I don’t care when we play against that team in the North,” he said. “I just want to play them and kick the brakes.”
– Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) August 4, 2020
However, it goes deeper for the fans. It doesn’t matter how many fans – if any – are allowed in that game at Ohio Stadium. It doesn’t matter who has the better record. The game is the most important thing on the schedule – and if you think fans are overreacting, wait and see what happens when the SEC moves the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn until October.
In any case, the schedule left some leeway. Both teams have a weekday on November 14 and the open date on November 28 for all teams is built in in case the COVID-19 pandemic forces more games to be moved. Maybe the state of Michigan-Ohio will be relocated at some point, but you can’t root for that to happen. That would mean that the planning is even more affected by the pandemic. Nobody wants that.
At least we’re still getting The Game. Michigan and Ohio fans live for it every day. Therefore, that text appeared a few seconds after the announcement. Therefore, September 24 will not feel the same.
Especially if and when they move Ohio State-Michigan from traditional noon to prime time.