Despite The Distractions, Michigan Vs. Ohio State Is The Game We All Need

Written By Dave Briggs on November 24, 2023 - Last Updated on November 27, 2023
Michigan vs. Ohio State in 2021. The renewed rivalry is what every sports fan needs

That many are fixated on the alleged Michigan sign-stealing scandal rather than how the Wolverines will fare in their rivalry game against Ohio State on Saturday is a shame.

This one is shaping up to be doozy as the nation’s #2 Buckeyes take on #3 Michigan — both a perfect 11-0 — at The Big House. For anyone that truly loves the spectacle of sports, they don’t make them any better than that on paper.

And, remember, it’s only in the last two years that The Game has returned to prominence with back-to-back Michigan victories. One of the world’s greatest sporting rivalries is better for it, which means sports fans are better for it.

The Game had lost a lot of its Woody-vs.-Bo-style luster in the last two decades with the Buckeyes thoroughly dominating. In the last 21 meetings, Ohio State has won 17 times, including eight straight from 2012 through 2019. Those were especially dark years in a 118-year rivalry in which Michigan holds an overall 60-51-6 edge.

Even a third-straight Michigan victory would do little to counter a recent imbalance in the rivalry. Though, should that happen, it would be nice for the Michigan kids that, so far, have earned the right to contend for a national championship no matter what the naysayers say.

Currently, Michigan is a rare 3 1/2-point favorite at virtually all Michigan online sportsbooks, despite a, largely, soft schedule to date.

Why is a wanna-be spy overshadowing what promises to be a classic?

Sadly, more people want to focus on the off-field activities of the Wolverines’ former wanna-be spy Connor Stalions and what Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh did or did not know about Stalions’ in-person sign-stealing campaign.

It’s compelling, gossipy stuff to be sure. It’s just a shame it’s overshadowing a game between two exceptionally talented teams that despise each other. Shouldn’t that be compelling enough for college football fans for now?

After all, it’s not like whatever Stalions may or may not have done, or whether it was sanctioned by Harbaugh or others at Michigan, should have any bearing on the game itself, unless Ohio State is too dumb to have changed its signs.

But here we are in a world of instant judgment where anyone with a social media account can dispense the death penalty without a single thought about due process.

Sure, blame Michigan for all this, I guess. If, as it appears, Stalions, while on staff, broke the rule against in-person sign-stealing — regardless of how dumb that rule is — Michigan will likely be punished beyond Jim Harbaugh’s three-game suspension handed down by the Big 10.

But, we all deserve the right to a full investigation. Let’s let that play out before determining the proper punishment, if any.

Doing otherwise sets a dangerous precedent that will be just as unfair to other programs in the future.

Please spare the false indignation

And please spare me any false, Michigan-hating indignation that what Stalions allegedly did, with or without Michigan’s authorization, is some grand cheating scandal equivalent to fixing games.

The NCAA allows the stealing of signs and, by all reports, all major programs do it. The NCAA just doesn’t allow in-person sign stealing and that rule is mostly a financial one to protect economically-challenged programs from being at a disadvantage should they not be able to fund such scouting, which requires hefty travel and ticket costs.

Taking allowable sign-stealing to the next level may have broken the rules — and, if so, punish Michigan accordingly — but I don’t see this anywhere close to the same competitive advantage as recruiting violations that help teams stack talent.

So, I hope vacating victories or titles is not part of the punishment. That punishes players as much or more than Michigan. I would say the same if all this was happening to Ohio State.

Should a Michigan victory on Saturday come with an asterisk because of all this? No. But will it? We’ll see.

In the meantime, come kickoff, I dearly hope it doesn’t detract from what promises to be a heck of a game in a rivalry that deserves its billing.

Photo by Tony Ding / AP Photo
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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in Michigan with an emphasis on online casino, online sports betting and horse racing sectors. He is currently reporting on the gambling industries in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Canada.

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